Watercolor Techniques

Here's what you'll need to practice these watercolor techniques:


• Paints

• Palettes

• Paper towels, napkins, or tissues

• Brushes

• Water in containers

• Watercolor paper on cardboard

• Masking tape

• Scissors

• Old toothbrushes

• Pencils


• Masking

• Wet on wet

• Lifting

• Spatter

• Graduated wash

• Variegated wash

Now that we have our supplies ready, we’re going to practice some watercolor techniques that we’ll use in later projects.

1. With your pencil, draw a line horizontally across the center of your paper. Next, draw two lines vertically down your paper, spacing them out evenly. Your paper is now divided into 6 even (or close to even) rectangles.

2. Number your rectangles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


3. When using watercolors, instead of painting with white paint, artists usually just leave the white areas without any paint, thereby “holding”, or saving, the white of the paper. In Rectangle #1, we’re going to hold the white of the paper by using something to mask it, in this case, masking tape.

4. Provide each student with a strip of masking tape and a pair of scissors. Cut shapes from the piece of tape – circles, squares, diamonds, triangles, hearts, etc., and stick these on Rectangle #1.

5. Next, choose a color you would like to use – any color will do. Wet your brush, dip into the water, then the paint. Color Rectangle #1, painting over the tape. Let it dry – we’ll come back to it later.


6. Skip Rectangle #2 (since Rectangle #1 needs to dry) and go to Rectangle #3. Here we’ll use the wet on wet technique – or, wet paint on wet paper. Dip your brush in the water and “paint” Rectangle #3 with water. Now quickly, before it dries, dip into the water again and then into your paint (any color). Paint designs on Rectangle #3 or paint the whole rectangle – notice how easily the paint flows over the rectangle since the paper was already wet. Or, choose a second color and see how they run together.


7. Skip Rectangle #4 and go to Rectangle #5 (we’re making sure the first two are dry before doing #2, #4, & #6. In Rectangle #5, we’re going to try the spatter technique. Find an old toothbrush and dip it into the paint. Hold it directly above Rectangle #5. With a pencil, LIGHTLY tap on the handle of the toothbrush. The paint will spatter in tiny drops.


8. Go back to Rectangle #2 – here we’ll try picking up the paint. This is a great technique when painting soft objects such as clouds. Dip your brush into the water, into a color, and paint Rectangle #2. Before the paint is dry, however, use a paper towel, napkin, or tissue to pick up some of the paint by blotting it.


9. Go back to Rectangle #4 -- here we’re going to do a GRADUATED WASH. A wash is the name given to the technique of evenly covering the paper with paint. A graduated wash changes as it moves down the paper, from more intense to less intense in color. When painting a wash, use a large flat brush.

Choose a color and add extra water to the paint. Beginning at the top of the square, move your brush horizontally (from one side to the other). Pick up your brush, and, touching the bottom of the first stroke, move across the square again. The two lines should blend together; if they don’t, you can go over the area where they meet once more with your brush.

Now, add a little more water to your paint and pick some up again. Make another two strokes across your square. Because there is more water in the paint, these strokes should be lighter than the first two. If they aren’t, add a little more water to your brush and move across the paper again.

Finally, for the lightest shades, add water once more to the paint before picking it up in your brush. Make the final strokes, matching the top of the new stroke with the bottom of the last stroke on the paper. The color you chose should be darker on top and gradually get lighter towards the bottom of the square.


10. Go on to Rectangle #6 – Here we’ll try a VARIEGATED WASH, or a wash which changes from one color to another color. Use a large flat brush.

Choose three different colors and add a lot of water to them on your palette. Starting at the top of your square, paint two horizontal lines (across the square), making the top of the second line touch and blend with the bottom of the first line. Repeat with the third color for a variegated wash.

To blend the colors even more, clean and dry your brush again, then run it over the paper where two of the colors meet.

11. DON”T FORGET to go back to SQUARE #1 and take off the masking tape!

You can practice these watercolor techniques any time, then use them in your paintings.