TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge
After sharing my thoughts on basic watercolor supplies and techniques last week, I thought it might be fun to show you some more techniques to try. There are a lot of fun ways to use watercolor and today I’m going to show you 8 of my favorite techniques that are perfect for beginners (or any skill level).

You can try one or two of these ideas, or make your own page of all 8 techniques. To do this, use a pencil and ruler to measure out 8 rectangles on your watercolor paper. Label each box with each technique as shown in the photo below.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Note before you start: I would recommend allowing each rectangle to dry completely before moving onto the next technique. You can use a hair dryer to speed the drying process along.

Technique #1: Salt

Salt is my absolute favorite technique to use in creating textured backgrounds. I keep a small container of sea salt with my supply kit. To use the salt first choose one or two colors and paint the first rectangle (or area) completely. Then, while the paint is still wet, sprinkle the salt over the top. Let the paint dry completely and then use your fingernail to flake away the salt.

Note: The wetter your painted area, the more your salt will spread. Try letting the paint dry partially (enough that water won’t run when you move your paper but still has a sheen) and notice the difference in texture you create.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #2: Tissue

Fill in the next rectangle with a wash of color(s). For best results you’ll want the surface to be wet and saturated with color.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Crinkle a piece of tissue paper and place it on top of the wet paint. Being careful to cover the entire area, position the tissue over the wash and gently press down onto the paper with the palms of your hands. Allow to dry slightly (but not completely or the tissue could become glued to the watercolor paper) then carefully lift the tissue from the paper.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #3: Alcohol

This technique is sorta fun to do. Fill the next rectangle with a watercolor wash.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

While the paint is still wet, dip a Q-tip into rubbing alcohol and drop it onto the wet paint. For best results let the alcohol drip from the Q-tip (rather than touching the q-tip to the paper).

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #4: Crayon

You can use a crayon to create a ‘wax resist’ technique. First draw your design with a white crayon making sure to press firmly onto the paper.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Using a white crayon on white paper makes it difficult to see what you are drawing. Tilt your paper to the side to get a glimpse of your design.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Next apply your color wash. The paint will ‘resist’ the areas covered with crayon.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #5: Pen & Ink

Another favorite technique of mine. Using a fine-tip permanent pen, draw or doodle your design.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Then, fill in color as you would a coloring book. Remember to switch to a smaller round brush to paint in small areas.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #6: Water Drops

Apply your color wash. Then load your brush with water (or another color) and let the paint drip onto the wash while it’s still wet. You can gently shake your brush down towards the paper to help the dripping along.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #7: Splatter

This technique is a lot of fun, but makes quite a mess. I suggest covering any areas of your paper that you don’t want to be splattered. Load your brush with paint then hold it over the top of your paper. With the other hand, tap your brush and watch the paint splatter onto your paper. Rinse your brush, choose your next color and splatter away.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #8: Transparency

Because watercolors have a transparent quality you can create beautiful layers and density in your work. To play with transparency, it’s best to start from light to more saturated color. I chose to paint some drop shapes.

Using your first, lighter color cover the area with shapes. Let dry completely, then choose a slightly darker or more saturated color and paint more shapes, overlapping first layer. You can repeat this process as many times as you like.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

I hope this post inspires you to try one or two new techniques. Don’t be afraid to just go for it and have some fun! And stay tuned for more watercolor inspired tutorials and DIY projects on Adventures-In-Making for the entire month of April!

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Share your watercolor experiments with us! Join our community and submit your creations to our April DIY Challenge. Your project will be featured in our monthly gallery and you could even win a special award!

Update 4/16/15

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to check out: Basic Watercolor Supplies & Techniques.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basic Supplies & Techniques

Watercolor is one of my favorite mediums and since we are exploring this theme all month with our DIY Challenge, I thought I’d put together an introductory post for anyone interested in trying watercolor for the first time.

Paper

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics
There are three different types of watercolor paper available: hot press, cold press and rough. Cold press paper is what I use most often as it has a beautiful texture to it (whereas hot press paper is smooth). Watercolor paper is much thicker than ordinary paper which is very important to prevent buckling while painting. 140 lb is the typical weight of most watercolor paper. There are thicker options out there if you are planning to use heavy washes, but 140 lb paper works just fine for me.

Watercolor paper comes in single sheets, spiral pads and blocks. I use a Strathmore spiral pad for experimenting and practicing. Then when I’m ready, I’ll switch to my Arches block to create my final painting. I do this because Arches is quite expensive. Plus I like to carry my Strathmore pad with me if I’m painting on the go.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

Block paper is just what it sounds like. An Arches block comes with 20 sheets of paper that are sealed together into one big block. Use an x-acto knife to carefully slice a single piece of paper off the block. Usually, I’ll paint directly on the block and slice it off when I’m finished. But you can also cut it off beforehand. To prevent buckling while painting I recommend using artist’s masking tape to tape down your paper onto a hard surface while painting.

Paper Brands We Recommend:

Strathmore
Arches

Brushes, Etc.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

There are three different types of watercolor brushes: rounds, flats and mops. All are made in a variety of sizes. The best brushes are made of natural fiber, most commonly sable. Kolinsky sable pointed rounds are prized for their ability to keep a fine point, which is very useful for detail work, but they are also very expensive. I’ll admit I tend to stick with synthetic brushes and usually will stock up on cheap student brushes rather than investing in the professional quality options. Maybe some day soon I’ll treat myself to a fancy new brush but for now these cheap brushes suite me just fine.

I use round brushes in a variety of sizes 90% of the time. If I’m doing a big wash, I’ll switch to a flat brush, but otherwise I use round brushes for all my painting.

Tip #1: You will ruin your brushes if you leave the brush end sitting in a glass of water. I’d recommend storing them in a jar brush side up. If you want to store them in a closed container make sure they are dry to avoid molding.

Tip #2: Rinse your brushes under running water after each painting session. If you find any traces of dried paint near the metal band, use a little soap to rinse them clean. Dry gently on a paper towel or cloth and reshape with your fingers.

Tip #3: Sponges, cotton balls and cotton swaps are extremely helpful tools in watercolor. They can be used to apply color or I like to use them to correct mistakes and clean up any extra watery areas. Cotton swaps are especially helpful if you want to create small highlights.

Paint

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

There are two different types of watercolor: liquid tubes and solid pans. One is not better than the other, so it really comes down to your personal preference. I like to use a pan set as my base color palette and then I buy tubes whenever I want to try out new colors. Winser & Newton is an excellent brand that I use often (I love the Artist’s Watercolor Compact Set perfect for traveling). The paints shown in the image above are Schmincke brand which are very pricey but worth it for their amazing quality. Schmincke is my personal favorite because the pigment of their paints is so saturated and vibrant. I was lucky enough to receive this set at a birthday gift. Professional quality watercolors (like Winser & Newton and Schmincke) are expensive but think of it as a one-time investment. A basic pan set will last you a lifetime!

Professional Brands we recommend:

Winser & Newton
Schmincke
Holbein

If investing in a professional watercolor set is not an option for you never fear! Feel free to try out a student brand. I recommend starting with Winser & Newton Cotman. Student brands differ from professional brands in that they can have a lower concentration of pigment, have less expensive formulas and smaller range of colors available. That said, they are still a great option for anyone just starting out with watercolor.

Palettes

Palettes are great for mixing colors. If you have a paintbox set, then you can use the palette included with the box. But if you are using tubes, you’ll need a separate palette or pan. Palettes come in all shapes and sizes. I use a small plastic palette in addition to my paintbox.

Colors

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

You can use as few or as many colors as you like. Some artists use only a handful of colors and mix whatever shades they like. My Schmincke paintbox comes with 24 colors so that’s what I use as my base palette. I also have a few additional tubes I love and use in addition to my paintbox.

Techniques

So you’ve gathered your supplies and are ready to paint. Great! Here are some basic painting techniques to try out.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

Blending

Blending is my favorite part of watercolor. I’d suggest experimenting with blending different colors together. To do this, first paint a shape or squiggle line with plain water only. Then dip your brush into the paint and add it to the watered area. Watch it spread, then clean your brush and choose a second color. Apply this to the opposite end of your watered area and watch the colors blend together. You can move your paper side to side to help the watercolor run together.

Marks

Next I would try out all your different brushes. Experiment with different mark-making and see what you come up with. Draw circles, dashes, lines, and dots. Try mixing lots of water with your paint and then try the opposite by applying paint with a dry brush. Play with different textures, shades and colors.

Layering

My favorite part of watercolor is the process of creating different layers. I’ve painted a simple flower to give you a taste of what layering is like. First use a pencil to lightly draw a flower. I found a photo of a flower for reference. Once your pencil drawing is finished, carefully cover the entire thing in water and then apply a ‘base’ layer. This will be the bottom layer that we will then build from. I blended two different colors to create my base layer.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

It’s very important that you let each layer dry completely before moving onto the next. I use a hair dryer to speed the drying process along.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

Once your base layer is completely dry you can begin adding in more detail. Start with one petal at a time, using your photo as reference for shading and color.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

I hope this post demystifies watercolor for any beginners out there and gives you a place to start. Don’t be afraid to experiment and play! I also recommend checking out a great watercolor series by The Alison Show.

Be sure to share any painting experiments with us by entering our April DIY Challenge!

Update 4/16/15

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to check out: 8 Watercolor Techniques For Beginners