4 Watercolor Techniques

Learn how to Paint with Watercolor

4 Watercolor Techniques


Painting with watercolors can be great fun, but can also quickly lead to unexpected results if we don’t have proper control over the paint. It is especially important for beginners to get familiar with a few techniques of watercolor painting and to work with the right supplies.

Transparent application

How intense color will look on paper can be controlled by the mixing ratio of watercolors and water. Little water makes the watercolor intense, while a lot of water makes it transparent. To get a feel for how much or how little water our watercolors need for different results, we should test this on a separate piece of paper.

Monochrome gradient watercolor

A transparent application is perfect if you want the sketch to shine through the paint.

We need to make sure that our preliminary drawing is not water-soluble though. Charcoal, for example, would mix immediately with the watercolors, whereas a pencil remains exactly as it is.

Watercolor painting of goldfish with pencil sketch


A glaze is a way of transparent paint application. Basically, you draw a line or fill an area with transparent paint, wait for it to dry completely, and then put another layer of transparent paint over it.

With glazes, you work your way through your painting in stages, which has a different look than if you mix the watercolors while they are still wet.

Watercolor techniques: glaze


Washes are seamless color gradients, which you can paint with thick brushes and lots of water.

Watercolor techniques: wash


For some motives, a sunset, for example, you will need to paint perfect gradients. Let’s start with a simple color gradient from color to water.

We achieve precise color gradients by placing the strokes next to each other with decreasing or increasing water content.

Watercolor painting technique: Color gradient red

The same is true for gradients going from one color to another.

In the example, we started with a strong blue with a small amount of water. Towards the middle, not only the amount of water has increased, but also the amount of red color. Continuously, the amount of water was reduced and the amount of red color increased.

Watercolor painting technique: color gradient blue to red

Wet in wet

First, we apply clear water or very wet paint to an area. While this area is still wet, we dab paint into it with the wet brush.

The color pigments spread slowly across the wet area and create interesting color gradients.

Watercolor painting technique: wet in wet

Dry on dry

It is important that the paper is absolutely dry. It does not have to be blank, but if we, for example, have worked with wet in wet before, everything must be dry.

We paint with a dry brush on dry paper. Technically speaking, the brush is not really completely dry, but the water content is very low compared to other techniques.

The point is to make the brush look more like a pencil so that you can draw with it just as precisely. Hair or grass can be painted with this technique pretty well.

Watercolor painting technique: dry on dry

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