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10 Essential Watercolor Techniques All Painters Need to Know

Watercolor Techniques

Photo: Palette of watercolor paints and brushes from Smile19 / Shutterstock.com
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Watercolor painting has long been a favorite medium of expression for enthusiasts and professional artists alike. Although you only need a brush and pigments to get started, watercolor is a material with many creative possibilities. By incorporating household supplies into your painting, you can create work that has interesting textures and fluid, carefree colors that showcase the best attributes of the medium.

Common Tools Needed for Popular Watercolor Techniques

You don’t have to look far for many of the supplies needed for watercolor painting techniques. In fact, you probably have some of them in your home right now. This is in addition to a watercolor paint set, paper, and wet media brushes in various sizes.

  • Table salt
  • Masking tape or rubber cement. Both of these items will be used to mask the paper so that watercolor pigment cannot penetrate it. Each works in a similar way, although rubber cement is painted on the paper and has more flexibility. In contrast, masking tape is easier to apply but works better if you’re working with straight, rigid lines.
  • Sewing needle
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Plastic wrap

Feeling confused about why you need rubbing alcohol to paint?  Don’t worry—it’s all explained on the next page.

10 Common Watercolor Painting Techniques

Flat Wash

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A flat wash makes up a majority of watercolor painting; it’s such a basic technique that you don’t even realize you’re doing it. Simply dip your brush in water and paint and then spread it over your intended surface. (This is called a wash.) The important thing to remember is to make sure that your color looks even—a flat wash should appear as a single, solid hue on your paper.

 

Wet on Dry


Wet on dry is another fundamental approach. It’s created by painting a wash on paper. After it has dried, apply paint on top of it. Because watercolor is translucent, you will most likely see the bottom layer behind that stroke.

 

Graded Wash

A graded wash shows a transition from light to dark. Start by painting dark—load up your brush with the most pigment—and then drag it across the paper. On the next pass, add less pigment on your brush and swipe it across the paper so that it slightly overlaps with your first line. The two groups will begin to converge and eventually look like one. Repeat this process, adding less and less pigment, until you’ve got your desired tonal range.

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