8 Unique Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor…a favorite style of painting of such greats as Vincent Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keefe, and others. This type of painting is characterized by highly fluid motions and, often times, a deliberate lack of control! While the medium may be a little intimidating and even messy, it is easy for beginners to quickly master a number of techniques, each producing a different look.

In this post, we’ll teach you eight techniques to add to your repertoire.

1.) Tissue

With this technique, you first lay down a wash of whatever color you’d like. Then, crinkle up a piece of tissue paper and blot it down on the painted surface. Gently press the paper down and let sit to dry a bit (only a minute or two). Then, remove the paper and observe the interesting patterns and textures that emerge.

2.) Salt

Again, first lay down a wash upon your painting surface. Then, sprinkle some rough sea salt over the wet paint. As salt naturally soaks up liquid, using it will cause the areas around individual salt grains to dry differently than others. Allow the painted portion to dry completely, then gently remove the salt using your fingernails.

3.) Crayon

Using a crayon can introduce hard lines into the naturally flowing watercolor painting. First, using a white crayon, draw a design upon your painting surface. The waxy crayon will create a naturally waterproof barrier that the watercolor paint will not adhere to, and your design will appear once the paint is applied.

4.) Alcohol

Like salt, rubbing alcohol can affect that rate at which your paint dries, and the way the finished painting appears. After laying down a wash, and while still wet, use a q-tip to drip rubbing alcohol onto the painted surface. Try to use a mix of large drops and small to create interesting patterns!

5.) Pen and Ink

(image via PJ Cook Artist Studio)

Using pen and ink is another technique to introduce hard lines and clear design into a water color painting. First, use an ink pen or permanent marker to draw your design. Then, use your water color paint to carefully color in the design as you would a coloring book.

6.) Water Drops

By using water drops, you can affect the transparency of your paint, or even mix different colors. First, using one color, apply a wash to your painting surface. Then, load a paint with clear water (if you’d like to introduce more transparent areas) or another color (if you want to combine pigments) and gently drop the liquid onto the still wet surface.

7.) Splatter

This technique is just what it sounds like, and can get messy! Simply load your brush with color and hold it over your painting surface. Using your other hand, gently tap the brush to produce splatter patterns. Be sure to cover any areas you don’t want to be hit by the splatter.

8.) Transparency

Because water color paints are naturally transparent, you can apply paints in layers and still see what is underneath. Allow your first layer to dry prior to applying  the second. Apply as many layers as you’d like for interesting patterns!


We’d love to see what you create! Share your art with #SayYestoArtSTL!