Watercolor painting is one of the easiest creative activities to pick up. There are only a few supplies that you need—a set of paints, paintbrushes, paper, and water—and there are just a handful of essential techniques to know before you put pigment to paper. This brilliant simplicity means that it’s a breeze to start and finish a watercolor painting in the same day. So, what are you going to paint?
Deciding what you’ll paint can sometimes be the hardest part of the entire creative process. Do you want a subject matter that will challenge your skills? Are you looking to hone how you depict realism, or are you interested in testing the limit of your abstraction? What kinds of watercolor techniques would you like to use in your project? Making these decisions will prove vital to what you decide to paint, but they can feel overwhelming and leave you scratching your head.
If you’re in need of watercolor painting ideas, never fear! We’ve come up with a myriad of concepts that range from easy to challenging, and they all lend themselves to the carefree fluidity that’s indicative of the medium. We recommend picking a few ideas that you like and, if applicable, make a sketch of what you'd like to paint. When you’re happy with the composition, start applying color and watch the watercolor work its magic.
Check out some watercolor painting ideas below.
In need of something to paint? We’ve got 36 watercolor painting ideas you can try today that range from simple to complex concepts.
The great thing about many of these ideas is that the simpler concepts can evolve into more challenging ones. With flowers, for instance, it’s relatively easy to paint a daisy or a tulip. When you’re ready, try adding a rose to your bouquet.
Easy Watercolor Painting Ideas
Experiment! Try different colors and test out a variety of watercolor painting techniques.
Washes that resemble the sky. Try painting the sunset with the wet-on-wet approach.
The starry night sky. Try preserving your white paper with masking fluid.
Simple landscape with hills or mountains.
Put your spin on the iconic rainbow.
A decorative pattern. Make sure you start easy and work up to more complex motifs.
A single piece of fruit such as an apple or an orange. To make your composition more interesting, try slicing it in half.
Fresh flowers (like daisies, tulips, or sunflowers).
Your favorite Disney or video game character.
A tranquil lake scene or a beach. (Optional: include a boat, animal, or beach umbrella.)
A ladybug on a leaf.
Your favorite pairs of shoes.
An aerial view you’d see from an airplane.
An interesting tree you saw on a recent hike.
Your morning cup of tea or coffee. Use the fluidity of the watercolor to capture the steam coming off the hot beverage.
Balloons and confetti. Learn how to make vibrant hues with the pigment.
A fluffy cat or dog using smudgy watercolor washes.
Once you've completed all of the easy ideas, you can step up the difficulty level!
Challenging Watercolor Painting Ideas
Recreate an old family photograph.
A collection of your favorite glass bottles. The more you add, the more challenging the painting will be.
A smattering of spoons, knives, and forks. Be sure to pay attention to the reflections in them!
A bouquet of flowers—roses are some of the most challenging blooms you can paint.
The plumage on a peacock.
Pet portraits—these make great gifts!
A fire-breathing dragon.
Go outside! Sketch a building on location. Can you capture the people around there, too?
A beetle with an iridescent shell. Try to recreate all of the gorgeous colors you see.
Part of the human body. An entire face is the hardest to paint. For something a little easier (but still challenging), try rendering the hands or feet.
Your favorite room in your home.
What you see from your bedroom window.
Paint the monsters living under a bed.
Crashing waves on a shore.
Venture into Surrealism by merging two things into one—such as a bird with leaves in place of its feathers.
Your main mode of transportation, whether that is a bike, car, scooter, or public transit. Try showing them in an environment.
A bustling underwater scene.
Need more art ideas? Check out our drawing ideas, acrylic painting ideas, and sketchbook ideas.