Watercolor Painting Techniques

There are many watercolor painting techniques but these are two foundational  techniques that will give you very different results. Once you feel comfortable with these it will be easy to branch out and experiment with other techniques. As always, embrace surprises and have fun!

watercolor painting techniques

Wet on Wet

Wet on wet means that the brush is wet and full of paint and the paper is already wet. This technique works well for skies and backgrounds because of its fluid and flowy effect. 

Practice this technique:
- Use a clean brush to wet the surface of your watercolor paper
- Dip your paintbrush into clean water
- Pickup some paint and dab it onto the wet paper. Notice how the pigment blooms and flows.  
- Experiment with different brush stokes, dabs, splashes, spatters and pay attention to what happens. 

wet on wet watercolor painting technique


Wet on Dry

Wet on dry means that your brush is wet and your paper is dry. It’s a more precise technique than Wet on Wet and is often used in illustrations. It's great for painting details and shapes with well defined edges. 

Practice this technique:
- Start with a dry piece of watercolor paper. 
- Dip your paint brush into clean water so that's it's moist but not dripping.
- Pickup some paint on your brush. (Remember that the more water you add the the lighter - more transparent - your paint will be. Experiment using different water to paint ratios.)

- Practice painting some simple shapes. Notice how the paint/pigment doesn't go outside of that shape (unlike wet on wet). Because the surface is dry, the paint only goes where you put it. 

wet on dry watercolor painting technique