Whether furry and cuddly or majestic and strong, animals of all types are beloved subjects for artists. So, grab your watercolors and brushes, and check out this list of watercolor animals that you can start painting right now, from beginner-level styles to more challenging pieces.

How to Paint Watercolor Animals

Easy Watercolor Animals

1. Llama

Llamas are so cute—and easy to paint!

When you’re looking for an easy watercolor animal to paint, llamas are ideal. There’s no complicated fur texture to perfect, and their faces are made up of a few neat lines, which makes sketching a breeze even for new artists.

2. Mouse

Pick up your paintbrush and make your very own cartoon mouse.

They may be small, but that’s what makes mice so adorable. Cartoon-style mice are easy watercolor animals if you’re still new to painting or to using watercolors, since you can stick to simple lines and shapes. Don’t forget that long tail and those big ears to complete your tiny friend.

3. Lion

Lions are one of the best animals to paint as a beginner.

Painting the undisputed ruler of the animal kingdom may feel intimidating, but it’s surprisingly simple. Just as you would do when painting watercolor animals of any species, start with a pencil sketch so that you can get the face structure right before diving into your paint palette.

4. Raccoon

Go cartoon with this woodland raccoon watercolor painting!

Woodland creatures are often the first critters that people think of when they’re looking for watercolor animal ideas. They’re super easy to turn into cartoon-looking beings if that’s the style you prefer. Raccoons are known for their distinctive eyes and fur ringed tail, so you can keep your sketching fairly simple and focus more of your attention on the painting. 

If you’re struggling to get started, think of them as a combination between a dog’s body and a squirrel’s tail—this should help you visualize the final piece.

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Intermediate Watercolor Animals

5. Reindeer

Feel the festive spirit by painting a watercolor reindeer.

The holidays are the perfect time to create something special for a loved one or friend. While it’s a great project for those with some experience, the festive reindeer is simple enough for anyone learning how to paint animals in watercolor, because it doesn’t need to be realistic to be beautiful. Feel free to add extra flourishes like glitter or glued fabric.

6. Panda

Practice your fur-painting skills with a picture of a panda.

The cozy and fluffy texture of a panda’s fur makes them one of the more interesting choices when you’re painting animals in watercolor. Make sure to use paper that’s designed specifically for watercolors to get that watery effect that softens all of your edges.

7. Rabbit

Who doesn’t love a painting of a tiny fluffy bunny?

Speaking of soft fur, bunnies are incredibly cute and also easy watercolor animals for intermediate and expert painters. Start with your lightest colors (testing them on another piece of paper first will help you to match up the right shade with your reference photo) and gradually build up to the darkest as you paint your rabbit.

8. Kangaroo

Use your neutral color palette to experiment with watercolor shading and highlights.

Here’s one for our friends down under! Kangaroos are fun watercolor animals to paint, thanks to their curvy bodies and dog-like faces. Once you’re happy with the outline of your kangaroo, choose a couple of paint colors (usually a beige/brown and black) that you can use to bring your creature to life.

9. Bear

Take your time when perfecting your bear’s fur.

As with most furry animals, painting a bear in watercolor can be tricky to get right. You may think that other painting styles like oil or gouache work better for their fur texture, but there’s nothing stopping you from achieving the same effect when painting watercolor animals. 

The sketch is the most important element to get right before you start, along with choosing complementary colors that you can use for highlights and shading to give that coarse fur look.

10. Sea Turtle

Sea turtles are ideal for a quick and easy watercolor painting idea.

Nothing says tropical more than a sea turtle, and there’s something special about using watercolor paint for sea animals, with the diluted nature of the color making your final piece look as if it came straight out of the ocean. 

Difficult Watercolor Animals

11. Cat

cat watercolors
Cats are one of the easiest watercolors animals to paint.

When it comes to painting watercolor animals, is there anything better than capturing your own feline friend on paper? Use a photo for reference and experiment with a few different brushes to paint a lifelike cat.

12. Dog

Paint your own dog or use a reference photo for inspiration.

Like cats, dogs are a great subject when you’re learning how to paint animals with watercolor. Fur texture is often what trips up even the most experienced artists as they’re finding their feet with new subjects, so it can be helpful to practice your technique on a piece of scrap paper before you begin work on your dog painting.

13. Squirrel

Head into nature by capturing a squirrel on paper.

Some people may call squirrels rats with fuzzy tails, but we think they’re pretty darn cute. And those tails make them the most fun watercolor animals to paint, especially if you’re looking for a fall painting project or fancy trying your hand at making personalized greeting cards.

14. Alligator

Get snappy with a watercolor painting of an alligator.

Up for a challenge? Paint a watercolor animal like a crocodile or alligator. This design will give you plenty of experience using different amounts of water on your brush to create soft lines and edges around your gator—plus you’ll need to replicate your initial painting in the water’s reflection.

15. Tiger

Let your painting be as unique as the tiger itself with this easy and quick watercolor design.

If you feel confident with painting both a lion and cat, you should have no problem with a tiger watercolor painting. Use your black paint in different dilutions and saturations to add shading within the ear and under the chin, contrasting this with the bold black stripes that are so iconic on this animal.

Brush Up on Your Painting Skills

There are hundreds of options out there for painting animals in watercolor, whether you want to capture your own pet companion or test out your artistic talents on a more exotic creature. So, grab your paintbrush, use this list as your inspiration, and get painting! 

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Written By

Holly Landis

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