Aims. We search for very small-diameter galactic planetary nebulae (PNe) representing the earliest phases of PN evolution. The IPHAS catalogue of H-emitting stars provides a useful basis for this study since all sources present in this catalogue must be of small angular diameter. Methods. The PN candidates are selected based on their location in two colour-colour diagrams: IPHAS (r' - H) vs. (r' - i'), and 2MASS (J - H) vs. (H - ). Spectroscopic follow-up was carried out on a sample of candidates to confirm their nature. Results. We present a total of 83 PN candidates. We were able to obtain spectra or find the classification from the literature for 35 candidates. Five of these objects are likely to be new PNe, including one large bipolar PN discovered serendipitously close to an emission-line star. PN distances deduced from extinction-distance relations based on IPHAS field-star photometry are presented for the first time. These yield distance estimates for our objects in the range 2 kpc and 6 kpc. From the data in hand, we conclude that four of the discovered objects are probably young PNe.