In the programme three amateur artists are given four hours to paint, in watercolour, the same scene or landscape, often with widely different interpretations. At the end of the four hours the guest professional artist for the week judges the paintings and selects the winner, who would then appear in a regional final, and if successful would compete in the end of season final.
The guest artist also has a segment where they provide tips for the watching audience to improve their painting technique.
The locations of each landscape painted changed in each programme, with various regions of both Great Britain and Ireland being visited, as well as a special show from Provence. The 2002 final was held in Tuscany.
There have been two books written related to the television programme, "Watercolour Challenge": A Complete Guide to Watercolour Painting by Diana Vowles and "Watercolour Challenge": Practical Painting Course from Channel 4 books.