My 5 Favorite Watercolor Techniques

Want to know what my top 5 favorite watercolor techniques are that I use in almost all my paintings?

Well here they are…

 1. Flat Wash

2. Masking Fluid

3. Dry Brush

4. Wet on Wet

5. Glaze

Are you familiar with these techniques? If so watch this video of a commission painting I did for a customer, and see if you can spot the techniques:

Don’t worry if you missed them in the video. I have a break down of each painting method for you below:

FLAT WASH

Flat wash technique is perfect for creating a solid even layer of color in your painting. This is accomplished by first pre-wetting the paper before dragging a paintbrush loaded with water and pigment from one side of the paper to the other repeatedly. It’s also important to remember to start at the top, and work your way down, and to always reload your brush with more pigment and water before each brushstroke.

This is my #1 go to watercolor technique when I paint. It’s usually the first one I use to create the background in all my paintings (graded wash is the other one I use). A wash can cover a large surface fast so it’s always best to mix the color for the wash in a large quantity either in a mixing pan or a cup prior to painting. It’s also important to learn how to read the paper when it’s wet.

I love to use the wash technique because it allows me to make changes to the color before it dries. Wetting the paper before hand keeps the pigment from soaking immediately into the surface. This gives me time to pick up my painting after creating the wash and move it around which eliminates all the brush strokes lines leaving me a smooth layer of color.

This technique can be used more then once to build up to the vibrant color you are looking for. (Make sure the last layer of paint is dry before painting the next)

Watercolors can be tricky because of their translucent nature, but when done right, you can create many layers of washes and/or glazes that shine through together creating a stunning final effect in your painting!

MASKING FLUID

Art masking fluid comes in a small bottle of yellow, pink, or grey fluid. Masking fluid paints on like a liquid, and when dry, it’s a solid rubbery substance you can rub or peel off the paper once you no longer need it.

This is great for protecting shapes from paint when creating washes and glazes.

Using masking fluid is my favorite technique for protecting the white of the paper. Typically, most people will use the very basic technique of avoiding wetting the paper in areas where you want to preserve the white. I find it worth the extra time to put on a layer of masking fluid.

Masking fluid is the best choice for protecting the paper from paint, but it’s also the trickiest! There is a learning curve that comes with this technique that I will discuss in a future tutorial.

DRY BRUSH

Dry brush is when you paint directly onto dry paper with mostly pigment on your brush and very little water.

The dry brush technique is great for creating small details in your painting. Here, I use it like I was drawing with a pencil.

Dry brush is also fantastic for creating texture by dragging your brush full of pigment (little water) over the paper allowing the texture of the paper (and previous washes) to shine through the dry brush layer.

I like to build up a lot of layers of dry brush when I created an animal portrait in order to get the depth of color, texture, and value I’m looking for in the fur.

Wet on Wet

Wet on wet technique is when you add a loaded brush full of water and pigment to wet paper.

This technique can be super fun to create! It’s best when you drop the color onto the paper, and let it do it’s thing. It will move, spread, and is usually very fun to watch. If you repeatedly go into the paint with your brush you may loose the effect you are looking for so I suggest to watch carefully, and don’t over work the paint.

Here I used the wet on wet method to drop paint into the eyes of the cat. You can see how I let the color naturally spread on its own. To give the eye a soft look around the pupil I drop pure water around it pushing the pigment away from the middle.

If you want to see me paint almost an entire painting with the wet on wet technique check out my video: How to Painted an Autumn Leaf with Watercolors.

Glaze

A glaze is very similar to a wash except you do NOT wet the paper first. You can use this technique to cover large or small areas in a painting. You can also build many, many layers of glaze one on top of another all of which would shine together creating a very vibrant and luminous feel to a watercolor painting.

Glazing in my opinion is the most misunderstood painting method in watercolors which is why I believe it’s also the hardest one to master! To learn more about creating a glaze, and how it’s different from a wash check out my post: Flat Wash vs Glaze: Can You Tell the Difference?

Are you new to watercolors, and still learning these techniques?

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