Adding depth and perspective with colour

A watercolour painting created by a Rowden Atelier student of cones and cubes

When you are building fine furniture – or completing any woodworking project (even a woodworking course) – you will become very acquainted with every detail of your materials. Working with wood, you come to learn about the intricacies of grain, texture, hardness, finish – and, importantly, colour. The next time you come to design a piece, you will develop a strong sense of which wood you wish to use. Be it oak, walnut or ebony, this becomes an essential element to articulate in your design drawings.

This is where watercolour comes in. Adding colour to your drawings can really make them come to life, whilst giving a very clean and professional yet dynamic finish. Capturing the rich red hues of a cherry wood will take your image from sketch-up to a true reflection of your intent.


At Rowden, we begin teaching our watercolour painting classes from the very basics, learning about the different types of brush, colour theory and mixing. We do this so that you grasp the idea from the base up. Knowing about colour theory and how we mix paint can make your watercolours look more professional as you can create tones that best fit your studies.

This then leads on to creating washes and building layers of paint to add tonal aspects to your pieces. You will begin to add colour to your drawings and participate in a number of exercises to help you add a simple wash and bring your watercolours to life.

Student painting in a watercolour class


Real hair or Synthetic?

The brush we use here at Rowden is the Winsor & Newton Round Kolinsky Sable. We recommend using the real hair brush for painting as this high quality is good for all aspects of watercolour. The real Sable hair allows it to hold on to the water and the pigment extremely well, meaning that you can get the full use out of the watercolour. This can really help with adding a wash to your drawings as you can add a clean brush stroke full of colour without having to go back to the palette.

Alongside being able to create washes you can also use the Kolinsky Sable brush for creating a clean edge. When the brush is wet, the hair shape looks similar to a teardrop. The point allows you to get close to the edge of your drawings and create an accurate finish.

Synthetic hair is a cheaper alternative to the real hair brush, which can be very attractive for a beginner in painting. It is a very versatile brush, but because of the synthetic hair it does not hold onto as much water, making it harder to create the single clean stroke that gives a professional finish. We recommend you use the real hair as you will here at Rowden.

kolinsky sable hair watercolour brushes


Every student learning furniture design should invest in a good set of watercolour paints. We recommend buying the more expensive artist quality paints as they have more pigment and are quicker to get wet and usable. Then there is the choice between tubes and pans. The pans are widely available (see the illustration below), and I would suggest going for the full pan for studio use. The half pan is only good if you are going outside and need a small paint box.

A box of water colours and brushes


When using watercolour we will need to use a thicker weight of paper than usually needed for drawing. This is because the water will ruin the paper causing thin paper to crinkle or break up. The recommended weight for watercolour is 300 gsm or 140 lb. This paper is thick enough to allow for the watercolour to be able to soak in but keep the fibre of the paper in tact.

thick watercolour paper

Drawing at Rowden Woodworking is what we do best, but watercolour painting and drawing are essential skills that students aim to acquire whilst here at Rowden. Drawing is an essential skill that enables us to think in three dimensions, to visualise what we are making. Drawing is important to making in developing the ability to communicate and display our ideas.