Watercolor Basics 4: Brush Control | Jessica Sanders | Skillshare

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Watercolor Basics 4: Brush Control

teacher avatar Jessica Sanders, Artist | Designer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Holding Your Brush


    • 3.

      Brush Pressure


    • 4.



    • 5.

      Using the Side of Your Brush


    • 6.

      Project & Thank You!


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About This Class


Hi, I’m Jessica Sanders, a self-taught mixed media artist who loves exploring art and sharing it with you!

I am creating a series of ultra beginner mini classes to help you learn to paint with watercolor.  The skills I teach in these classes helped to put me on the fast-track to creating vibrant, loose, beautiful watercolor paintings like a pro!  And I believe they can do the same for you!

Each class is designed to teach 1 or 2 beginner skills of watercolor painting. I want to Keep It Super Simple - KISS, baby! - short, and easy to learn!

Watercolor Basics 4: Brush Control

In class 4, we will explore how to hold and control our brush.

We will cover brush holding positions and how that affects your control of the brush.  We will practice varying the pressure on our brush.  We will also discuss different ways to use your brush, like flicking, rolling, and using the side of your brush.  All in less than 15 minutes :)

Then it’s project time!  

Fill a practice page with all of the techniques we’ve learned.

Paint with your favorite colors!   Be mindful and observant as you go, paying attention to how the brush feels in your hand, and the quality of your strokes and marks on the page.  And, don’t forget, have fun!!

Then, please share it with me and your fellow students in the Project Section.  If you enjoyed this class, and would like to see more, please leave a review!


3 Positions for holding your brush

Pressure on your brush

Flicking - tip and side of brush

Rolling your brush


Watercolor paper:  140lb / 300gsm

Watercolor brushes:  10 round

Paper towel



Other classes I am teaching:  

Watercolor Basics 1: Mixing Water with Watercolor Paint

Watercolor Basics 2: Water Control

Watercolor Basics 3: Painting Wet on Wet & Wet on Dry

Loose & Lively Watercolor Hearts

Watercolor with Me: Loose and Juicy Summer Fruit Slices

Watercolor with Me: Fun & Fabulous Flamingo

Watercolor Skillbuilder: Daring Doodles

Whimsical Faces: Drawing Basics

Watercolor with Me : Falling Snow Holiday Cards


Other watercolor teachers on Skillshare:  

Irina Trzaskos, Ron Mulvey

Chris V. , Jen Dixon, Ohn Mar Win, Amarilys Henderson, Diana Nemesu

Meet Your Teacher

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Jessica Sanders

Artist | Designer


Jessica Sanders

Artist, Instructor, Designer

Illustrated Journal: Fill a Sketchbook with Butterfly Inspired Art


Hello lovely, lovely creative friend!

My new class is up and going!  I hope you will join me as we go on a journey together, filling a journal with lovely butterfly inspired art.  I just added a new page spread, Explore Texture, which is covered in 15 bite size lessons (13-27).  

I can hardly wait to see your project!!

Happy Painting,



See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Welcome!: Hello. Welcome to my skill share class. I'm guessing Sanders. Color me greedy to art dot com in watercolor basics. Four. We're going to learn about different ways toe hold our brush and the effects you get when you hold them in different ways. We will practice making different kinds of bus jokes, learning our range of motion and how where we hold the brush effects. Our strokes will also practice some light pressure and heavy pressure strokes, some flicking and, uh, rolling our brush, crying a lot of different ways to use our brush, so hope you'll join me, so let's get started. 2. Holding Your Brush: Let's talk about three ways to hold your brush. So the first way to hold your brush is here next to the feral, gives you good control and gives you a good range of motion. So you would have nice range of motion there and good control of where you're putting the paint. The next place you could hold it is to move up the brush a little bit when you hold it. Here, you have a little bit less control and you have a looser brushstroke. Now, also, one thing to note when you're holding your brushes, you don't grip it really tight. No, no, no. That was stress. You out. Don't do that. Okay, hold it lightly. Sort of like a pencil because you want to be able to move it with your fingers with your hand with your arm. So here you have a little bit wider range of motion Just with your wrist. You can see that, but you also have a little bit less control of where you put your rush now for holding your brush with the least amount of control and the maximum looseness will be to hold it here at the end now I'm sort of leaving this loose. I'm gripping it loosely holding in the very end. I have very good range of motion, you can see, but I have very little control so I can put it here. I can't like there's not a good way to, like, grip this. It's really loose. It's not anchor on my hand here, so it's sort of wobbly feeling, and I feel like almost like I'm going to drop it. But it can make force a really nice brushstrokes, so I'm not going to show. I can't show the range of motion. It goes off of my camera, but just so I can keep going up past there so you can see the can I have less control with this particular? See how that brush wobbles less control with this? So if I want to paint something precise like, say, let's paint a circle, I I just have struggled with that a little bit because of the way I'm holding my brush. At the very end, I can get one, but it's difficult now. Let's say I'm holding it the first way close to the feral. You never wanna hold your brush here the same, holding it close to the feral. Can I get a circle? Quite easily. Get a circle. Really nice circle, actually. And then if I hold it a little bit higher up here in the middle area, if you see, I can reach further across my painting. So actually, if I'm worried about getting in the paint, holding your brush a higher up, we'll give you a little bit more space to work in. Let's see if you make a circle. You have pretty good control here, not as good. It takes a little bit more work to create the circle, and it did here. But this was really I mean, really, it's difficult. You should try. You really should try it. So those were three places to hold your brush next to the feral in the middle and at the very end. And as you go to the end of your brush, you will get one more looseness in your painting and less control 3. Brush Pressure: Now let's talk about pressure. So one important skill in water color is learning to vary how much pressure you put on your brush. Now, if you've been doing brush lettering, you already know this. You can make thick and thin strokes just by varying the pressure on your brush. And it sort of can create some interesting in different effects if you try varying the pressure. So one exercise that you can do to practice varying the pressure is to hold brush here, sort of like in the middle, uh, and drag your brush very lightly, barely touching the paper and then press down and then lift again and press down and lived again, impressed it and practice making the thinnest line you can and the thickest lining cake. The thinnest line will be with the least amount of pressure, and the thickest line will be with more. Now, if you slide your hand down to here and try and do the same thing, you are going to have start here less range of motion, then the other way, but a little bit more control so you can practice it by holding the brush here or here. Personally, I tend to hold my brush here rather than here. Here is a little too close for me. I don't feel like I have enough range of motion. It's not bad, but it's just not the best for me. But if I hold it just a little higher in the middle like I showed you, that's where I really like the whole my brush so you can practice the thick and thin lines . It's a great way to practice your brush control and how much pressure you're putting with your brush. It's sometimes extremely important, and watercolor toe have a very light touch, and sometimes you really want to put more pressure down. So it's It's a great skill toe hat, and then you can practice also varying where you hold the brush as you make the thick and thin stroke. So I'm going to make one now, holding at the very tip, and I bloated up my brush with paint. I have, like, really very little control here. It's very wobbly for me, and that's because of where I'm holding the brush notice the's are less wobbly. That's because further here you have more control. Further here you have less control, but more looseness. So all depends on what you're going for. But it's a good thing to practice, so I would just do light vary the pressure, okay? 4. Flicking: Another thing that you can dio is to flick your brush. I'm just mixing some paint on my palette. I get tired of using the same color over and over again, but also this. This particular technique works great for, say, grass or other things that you want to really find tips. So would you could do is practice flicking, So you just touched the tip of your brush onto your paper. Can you lift it as you move up? And that's looking and you can get thick and thin strokes that way. Mine is pretty, pretty thick. I would have to touch it much more lightly. Here we go. This is just fun exercise just to try. Just try flicking your brush. Very the pressure. If I press down hard and my brush kind of dry, get something different than if I do really lightly. See those lights, trucks, little thin strokes, all with one round brush, So try flicking to gain some brush control and just toe. Learn some new techniques for using your brush 5. Using the Side of Your Brush: practice rolling your brush. So another way is to flip your hand over and then roll your brush along the paper and see what kind of marks you can get by doing that. Now, I'm actually putting quite a bit of pressure there when I rolled it. What happens if I roll with light pressure? A little bit different. So I'm using the side of my brush. I want to use every part of my brush. I want to use the tip. I want to use the side when you hold it this way and that way and just do a lot of different things with it. If you load your brush with a little bit of one color here in one color here, you can have some interesting effects. So say I picked up what? The side of my brush, this paint and with the tip of my brush, this paint. And then if I rolled it? No, I'm covering up all your practice. See, I get two colors there. Nice. That's one way to use the side of your brush. The other way is to flick, so we flicked this way. But you can also flick with the side. So if you want to flick with side, I'm holding my brush like this right about the middle kind of that pencil grip, but turned so I could use the side of my brush. And then if I flick it upward, let me just gonna get something different. Now, if my brush is a little bit dry, I'm going to really pick up the texture of that paper. This is great for making for see this really nice use of the side and just flicking upward . Like when I flick, I lift my brushes, I go and I really catch the texture of that paper so you can get a lot of nice of brush marks that way. Like I said, that's really good for painting for or some sort of leafy textures, grassy textures, that sort of thing. 6. Project & Thank You!: So now that we've talked about ways to hold your brush, you could hold a here in the middle or at the end, never on the feral. We never need to hold it on the Farrell. And we've talked about marks that you can make with your brush using light and heavy pressure, flicking, flicking, using the tip and rolling your brush. I would like to see you make a practice page for your project and on your practice page. It can be overlapping, like mine is if you like, but you can also do little separate things. Try holding your brush here and chest your range of motion. Try holding it here and test your range of motion and the same for the end. Try holding it in each place and test how much pressure and control you get by creating circles. Sweeping lines. Um, you can try to create other shapes. Maybe you want to try and paint an apple holding your brush on Lee. This way, that would be pretty cool to do. Maybe you want to try flicking and rolling your brush and using the side of your brush or loading it with two different colors. like I showed you, but create a sort of, ah, interesting page. You can do a whole page of the varying the pressure lines, um, light and heavy pressure, light and heavy pressure. Ah, whole page of that. If you wanted to Ah, whole pages or abstract brush marks using the side of your brush, doing all the different things you can think of and changing where you hold the brush so that you become more and more familiar with how your brush feels and what works best for you that's so important because it's really about what we're is best for you, I can tell you. Oh, I rather hold my brush here. This is my sweet spot, but that's the way I like to do it, and every person is different, and you may like to hold your brush a little further down, or you may like to hold it further up, so it's really important just to get to know your brush. You. We've been doing exercises in my other watercolor basics classes to get to know our water to get to know our paint. And now let's get to know our brush. Try as many different things as you can think of label how you did it. Um, Write it down and then share it in the project section. Thank you so much for joining me. And I'm really happy that you came and participated in this watercolor basics class and in the whole Siri's. And if you have any questions, comments, um ah ha. Moments. I would love to hear about that in the discussion. Let's let's chat about it and I will see you soon. Thank you. Bye bye.