Did you know that some watercolour techniques are so easy that some artists want to keep them secret?

Well, I don’t keep secrets about techniques. I want to share them with you.

So here we go, 7 super easy watercolour techniques explained, to make your paintings even better.

Have a look at this picture. Starting from the upper right corner, then moving counter-clockwise, I’ll explain them all.

Kvadraturen 4 - expl

1 – Masking Tape and Board
Securing your paper to a board with masking tape helps you handling the paper, keeps the paper from rolling up when wet, and adds a nice white boarder around your finished painting. Masking tape can also be used to preserve parts of your painting when adding more colour, widely used for straight boarders such as an edge of a house, a horizon line or, if manipulating the tape a little, – a birch tree trunk.

2 – Wet Paint on Wet paper
To make the sky, I used a wide clean brush with clean water, to wet the upper half of the paper. Doing so in a slightly wavy movement defines the edge of the hillside. I then used a mixture of Paynes Gray and a tiny bit of Neutral Tint, mixed with water to a slightly soupy viscosity. With a round brush, soaked in the mixture, I added paint at the edges of the paper, and then some spots at the middle. Tilt the board around to help the paint to spread, but don’t overdo it, because you want to leave the paint somewhat uneven. Don’t let it dry, but move to the next step, adding colour to the lower half.

3 – Nebulous Edge
Also knowns as a “bleeding edge”, a nebulous edge appears when two wet areas are brought in contact with each other. When this happens, one of the colours will bleed into the other colours area. Which one of the colours that will “bleed” depends on different features of the two colours, and sometimes also the paper. Some colours bleed often, some almost never. Using Yellow Ochre together with the colour mix mentioned earlier (Paynes Gray and Neutral Tint), usually makes the yellow bleed. Don’t prewet the lower part of the paper, but leave it as it is, dry. Mix Yellow Ochre with water to an even solution. In a quick and loose movement, swipe a flat brush with the yellow paint on the lower part of the paper, touching the edge of the sky at only a few places. For composition reasons, it will often look nice if this happens slightly out of the center. Leave the edge bleeding without disturbing it, and move on to number 5.

4 – Wet Paint on Dry Paper
This technique is what you already did in number 3. Applying a mixture of paint and water (aka Wet Paint) to dry paper, the colour edges will stay sharp and crispy.

5 – Salt Granules
When the paint is still wet, take some table salt and sprinkle it on top of the yellow paint. This will make the darker granules shown in the painting. You might also get lighter areas using this technique. I’m actually not sure what what conditions that are giving dark or light granules. Maybe characteristics of the paint? Or the size of the salt grains? (Maybe you know? Please comment if you know why or when the spots get dark or light.)

6 – Overlaying
The translucent attribute of the watercolours makes it possible to change the tint of an area by applying another layer of colour on top of the first. The first layer will still shine through, but with an altered colour tint. If using a strong mixture of a dark colour over a lighter colour, the dark colour will usually cover what’s underneath. This technique comes in handy when adding shadows to objects in a painting.  It can also be used to change the overall tint of a painting, by adding an even layer of a translucent colour to the entire painting. NB! Most of the watercolours are translucent, but NOT all. Test first so you don’t spoil your painting. It’s also smart to practice the technique so you are able to apply the colour completely even.

7 – Clean Water Tracing
Wet paint will only spread on wet paper. This is a way you can control the boarders of your colour areas. We used this technique in number 2, pre-wetting the area for the sky. You can also use this technique for smaller areas such as small objects or lines. By first applying clean water to your painting, you make a trail for where the paint will run. Shown here are the tree trunks “painted” with clean water, before adding dark colour. After tracing your object or area with water, you apply the paint somewhere in the wet area. The paint will then spread in the water trail. By using this technique, you can make smooth transitions between different colours or shades of the same colour.

So, that was easy? I hope “7 easy watercolour techniques” inspired you to try it yourself! And show me by adding your link!

If you liked this post, be sure to check out “Seriously, don’t get this wrong!“.

All the best! 

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