• Irit Landgraf

Best Watercolor Inspiration Books


It may not surprise you to know that not only am I obsessed with watercolors, but also love finding a great watercolor book. Before we get into my recommendation, let me tell you what to expect.


I paint in an intuitive modern loose style, I don't follow most traditional rules and color choices, and so my favorite books are of rule breakers and artists that demonstrate a different way of using watercolors as well as encourage other artists to take risks explore their own style. If you're after a step by step follow along book, this is probably not the list for you :)

Click the book covers to see them on Amazon (I use affiliate links).


My first recommendation is probably the most traditional of the lot. It is the best book I have found so far about the use of color and color theory. It is easy to read and full of wonderful examples.

Stephen Quiller's Color Choices: Making Color Sense out of Color Theory is on my must read list for any participants in my classes. It is a book I return to over and over again. If I had to pick one book to keep in my library, this might just be the one (don't make me choose).



The next spot on my list goes to Jean Haines. Jean Haines is famous for her loose expressive style and glorious color choices. I learned so much from her but my favorite aspect of her teaching is her search for uniqueness and her encouragement to be different, try new things and break rules. I have read most of her books and my top two favorites, the ones I feel offer the most in content and tutorials are Atmospheric Flowers in Watercolor (if you love painting loose florals, you need this book) and Color & Light in Watercolor.




My next pick are Shirley Travena's books. I love Shirley's style and I find the breakdown of her process fascinating and liberating. Another rule breaker who paints what she loves in a way that makes sense to her and often defies classical techniques. I found her books refreshing and incredibly inspiring. I find it difficult to choose one, but I think my favorite is her Breaking the Rules of Watercolor. Beautiful book.


Sometimes you need to see something to know it can be done. Acrylic paint lends itself incredibly well to modern, abstract loose style, but watercolors sometimes seem to have been left in the more traditional realm, and it is not easy (at least that has been my experience) to find a variety of styles and artists pushing the boundaries of this wonderful medium.

My last pick is a book showcasing many styles and artists. It do not offer a lot of guidance, but more a source of inspiration, a tickle of the imagination, proof that anything is possible.

Watercolor: Paintings of Contemorary Artists by Leslie Dutcher is watercolor eye candy. There are many illustrators here, as well as artists, which I enjoy. Flip through the wonderful artwork and get a glimpse of all the possibilities watercolor offers. Modern and fun, this book is a gem.


I hope you enjoyed this list and that you found something exciting to be inspired by!

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