The practice of the art consists of sketching the outline, of tinting or shading with sepia, bistre, or india-ink; and of the application of the pigments, in three or more successive stages, to the attainment of a finished drawing. Instructions must, of necessity, be of a general character, because almost every artist of genius finds out for himself and practises some peculiar methods of applying the pigments, which can only be learned by those who become his pupils. These peculiar methods constitute the various styles of the masters of the art, by which their works are so readily recognised and distinguished.


The principal materials required by the painter in water colours are drawing paper, ivory for miniatures, drawing board, pigments or colours, lead pencils, hair pencils or brushes, palettes, slabs, saucers, cups or glasses for holding water, sponge, gum water, ox-gall, rubber, drawing pins, sharp convex-pointed knife, and flat ruler.


The choice of a situation for the practice of painting is not a matter of indifference. The room should be well lighted, of a northern aspect, if possible, and free from reflected colours from opposite objects. As dust and grease are inimical to the delicacy and integrity of water-colour painting, it will be the first care of the student to guard against them. The light should fall on the left hand of the painter, and not be admitted below the head. A room lighted from above, or by a skylight, is much to be preferred.