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Watercolour Techniques and Textures: Beginner Artists and Creatives

Welcome back to the Joyous Misfit Blog!

Watercolour art is a favourite of my workshop groups and 1:2:1 sessions, because you can create some really beautiful, atmospheric pieces.

Understanding the basic techniques and how to create texture will give you a foot in the door to creating more complex pieces.

Don’t forget that, while these techniques are great starting points, art is all about expressing your creativity. So play around with different techniques, try different ratios of water to paint to paper, try different types of paper, and learn what works best for you. A great place to start in figuring out if watercolours and for you and what materials you’ll need is on my Art for Beginners blog post.

Practice first

Before you start anything, I want you to get yourself ready with some watercolour paper, paintbrushes, a pot of water, and your paints.

Just try blotting some paint on the paper, adding water, dragging it around. Get a feel for how much you need to create lighter/darker moments and how fast it dries, just to get a little familiar and comfortable with it.

Technique 1: Wet on Wet

Arguably the most fluid and unpredictable technique, wet on wet means you wet your watercolour paper first with your paintbrush, and then paint over it with wet watercolour paints.

If your watercolour paints are in a pallet (most are, and there are some really price-friendly beginner options), they’ll be dry to the touch. To activate the paint, you dip your paintbrush into your bowl of water and then run it across whichever colour you want to use.

You’ll watch as the paint comes alive, but don’t worry - as it dries, it’ll return to its original state, and when you want to use them next, you just wet it again.

As you drag your wet paintbrush across the wet paper, you’ll notice that the colour naturally bleeds into the ravines of the paper and doesn’t stay where you put it. Go with the flow and don’t try to control it too much.

This means that this technique is great for creating underwater pieces, skies, or large areas of soft colour.

When you’re finished, you might notice some of the water and colour is pooling in certain areas. Don’t worry, your paper won’t break - watercolour paper is designed to hold it. What you can do, however, is pick the paper up and tip it around, and the colours will blend even more.

Technique 2: Wet on Dry

A more predictable, controllable technique, wet on dry consists of wetting your paint with your paintbrush to activate it, and painting straight onto dry paper.

This does allow you more control - the paint tends to stay where you put it, depending on how wet your paintbrush is. It also allows for a more concentrated colour.

While the edges of your paint may blend a little, it won’t look like your wet on wet piece. Try painting with a few different colours to understand how the paint takes form on your paper.

Technique 3: Dry on Dry

I know what you’re thinking - it’s called ‘watercolour’ - how am I meant to paint without water?!

Dry on dry is, essentially, using a finite amount of water to activate your paint - maybe even dabbing excess water off onto a piece of tissue - and painting onto dry paper.

This technique gives you complete control over your paint, because it won’t run or blend. It can be difficult to understand how to get the desired effect, so try experimenting with it before you try painting a piece with this dry on dry.

Practice varying degrees of pressure against the paper, the length and width of your strokes, how much water you have on your paintbrush, and how you hold your paintbrush.

If you want to create a rough texture, like for a tree, dry on dry is perfect. It’s also great for painting bodies of water that are reflecting light, too. As you drag your paintbrush across the paper, you’ll notice that the paint gets less concentrated, and the white of the paper starts to peek through the cracks. You can manipulate this to make it look like shimmering water!

Technique 4: Dry on Wet

To paint dry on wet, you’ll want to take your dry paper, wet your paintbrush, pick a colour and paint it onto your paper. Create a background of wet colour, and then pick another colour that will complement or contrast it.

Make sure to blot your paintbrush onto some tissue to make the colour more concentrated and drier. The drier your brush, the deeper the colour will be, and the more it will hold its shape.

This allows for an undercoat of colour, and finer, more control details over the top of the piece.

Which of these have you tried recently?

Which one do you get on best with?

Remember to keep your practice consistent!

Talk soon,

Emma x

P.S: Want to talk to me about watercolour techniques some more? Pop into the workshop, or join our brilliant creatrix group for advice, insights, accountability, support and friendship!


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