Discover Fresh Ideas for Your Watercolor Sketchbook - Free Tool

Discover Fresh Ideas for Your Watercolor Sketchbook – Free Tool

Picture of watercolor sketch

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Have you ever felt lost in a cloud of indecision over what to draw and paint? It is indeed a challenging part of artistic expression. No worries. We made a free, easy tool that takes the pain out of the process. Discover fresh ideas for your watercolor sketchbook with our simple web app.  

When the sky is the limit, a strange contradiction looms. Too often, inhibition roars its ugly face. “Can I…it looks too difficult…no, it won’t make a nice picture…oh, this must be a much better idea…”. And on and on. 

The internet abounds in stunning photos that we can use as a reference for artwork. Then, why do we vacillate? It sounds counter-intuitive, but limited choices are the artists’ best friend. It brings the mind into focus. 

A tool to help you practice drawing and watercolor skills

Our sketching ideas generation tool creates clear boundaries. It gives you a few options to assess. When faced with this kind of limitation, you have a springboard. No more excuses- start filling up your watercolor sketchbook. Sketching is the very best way to develop as an artist.

A word of caution. The tool is not a list of prompts to jumpstart your creativity. It is a means to discover things to draw and paint. To practice, practice. To gain basic skills, or to keep your skills alive and fresh.

UPDATE January 2022: The Ideas tool has been simplified. Instead of listing suggestions, you can search with any keyword directly in Unsplash and Flickr with our tool.

Explore lists of ideas with fresh reference photos

The ideas generation tool has a list of topics that are favored by artists. When you click on the main topic, an accordion will drop down with detailed choices. Each time you click on one of the sub-topics, click “Discover More”. Four or five new images will load. Not an endless scroll. Just those few photos.

Screenshot of sample page from the ideas tool.
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Screenshot. A sample of 1 out of 5 images that load each time you click “Discover More” in the ideas tool.

At least one of those five photos will be a good option. The secret to drawing mastery is to draw what is in front of you. No matter what it is. Challenge yourself and don’t stay cozy with what you know best. Fill your watercolor sketchbook with something new. Struggle. Make a bad drawing. Fall down and get up again. In-between, you will create something you love. 

Where do the images come from?

There are two pages; one that pulls images from Flickr, the other from Unsplash. The photos are displayed in random order. If the keyword is “flower”, it will pull images that have that keyword attached to it. Inevitably, some photos are so-so. Ignore those and click “Discover More”. But focus on sketching, not “discover more”. 

For a serious watercolor project, you want to find an image that is just so. For sketching, no need to be choosy. Quite the opposite. 

We are expanding the toll with more image topics. Your suggestions are welcome!

How to use the app

The app is made for artists and has no embellishments. It is available only on this website. Here is a simple drill-down of how it works: 

  • Select your topic, either from Flickr or Unsplash.
  • Click the radio button for a subtopic.
  • Click ‘Discover More” to load four or five mages.
  • Repeat to load new
  • To download an image to your computer, tablet, or phone, click “Download Image”.
  • It will download in a larger size.
  • When you click “Auto Color Palette”, it will load the image in that tool. The tool will generate ten color swatches. Use these to guide your artwork.
  • Or, click “Manual Color Palette” to select your own color swatches. Use the arrow to pick color swatches from the images. Delete a swatch by clicking on it.
  • For both color palette generators, you can download the swatches along with the image. 

Sample ideas from my watercolor sketchbook

I love creating tiny sketches. With a small area to color in, it is easy to complete many at a time. It is pure joy to explore all kinds of subject matters. 

Collage of my downloads from the ideas tool.
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A COLLAGE of my individual downloads. I selected these images for my sketching exercise. I then opened each photo in the palette tool, testing the auto palette first. In three cases, I preferred to use the manual palette.

This is my process:

First, draw outlines with a pencil. Next, paint a watercolor base. Use little water, if you are painting on sketching paper as I do here. Look at the color swatches you have saved to inform color shades.

Six small sketches with first layer of watercolor.
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When the watercolor is dry, fill in the details. I used a fine liner to redraw the outline. More watercolor, watercolor pencils here and there and a bit of ordinary colored pencils all account for the details.  

Two completed of a lotus bud and a mountain with details.
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One more completed sketch of a tree.
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My best wishes for your sketchbook explorations! In my Art Supply Guide, you will find links to good watercolor sketch books.

Here’s some blog posts you might enjoy:

Picture of watercolor sketch
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