Watercolors A Step-by-Step Guide

Watercolors A Step-by-Step Guide is certainly a content-filled book. It's large format, full color, and has a whopping 250 pages of content. It's got a wealth of varied examples. But I wouldn't recommend this as a starting book for beginners. Here's why.

Watercolors A Step-by-Step Guide I've gone through a variety of books on watercolors in my learning process. Most of the "how to watercolor" books start with the basics. They list the kinds of paint available and which work in which situations. They talk about the variety of papers and suggest options. They lay out the equipment you'll need and how to use it. Then they start at the beginning. They talk about making washes. They talk about ways to use the brush. That way when you get to the painting section you have a basic grasp of the techniques.

Watercolors A Step-by-Step Guide by Barnes & Noble assumes you know all that. They have two pages on layout, two pages on color wheels, and BAM they have you painting an image. They expect you have all the equipment, that you have a handle on making washes, and you know what you're doing.

It's even stranger than that, though. They say "Oh, if you don't know how to do a wash, hop forward to page 16 and we'll give you a quick summary". So they tuck important information into random places and make you go hunting for it. This is not only confusing as you're working through an example painting, but it means later on if you need help with a technique you have to go digging for it. The summary on brush types is stuffed in between examples on page 35. Other important pieces of information are in random sidebars.

Also, where most how-to or step-by-step books present large images of each step, so you can clearly see what you're doing, here they put tiny thumbnails of the steps and give you a quick summary of what that step involves. They assume you know enough about watercolors that these small hints will be enough. Again, that makes this great for experienced watercolor painters - but quite a challenge for a brand new painter.

I do like how they give historic examples of paintings to bring their discussion to life. I like the wealth of examples, although they are all generally in the same style - light, airy. If you love this style that is great. You get a lot of examples. If you want to try different styles you'll have to get different books.

Usually in a watercolor book there's one or two paintings that jump out at me as just my style and that I really want to try painting. Here, none of them did. Again, that's a style thing - we're all different, we all like different colors and moods. Still, it's strange that not even one of them struck me as "wow, I have to try that". I think they would have done better to include a variety of styles to match with readers from a wide range of backgrounds and interests.

So, to summarize, this is great for an experienced watercolor painter who likes this light and airy style. There'll be a wealth of ideas to choose from. New, beginning watercolor painters might want to wait before tackling this. And those who have different style interests might want to page through the book first to see if there's anything in here that will match their interests.

I'll give it 4 stars for being good for its target audience, but it loses a star for its mashed up layout (which doesn't even serve experienced watercolorists well) and for not having a larger range of style options.

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