Simple and Beautiful Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor DIYs are popping up more and more often lately and I love it! Watercolor has a wonderful balance of organic movement with a mix of strong or subtle colors. If you’ve never really used watercolors though, these DIYs can be a bit intimidating. Here’s a few tips to get you started.

First things first, the best watercolor comes in a tube, not a tray. The color will be more condensed and you can more easily manage how much you want to dilute it with water. Winsor and Newton are some of the best, but for small projects Reeves or any store-brand tube watercolor will work well.

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Get the right paper. Watercolor paper absorbs liquid more slowly, which means that you can build more layers of color into it and it’s possible to take away pigment as well. Look for a watercolor paper with a significant texture and a pretty thick weight to it. Strathmore makes a great option that is often on sale at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.

Brushes. Basically you want to avoid synthetics like nylon, or sponge material, because these don’t hold the paint/water mixture very well. If you’re not a fan of buying brushes that use natural animal hair, they do make synthetic sable brushes that work very well too. You can experiment with soft, medium, or stiff brush styles and all matter of shapes on your own.

easy watercolor techniques

Now, on to the painting techniques!

Blotting

Get a good amount of pigment and liquid on your brush. Paint an area on your paper, then use a paper towel or other absorbent cloth to blot and dab some of the pigment away. For a strong contrast, wait a few seconds to do the dabbing. The longer you let the paint stay on the paper, the darker it will remain and thus the faster you take it away, the lighter it will be.

easy watercolor techniques

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Kosher salt

Get a good mix of paint and liquid on your brush and paint an area on your paper. Immediately sprinkle kosher salt onto the color. Let dry, then wipe off the salt.

easy watercolor techniques

Gradient

Start with a lot of pigment and not a lot of water, gradually add water to your brush as you paint in vertical or horizontal lines along your paper, allowing the paint to overlap slightly.

easy watercolor techniques

Wet on wet

With no paint on your brush, wet the area you’d like to paint. Take the color of your choice and paint into the wetted section. This will cause the color to spread and blend easily with other colors.

easy watercolor techniques

Dry brush

Pretty much the opposite of wet on wet, use only pigment on a dry brush and paint onto a dry area of the paper.

easy watercolor techniques

Wax resist

Use a crayon, oil pastel or rubber cement to draw a design onto the paper. Paint directly over it, wipe off any droplets if desired.

easy watercolor techniques

There are tons of watercolor techniques, and sometimes it’s just a matter of playing around and finding ones you like! What have you been using watercolor for?

Lydia Jane


If you want to see some of these, and a few extras, in action – this is a great video that I’ve used with my art students as well! She uses basic tray watercolors, but the techniques are the same.

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