Watercolor Basics: Texture Techniques

After learning how to mix color in watercolor, one of the next things you can try is to create different textures. Watercolor can be used to create some nice textures. Here are just a few different techniques for creating different textures in watercolor.

Wet in Wet

An example of painting wet in wet.

Wet in wet is one of the most common techniques and is used to create soft blended edges. This technique requires some practice to master it. The more you practice the more you get a better feel for how to paint wet in wet.

Steps to Paint Wet in Wet

1. First, paint a wash with any color you want. Be sure that you donʼt have too much water on the paper,or not enough water on the paper, either will cause problems with the blending. Being able to judge the amount of water needed comes with practice.

2. While the color still wet, add a layer of a darker color on top. At this stage be sure that the brush holds more paint than water. Tap the brush on a paper towel or cloth to get rid of excess water to ensure that the brush would not have too much water.

Wet on Wet Practice: Clouds

Clouds created by using wet in wet method

One of the most common uses of wet in wet technique is painting clouds in the sky. The result of using the wet in wet technique gives the clouds in your painting really nice soft edges and creates a nice effect.

1. This time we wet the area with clean water, it is the same step as the example above, but this time there you don't mix paint into your first layer. Like the last exercise, make sure you have right amount of water on paper.

2. While the paper still wet, apply a layer of the blue. Leave the area of clouds white, donʼt paint it over yet. This will create the basic shapes of the clouds as the blue blends in with the water already on the paper.

3. Next, let the paper dry a little. While the paper is a little dryer you want to paint while it is still wet. This allows for the paint to still blend with the water already on the paper. Apply the shadow part of the clouds with a gray. Do not use black and white in watercolor. black and white often makes watercolor look muddy. I mixed Cobalt Blue and Brunt Sienna together to get the gray I want in this example.


An example of using salt in watercolor

This technique uses the absorbing trait of salt to remove water from paper to an leave interesting texture on your painting. Artists usually use this technique on snow scenes, rainy scenes, or they just want more texture in the background of their painting.

Ground salt is better than fine salt, because it is larger in size which can absorb more water.

Steps to Use Salt 

1. Paint a layer of blue wash.  The amount of water you need on the paper can be tricky. If there is too much water, the water will overwhelm the salt and the salt wonʼt able to absorb it all to make a rim around the salt. On the other hand, if there is not enough of water, there is not enough to  absorb to create the salt effect. Again, with a little practice you will master it.

To the right is an example of using too much water.
2. Pinch some salt and sprinkle it on the paper.  

3. Wait until it is completely dry. This may take some time, about 10 minutes or so, but it is really important to let it complete dry before moving on to the next step.

4. Take a clean dry brush, gently remove the salt on the surface.


An example of using wax in watercolor.

Like the salt technique the wax technique is used to allow the paper to show through the paint. Instead of absorbing the watercolor the wax blocks the paint from being absorbed into the paper. To do this technique, you can use anything that is waxy, like candles or crayons. In this example, I am using a white crayon.

Steps to Using Wax

1.  Draw on clean dry paper with crayons or another waxy material.

2. Then, paint a wash of color over the area with the wax drawing.  You will see that the wax blocks the water from being absorbed.

As you can see in the example above, drawing with different pressures can create different results. The harder you press more wax is left on the surface creating a larger barrier for the watercolor to be absorbed.

There are many more types of textures you can create with watercolor, these are just a few you can try. These techniques take some practice to do right, but the results in your painting can be very gratifying.

By Hsuan-Chi Chen