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.


  1. says

    YAY! I was hoping you would share some more watercoloring tips! 🙂

    These are fabulous and I will definitely have to try them. I’ve done the salt technique, but haven’t done any of the others.

    • says

      oh cool! Salt is definitely my favorite. I recommend trying the rubbing alcohol technique. It’s quite satisfying 🙂

      • says

        Hello! Thank you so much for showing this. I am teaching a group of children some more in depth painting and drawing techniques this term (starting today, in New Zealand) and this will be a lovely exercise for them to try! Creativity is always even more wonderful when shared 🙂

  2. Molly says

    RACHEL, I’m not a beginner, but needed a refreshing….your blog really helped. I’d love to see other things you do. Please add me to your mailing list!!

  3. Victoria says

    Hello and greetings from Germany!!
    Yesterday I bought a magazine called flow (don’t know if y’all know it) it’s about inspiration and giving you more consciousness for the good things in life.
    It inspired me and I want to start painting with watercolours as I did when I was young. I must say I am not a good artist neither talented in sketching nor in drawing but nevertheless I looked for watercolour on Pinterest and found your wonderful articles!
    You are inspiring and tomorrow I am going to buy me a new schmincke box. (The same I had when I was child. <3 )
    Thanks for your tips! And have a wonderful day!
    Love, Victoria!

  4. DORINA d says

    This is one of the best tutorials for different techniques I’ve seen. Simple, easy to understand and do. Thanks for sharing this tutorial. It’s fantastic.

  5. says

    Thank you for the step by step guidelines 🙂 I’ve never been good with watercolours but seeing this does make me want to try again. This is truly amazing work, I’m glad I found your site from Pinterest!

  6. Will says

    Hi 😀
    A doubt about the alcohol: here in Brazil it’s kinda hard to buy the rubbing alcohol. Is it okay to use the ethyl alcohol?

    • says

      Hi Will, I don’t know if ethyl alcohol will work, but give it a try! If you do, let me know how your experiment turns out 🙂

  7. Saskia de Vries says

    Thank you so much for sharing this great tuts.
    Please add me to your mailing list
    Byeeeee 🙂

  8. Gerry says

    What a beautiful presentation of what watercolour can do! I teach art acrylic and watercolours have taught for many years. I just love the clarity of this post . Have never tried alcohol, I mean in art techniques!

    Other possibilities vinegar, baking soda perhaps…?

  9. says

    Thank you so much! I’m just not sure I use the best materials… I live in Brazil so even if I asked it would be hard to find those colors and pencils here :/ congrats tho, awesome!! x

  10. Ann Wood says

    Thank you so much for these arty ideas. I am if advanced years (80’s) and interested in new types of art, I can pass on to my grandchildren and do myself.

  11. nira says

    Lovely! I use Panda oil pastels instead of the crayon – so thanks for the tip. Also the crayon is thinner – and that is better

  12. Georgia says

    When I was searching for crayons I found straws. It gave me the idea to paint and then blow through the straw to splatter the paint. It makes a largest drop or blood splatter affect

  13. says

    Thank you for the wonderful tips. I’m new, self taught and love to view websites that show tips and tricks and videos.

  14. Hailee1234 says

    I used to hate painting, I once tried to paint Mona Lisa and she ended up looking like a huge ball of painting. Now I have tried this it helped me a lot!thank you so much! My favorites are salt and alcohol! You are so creative….


  15. Kim T says

    Thanks for all of these great tips … I had tried the salt before and it didn’t work, but after reading your post, I’ll bet I didn’t have enough water, can’t wait to re-try!

  16. Renée says

    Thank you for your tips. I’ve seen many tutorials, but yours was simple, beautiful and easy to understand. Love the presentation and going to use it with my kiddos.

  17. dark light says

    Thank you so muchhh !!! i only knew splatter , trasparency and water drops before …Thanks again !

  18. says

    I love sketching and drawing in pencil and ink pens, but yesterday I bought my first box of watercolour paints, brushes and paper. I’m going to have a go at these fabulous ideas! Thanks for sharing.