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Watercolor Experimentation


Submitted by: Sue Galos

Retired teacher from St. Clair Secondary School, Ontario, Canada

Level: Secondary Introduction


For this assignment you will create a watercolor painting using the following three steps:


Step 1:
Make a square near the middle of your paper approximately 4" x 5" or 4" x 4" (10 x 12.7 cm or 10 x 10 cm). You may also use a circle if you wish with a diameter of 4" (10 cm). About 2" (5 cm) outside of your first shape, draw a second larger image. The outside of your paper will serve as the third rectangle shape. Sketch an outline design of your image that fills the entire paper. The shapes you drew break the image into three different boxes (See B&W image). When drawing your picture you may make your lines realistic or create your own when going from shape to shape, as long as they meet up with the image in the other shapes. When painting the first box, make it look as realistic as possible using original colors and a variety of watercolor techniques.


Step 2:
In the second larger shape, paint it with neutral or opposite colors and use different watercolor techniques.


Step 3:
In the third box you can repeat the colors from the first box or use a different color scheme. This box doesn't have to be realistic; it can also be crazy. Your finished painting should have three or four techniques present.



Watercolor Techniques, Textures, and Devices

1. Masking Tape Block: Use masking tape to cover up specific shapes and lines and place washes over them. When the paint is dry, remove the tape and paint details into the area

2. Rubber Cement Block: Same procedure as for masking tape but you must allow the glue to dry before places washes. The results are looser than tape sin the glue is not as easy to control.

3. Wax Crayon Resist: This may be done with colored crayon or clear wax sticks; you apply wax were ever you wish to repel the watercolor. Since wax resists water, when you paint over a waxed area, the paint beads up and creates interesting textural effects.

4. Scraping for Light Areas: it is possible to scrap some of the pigment away after the shine has disappeared from the wash to create lighter values in the wash area, but timing is important... too soon and you will make dark lines; too late and nothing happens

5. Tissue Blot: You can create soft, cloud like textures by blotting a damp wash with tissue

6. Scratching with a Pointed Implement: By scoring the paper before or after you lay down a wash, you cause indentations in the paper into which the color from the wash pools, causing fine dark lines, a great technique for fine detail.

7. Scrunched Paper Towel Blot: Because paper towel is stiffer than tissue, the blot results in a combination of hard and soft edges that can be used to represent rocks.

8. Eraser: After the paint is dry, you can lightly soften areas and create fuzzy, gentle tonal variations by erasing

9. Table Salt: Salt sprinkled into a wash creates starry effects because the salt absorbs the pigment in the paint. This technique can be used to create the effect of sand and snowflakes. This technique works best if the salt is applied before the pigment settles into the paper.

10. Sponging: You can sponge paint onto the paper to create textures. These can be used to suggest leaves.

11. Dry Brush: Applying watercolor to a dry surface with a dry brush can create fine linear textures that simulate grass, shrubs, branches, etc., and are usually done as finishing touches to a painting.

12. Splatter: Paint can be applied to a wet or dry wash area by splattering from a toothbrush to create effects such as falling snow, fog, rain, what water, etc.

13. Wet-on-Wet: Drops of paint can be applied to damp washes causing blossoms of colors as they bleed into each other. This can be an interesting out-of-focus background effect.

14. Crumpled Saran Wrap: Can be applied to create interesting dark-edged shapes that can be further painted when dry and used to simulate rocks, fields, etc.

15. Washes: Are Transparent, even layers of color used to work into large background areas such as skies and water. You start with damp paper and a loaded brush. Make a firm stroke across the paper, load the brush again and make a second stroke. This is continued until the area is completed.

16. Graded Washes: Graded washes that vary in density and color from one side to the other. You begin with damp paper and load the brush with paint, stroking evenly across the page. Continue until the color loses saturation.

17. Softening Edges: If you want to blend to create the effect of 3D, after you lay down the color, quickly rinse and wipe your brush, pulling along the wet edge. Continue to rinse and extend the edge until it has lost its crispness. This technique is an excellent tool for lending the effect of realism to a painting.




The New Encyclopedia of Watercolor Techniques - This vivid and informative book brings this technique to the modern-day artist. Filled with a complete range of water-based media, it presents more than 30 techniques—explained with easy-to-follow instructions and step-by-step photography to guide and inspire.


Zoltan Szabo's 70 Favorite Watercolor Techniques - Learn how from Zoltan Szabo, one of the most revered watercolor teachers in America. Using the same ease of approach that made his workshops so popular, this book makes watercolor painting simple, straightforward and fun.


Also see Barbara Rhodes' Watercolor Techniques


Watercolor Assignment Rubric


Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Demonstrates knowledge and understanding of w/c techniques

Limited to none

Some understanding


Complex and thoughtful

Application of paint shows wash layers; color mixing transparency and texture use

Limited to none

Some layers some mixing somewhat transparent; some texture

Competent mixing of color; many layers; good transparency and texture use

All applications show thoughtful consideration and effective results

Subject Matter

Copied or inappropriate

Simply shapes; no shading or 3D

Some thought shown in choice; moderately challenging

Complex and thoughtful; challenging choice


None shown

Some attempt


Several alternatives are sampled

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