5-Minute Watercolor Book Review

Have you ever wanted to dash off a quick watercolor sketch to capture the energy and mood of something that caught your eye? Harder than it seems, isn’t it? Join me as I review Samantha Nielsen’s new release, 5 Minute Watercolor: Super-quick techniques for amazing watercolor painting. 

Photo of Samantha Nielsen Watercolor Sketching
Photo of Samantha Nielsen from her Instagram feed, used with permission.

Samantha’s energetic, winsome style is hard to resist. In addition to her book, she markets her work as stickers and small prints on her website, and runs a well-loved Skillshare class. All of the artists featured in 5-Minute watercolor have an infectious joy de vivre — their work sparkles with strong colors and distinctive brushwork.

5 Minute Watercolor Sketching and 5-Minute Sketching Series books - Doodlewash

5 Minute Watercolor is flexibound in the same size ( 6-3/4” x 9” (B5ish), 128 pages) and format as the other four books in the 5 Minute sketching series (which I reviewed here). This volume also features four sections broken down into bite-sized topics with annotated illustrations. Like the previous books in the 5 minute series, Samantha painted out a reference page for her main lesson points.

Let’s look at each chapter in 5-Minute Watercolor: Super-Quick techniques for amazing watercolor painting together.

5-Minute Watercolor Sketching Interior Page Sample - Doodlewash


One of the most challenging aspects of teaching watercolor is choosing the supplies that will give your readers or students the best results for the best value. Like many urban sketching books, 5 Minute Watercolor features small, easily managed brushes, limited palettes, and advice to have fun and explore the various types of paper, paint, color, and tools. While the publisher prefers to avoid naming specific brands, Samantha’s drawings and Instagram show a good idea of what she likes to use.

5 Minute Watercolor Sketching Basic Scumbling Book Page Preview - Doodlewash

Easy Techniques

Samantha gives instruction and examples of over 15 different watercolor techniques. Most of these techniques are common in watercolor instruction books and videos, but seeing how the techniques are specifically used for quick sketching is unique to 5 Minute Watercolor. I was pleased to see a double page spread on pulling from color as well as information on scumbling (see photo above).

5 Minute Watercolor Plein Air Page Example - Dodolewash

Applying Your Techniques

In what I considered the most valuable chapter of the 5 Minute Watercolor book, Ms. Nielsen shows how to handle a wide variety of plein air subjects in watercolor. From rocks and trees to full landscapes to people, Samantha shows how to simplify the subject matter for quick sketches. Many different artists and styles are featured in this chapter and the next to showcase a wide variety of options.

Color Swatches Page In 5 Minute Watercolor - Doodlewash

Take it Further

To wrap up her 5 Minute Watercolor book, Samantha dives into the possibilities of adding techniques from the fine art world into sketching. Adding movement and depth, learning about color mixes, and finding your own style are all covered in this chapter. The last double page spread is an at-a-glance reference guide for key elements in the book.

Final Thoughts

Overall, 5 minute watercolor: Super-Quick techniques for amazing watercolor painting encourages the reader to relax, play, and experiment. Designed by and for urban sketchers, this book is best suited to those who enjoy capturing their world on location with vibrant watercolor sketches rather than laboring in a studio. I consider the book’s format and content ideal for a watercolor beginner, but more experienced watercolorists will find Samantha’s plein air advice invaluable.

Do you enjoy watercolor sketching or prefer studio work? Have you tried sketching outdoors? Share your thoughts in the comments. Also, Sam was one of the very first guest artists featured on Doodlewash in 2015! Click here to read her feature! 

5 Minute Watercolor: Super-quick techniques for amazing watercolor painting by Samantha Nielsen. Firefly Books, 2018. ISBN: 978-0-228-10114-7

I received 5 Minute Watercolor by Samantha Nielsen from Firefly Publishing in exchange for my honest review. I was not given any other compensation, nor will I receive any payment from future sales of this book, though this post may contain affiliate links which help support Doodlewash. 5 Minute watercolors is also published by Search Press with a different cover for those outside North America.

5 Minute Watercolor Alternate Book Cover Design - Doodlewash
Alternate cover from Search Press

Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in Art Supply Reviews

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