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Manipulate Paint


When compared to the other elements of design, texture is the least important and should be used sparingly. It should be used as spice to a meal or frosting on a cake.

Texture can be created at three stages of a painting. The painting surface can be altered prior to painting by adding gesso, matte medium, wax resists, sand or liquid frisket. Paint can be applied in a manner that creates texture: stamping with a sponge, stippling, spattering or dry brushing. Finally, the paint can be altered after it has been applied.

Once paint has been applied to the paper, it can be manipulated in many ways to create a variety of textures. The paint can be pulled out, moved around, partially removed, mixed with other chemicals, or its surface can be modified by pressing objects into it. In addition, the board can be tipped, the paper bruised, or the entire painting can be frozen.

The effects of each method will vary with the consistency of the paint (watery, milky, creamy, or pasty) and depending on whether the paper is wet, damp or dry.

Remember that texture is less important than shapes, values, and colors. Texture should not draw attention to itself.

Bleed, blend, fade out or soften an edge
The edges of shapes in a painting are very important. If an edge is sharp or well-defined, it is referred to as a "hard edge." Hard edges attract the eye. As the eye moves across a painting, it stops at hard edges and then moves along its length. If an edge is fuzzy or insdistinct, it is referred to as a "soft edge." The eye does not stop at soft edges. Instead, the eye moves effortlessly across the soft edge to the next shape. So, leave edges hard in areas where you want the viewer's eye to stop, and soften edges in areas where you want the viewer's eye to keep moving.

Method 1

Apply a puddle of paint to a portion of a dry area to be painted. Rinse your brush in clean water and touch your brush to a paint rag, sponge, or paper towel to remove some of the excess water. With a moderate amount of water still in the brush, stroke the edge of the wet paint and pull the paint away. This technique creates a mini graded wash and is referred to by several names: Puddle and Pull, Pulling Out, and Pulling Off. (This is the way Jan Kunz paints flower petals.)

Method 2

Incline your painting board slightly, so that the paint tends to flow downward. Apply wet paint to the upper portion of a dry area to be painted, allowing a bead to form at the lower edge of the painted area. Rinse your brush in clean water. With your brush fully loaded with clean water, stroke the bead at the bottom of the painted area and stroke the wet brush back and forth over the rest of the lower area. (This is the way Quinten Gregory creates mist in the valleys of mountains. Paint the top part of a mountain, then flood the lower portion with clean water.)

Method 3

Incline your painting board slightly, so that the paint tends to flow downward. Apply water to the top part of the shape. There should be enough water in the area to create a bead at the bottom. Now, add paint to the lower part of the shape. Paint up to the bead of clear water. When the paint encounters the bead of clear water, the paint will be drawn upward, creating the soft edge of a graded wash. (This is one of the ways Jack Reid paints snow.)

Method 4

Pre-wet the entire area to be painted. Wait a few minutes while the water soaks into the paper. Touch one edge of the wet area with a brush loaded with paint. If the area is very wet, the paint will move quickly across the area. If the area is still wet but has lost its sheen, the paint will not move as rapidly and it will not move as far. (This is how Jody Bergsma paints each of the shapes in her paintings.)

Method 5

Apply paint that is very wet to one part of the area to be painted. Rinse out your brush with clean water and squeeze out most of the water, leaving a damp brush. Touch the damp brush to the edge of the wet paint. Do not go too far into the paint or else the damp brush will act like a sponge and soak up the paint rather than spreading it. Your objective not to physically move the paint but to create a path of water that will attract the paint. This works best if the paint area is very wet and the brush is less wet or just damp.


Apply a puddle of wet paint to dry paper. While the paint is still very wet, blow across the paint with a straw or an eye dropper with the rubber end removed.

Scratch (Sgraffito)

Fine lines can be scratched into dry paint with a sharp instrument wuch as a knife, the corner of a razor blade, a dremmel tool, or an x-acto blade.

Scrape, Squeegee, Drag, Push

A variety of blunt tools can be used to push moist paint to one side. A palette knife, color shaper, credit card, flexible ruler, aquarell brush handle, or even finger nails can scrape paint that has not yet dried. Paint that is scraped while still very wet will flow right back into the area scrapped.

Roll To Lift Off

Lay down an area of rich, wet paint. Then, with two fingers tucked inside a tube of toilet tissue, roll off some of the paint. The same can be accomplished with a roll of paper towels as long as the towels do not have a quilted pattern that will be left in the paint. Be careful not to roll the lifted paint back down onto the paper.

Roll To Create a Pattern

Rolling across damp paint with a natural sponge roller or a foam roller will create interesting patterns in the paint. If the paint is too wet, the paint will flow back into the lifted areas and the pattern will be lost.

Roll To Spread

A brayer can be used to spread thick paint from one area to another.


Paint can be smeared with your fingers. Lightly smearing the edge can create the illusion of grass. Edges can be softened by smearing with your finger.


Blot wet paint with a sponge, paper towel, facial tissue, terry cloth towel, your finger or the palm of your hand. The towel or tissue can be dry or wet, flat, crumpled, or twisted. If you blot several areas, be sure to frequently re-crumple the paper to avoid repeating the same pattern and to avoid placing the lifted paint back onto the paper. Blot lightly to remove a little paint; press hard to remove more paint. Blot straight down or roll the absorbent paper across the paint. Blot with a tissue wrapped around the end of a spool of thread, creating a light, round shape in the wet paint. Blot with tissue wrapped around the end of your finger. Blot with a cloth wrapped around the end of a brush handle to create small shapes like pebbles.

Blot out clouds in the sky.

Blot to create texture in a rock shape. Draw a rock shape. Paint the shape with a thick mixture of Phthalo Blue and Burnt Sienna. Spray the mixture with water and wait a few minutes for the water to create interesting patterns in the paint. Place facial tissue over the painted rock and press the tissue into the paint with the side of your hand. Lift the tissue while it is still wet. (This is a method used by Irving Shapiro.)

Wet an area of dried paint. The wet area could be a line or a shape painted with a brush filled with clean water. Wait 15 to 20 seconds until the water soaks into the dried paint. Blot the area with a terry cloth towel, and then rub the area vigorously with the towel. Rub hard to remove a lot of paint; rub more gently to remove less. (This is a method used by Tom Lynch.)

Paint Chinese White paint onto the white paper in areas where you want mist, fog or steam to be. When the Chinese White is dry, paint the picture. When the completed painting has dried, dampen the paint where you want to blot out some color to give the impression of mist, fog or steam. Gently dab with a sponge or tissue paper. The color will lift easily where there is Chinese White. This technique allows you to lift even staining pigments.


The surface of dry paint can be altered by erasing with a hard ink eraser or an electric eraser. An erasing shield can be used to create specific shapes.


Rub a rough grade of sandpaper across a surface of dried paint to create some interesting marks. This technique can be used to create sparkles on the water or fine spray from a wave as it crashes into a rocky shore.

Fold sand paper and drag the folded edge across the dried paint to create a light straight line.

Lift Wet Paint

Lifting is the removal of pigment from a previously painted area.

Lifting of wet paint can be accomplished in several ways. You can blot a freshly laid wash with an absorbent material such as a cloth, sponge, paper, towel, or tissue paper. You can also lift wet paint with a "thirsty" brush -- a brush that has been wet thoroughly and then squeezed with a paper towel to remove most of the moisture. When a thirsty brush touches wet paint, it sucks up paint like a sponge.

A thirsty brush can be used in many different situations. It can be used to soak up the bead that forms at the bottom of a wet wash painted on a slanted surface. It can be used to remove excess moisture from the center of a "bloom," "blossom," or backwash to stop it from growing larger.

A paints characteristics determine how they will react to lifting. Staining paints quickly stain the paper, making them difficult, if not impossible, to lift. Granulating paints sink into the low areas of the watercolor paper, making them difficult to lift completely. However, nearly all paints can be lifted if you act quickly.

Interesting effects can be accomplished by lifting an area that has been painted with a mixture of a staining color and a non-staining color. Paint an area with a mixture of Burnt Sienna and Phthalo Green, wait a few seconds to give the Phthalo Green time to stain the paper, then lift a portion of the wash. The lifted area will be stained green rather than white.

Lifting straight lines with a thirsty brush can be accomplished by placing the ferrule of the brush on the raised edge of a ruler or a straight edge and then dragging the brush from one side to the other.

Lifting arcs or circles can be accomplished by attaching a thirsty brush to the end of a compass or divider.

Lift Dry Paint

Lifting dry paint involves rewetting, agitating, and blotting.

Use a soft hair watercolor brush to dampen the area and then gently agitate the paint away from the paper. Blot with an absorbent material.

Use a stiffer synthetic or natural bristle brush to scrub more aggressively. Be careful not to damage the fibers of the paper.

Mist an area of the painting with a spray bottle, then blot with a paper towel.

Blast an area with the spray from a trigger spray bottle. Tom Lynch uses this method to create rays of light.

The entire painting can be lifted by placing it under the faucet in the sink or bathtub and agitating gently with your fingers or a sponge.


Use a natural sea sponges or cellulose (o'cello) sponges to lift paint from small or large areas.

If the sponge is new, be sure to rinse it out with clean water to remove the sizing that was added to help it retain its shape before sale. Thoroughly saturate the sponge, letting it soak up as much water as it can hold. Squeeze out the sponge, removing as much water as possible. With the damp sponge wipe an area gently, rotate to a clean area on the sponge, and wipe again.

Lift and paint in one motion. Wipe out an area, then without lifting the sponge, spread the lifted paint into the adjacent area.


Place few colors of thick, pasty paint on the paper. Lay a sheet of glass or plexiglas on top of the paint. Lift off the glass.

Place the paint on the glass instead of the watercolor paper and press the paper into the paint. Peel off the watercolor paper.

For a variation, smash the paint between the paper and the glass and then slide the paper in one direction before lifting. This creates a directional smear.

Spritz, Spray, Mist, Spit

There are two types of pump spray bottles: misting and spitting. Misting is effective when you want a smooth, even effect. When irregular dots are wanted, use Holbein 2oz. pump spray bottles; they are designed to be spitters.

These bottles can be used to spray clear water, pigment or frisket over paint that has already been applied to the paper.

Mixing Paint: Start with 1" of water in the 2 ounce bottle. Squeeze in 1" of pigment from a 5 ml tube. Shake well. Prime the pump before spraying on painting. (Pump the plunger a couple of times while pointed into your dirty water container.) Spray from 2" to 5" from paper. To get the irregular dots from Holbein's spray bottles, just tap the plunger rather than pushing it all the way down. (Different effects can be achieved by spraying closer, farther, harder, softer, quicker, slower and by pressing the nozzle half way down).

Spray Shields: Use a towel, your hand, a piece of paper, or a stiff piece of card stock to protect areas from the spray.

Spray drops of clear water on wet, damp or dry areas of the painting to create different effects.

Mist an area of wet paint to encourage it to move down the page. For example, use this technique to create reflections in the water. After painting the area above the water and letting it dry, lay down a narrow band of colors along the line between the land and the water. The colors should correspond to the colors on the land. Then, with the paper inclined, spray clear water over the colors and let them run and mix.

Mist clear water on some wet painted edges to soften them.

While an area is still wet, spray with clear water to merge colors.

Mist an area to re-wet it.

Spray paint to lighten or darken an area without having to disturb the existing paint with a brush.

Spray clean water from a spitting spray bottle on a dark area of paint that has dried. Blot the dots so they don't smudge. Rub with a terry cloth towel to lift paint where the water drops activated the paint. This can be used to create the effect of snow.

Cleanup. Be sure to rinse out the nozzle by spraying clean water immediately after use.

Drop In

Individual drops of chemicals create a variety of textures. Drop in liquid chemicals such as bleach, alcohol, or India ink. Drop in grains of salt, rice, or crystals from dark brown Rit dye. Add these at different stages of drying for different effects.

Run a watercolor pencil over a piece of sand paper, then drop the sanded particles into a wet wash.

Draw Through

Select a drawing instrument: Q-tip, brush handle, dip pen, stick, stylus. Dip the drawing instrument into a a chemical, thick paint, or clear water, and draw through an area of wet to damp paint. The effects will be different depending on the stage of drying.

Add Salt

Salt placed in watercolor has two noticeable effects. First, each grain of salt absorbs paint, leaving a star-like white area on the paper. Second, as the water dissolves the salt, the salty water migrates into the surrounding area.

These two effects create many interesting textures such as a stucco wall, snow flakes, a blizzard, ice crystals, flower shapes, irregular light areas on a rock, or sparkles. These textures should complement other elements in the painting; they should not draw attention to themselves. You don't want people to look at your painting and say, "Look at that great salt technique."

The specific effect that you will achieve will depend on several factors: the type of salt; whether the salt crystals are crushed or not; how much salt is applied;the characteristics of the paint; how much paint is in the wash; the degree of wetness of the paper; whether the paper is inclined or not; how the salt is applied; how the salt is removed; and what is painted into the area after the salt has been applied.

There are several types of salt: table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, rock salt, margarita salt. Each type creates a unique effect when dropped into wet watercolor paint. Table salt is more refined and leaves very tiny white splotches. Sea Salt is the next in size and leaves slightly larger white areas. Coarse Kosher is larger and flatter that the other salts. Rock salt is the largest and consequently leaves larger white areas.

Because of their large size, rock salt granules must be dipped in water to start them dissolving before they are placed in the wash. Pick up one granule with a pair of tweezers, dip it in a container of water, and then place it on the wet paint.

Each type of salt will have its own characteristic size and shape. Each grain will leave a similar pattern. To achieve a more varied effect, grind up the salt in a mortar and pestle. This way you will a variety of sizes and shapes.

The amount of salt you use determines the effect you will achieve. Rock salt placed one at a time in a gray wash will create the illusion of a dappled gray horse. A few grains of table salt can create sparkles on the water or a snow bank. Kosher salt sprinkled over a wooded scene can appear to be falling snow. More salt can transform a snowy evening into a blizzard.

Each paint will react to salt differently. Transparent, semii-transparent, and opaque paints will produce different results. Salt tends to sit on top of opaque paints. Granulating paints respond differently than non-granulating paints. Burnt Sienna appears to wriggle between the salt crystals.

The concentration of the paint is important. Thin, watery paint will produce different results than a thick, creamy wash.

When salt is added to a wash is important. A drying watercolor wash goes through at least five stages. 1. At first water and the paint sit on top of the paper, forming a domed puddle or pool. Tip the paper and the water will run right off. 2. As the wash begins to dry, the water sinks into the paper, the dome is lost, and the surface is flat and shiny like a mirror. 3. Gradually the sheen become duller and finally disappears. 4. The wash appears to be dry, but water still remains inside the paper. This stage is characterized by feeling cool to the touch. 5. Finally, the paper is no longer cool to the touch, all the water has evaporated, and the wash is completely dry.

The best time to add salt depends on the result you want.

if you want texture but not light starry areas, drop in salt while wash is still very wet.

If you want the light starry areas, the best time to add salt is just as the wash is starting to lose its sheen but before the sheen is completely gone. If the wash is dry, nothing happens. If the wash is too wet, the salt dissolves and going in all directions.

Different effects will be achieved if you leave the paper flat or incline it. On a horizontal paper, the granules will slowly absorb the moisture and pigment--creating crystal-shaped light spots. If you tilt the painting, the dissolving salt will flow down with the water.

Different effects can be achieved by applying the salt in different ways: sprinkle from a salt shaker, throw onto the wash, drop in, pour, build up a layer at a time, or place one grain at a time in a strategic area.

The appearance of the final painting will depend on how the salt is removed. Brush salt from the painting with your hand or a sponge. To remove even more of the salt, scrape vigorously with a credit card or a palette knife. Finally, you may want to blot the salted area with a damp paper towel to remove any remaining salt residue.

The final result will also depend on what is done to the area after the salt is removed.

After removing salt the surface may look powdery. To bring the area back to life, glaze over the area with random brush strokes of a very thin mix of cadmium yellow. Flick the brush lightly in all directions, making X's. Glaze cooler areas with French Ultramarine. Glaze warmer areas with Alizarin Crimson.

Paint around grains of sand that are starting to dissolve. For example, apply a wash of burnt sienna, drop in salt, droop in Winsor red and cerulean blue between grains of salt.

After a salted wash has dried, leaving the characteristic irregular white spots, and after the salt has been removed, any color can be glazed over the whole area.

CAUTION: It is not known how salt residue will affect paper and paint long range. You may want to choose one of many alternatives: water from a spray bottle held two or three feet above the moist surface, rice, sand, sawdust, Dri-Z-Air crystals (calcium chloride), grits, instant coffe crystals, sugar.

General tech notes
  • Don't disturb salt once it has landed.
  • Remember that it takes several hours for a salted area to dry. If you wipe off the salt before the area below it is completely dry, the color may smear.
  • Rather than paintng the entire area, leave some white, dry spots; these can be left white or painted a different color later.
  • Mask some areas before painting and salting.
  • Build up elaborate textures with layers of washes and salt.
  • Add salt to your wash before applying it to the paper. As you apply the mixture, the salt grains are desposited evenly on the paper and create a delicate textured effect over the whole wash area.
  • Tilt the paper while it dries. The crystalline pattern will no longer be distinct. The salt abasorbs the wash as it moves down the page and creates a general mottled texture.
  • Sprinkle salt into a wet wash and tilt the paper in the direction of the wind. Allow the water to with the disolving salt for about 5 seconds, then level the paper and let it dry.
  • Normally, salt placed on wet watercolor paint results in irregular white spots. This is because the paper is white. However, the areas created by the salt can be any color. For example, lay down a yellow wash and let it dry. Now, apply a second wash of burnt umber over the first. While the second wash is still wet, add salt. The resulting blossoms with be yellow rather than white.
Add Cornstarch

Interesting patterns can be created by mixing watercolor and cornstarch. Mix a thin paste of water and cornstarch. Paint the mixture onto the paper. Hold the paper vertically and give it a quick spra of water. Pour a mixture of paint near the top edge of the paper and allow the paint to run down through the cornstarch. Let dry.

Add Soap

Soap gives body to the paint, preventing it from spreading. Working with watercolor mixed with soap is similar to painting with impasto. Because of the extra body provided by the soap, brush strokes remain distinct and obvious even when they overlap a previoius stroke and even when the strokes are painted wet on wet.

There are several different ways to paint with soap.

  • Lather up a bar of plain, white Ivory soap. Load a brush with paint, then roll the brush in the soap and paint the mixture on the paper.
  • Mix several colors in separate puddles and add soap to each. Paint from each of the puddles, overlapping different color strokes.
  • Mix the soap and paint so there are lots of bubbles. Paint with this bubbly mixture. When the bubbles pop, they create additional texture. (If you want to avoid the effect of bubbles, mix the soap gently or allow it to stand until all the bubbles have burst before you paint.
  • Spatter soap onto a wet wash. Where ever the soap lands, it will push the paint away.
  • Drop soapy water onto a wash and then paint across it with a brush. The soap will disperse the paint and stop it from flowing back into the area.
Add Bleach

Whether applied with a brush, pen, toothbrush, sprayed, spattered or sponged, household bleach can be used to create highlights, lighten or manipulate previously painted areas.

Bleach has an instant effect on wet washes, with dry washes you should work it into the paint and then wait a while. Semidry washes often give the best results.

Bleach affects some pigments more than others.

Washes laid over bleached areas tend to dry darker than usual.

Caution: Always use an old brush because bleach damages the bristles. Bleach also alters the paper. Bleach can damage skin, clothing and household surfaces. Wear protective clothing -- at least an apron and gloves for yourself and a cover for nearby surfaces.

Here are some ideas for using bleach.

  • Brush bleach over a watercolor wash, then lift out color with corrugated cardboard.
  • The mottled surface of old concrete can be created by lifting out color with a brush dipped in dilute bleach.
  • Lay India ink over dry watercolor, brush the area with bleach, then scratch with the beveled end of an aquarelle brush.
  • Brush bleach over a painted area that has dried, then blot with a crumpled paper towel.
  • Drybrush bleach over a previously painted area.
  • Draw into an almost dry wash using a bamboo pen dipped in bleach.
  • Spatter an area with bleach, then draw through the spatters with a dip pen loaded with paint.
  • Drop bleach into black ink to create soft, sepia-toned areas.
Add Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol available from the drugstore rapidly dispels the pigment in a wash. The resulting effects depend on the wetness of the wash, the paint you use and how you apply the alcohol.

If the wash is very wet, the alcohol will push back the paint, but then the paint with rapidly fill back into the area as it dries. If the wash is moist, alcohol dropped in will push back the paint, creating large, irregular bursts of modified color.

Granulating and non-granulating paints respond to alcohol differently.

There are a variety of ways to apply the alcohol.
  • Add one drop at a time from an eye-dropper to create circles.
  • Scribble with a dip pen loaded with bleach.
  • Spatter or flick bleach from a brush.
  • Spray with a variety of spray bottles -- spitters, misters, stream.
  • Wash alcohol onto the paper, then apply a wash over the wet alcohol.
Add Media

A variety of media can be added to watercolor to manipulate its appearance: granulation medium, gum arabic, glycerin, aquapasto, texture media, iridescent medium.

When specific pigments separate from the water in a wet wash, the result is a grainy, mottled texture that you can exploit to add expressive surface interest. Pigments that granulate include ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, and earth colors, such as burnt umber, raw umber, burnt sienna and sepia. To produce the same range of effects with nongranulating colors, mix in some granulation medium. The choice of paper affects the granulation--for maximum effect use rough paper

Adding Gum Arabic to your water color has three effects: it slows down the drying time of the paint, giving you slightly longer to work on creating your image or working wet into wet; it adds further transparency to your water colors and it increases gloss. Gum Arabic washes will have greater depth and appear more luminous than color washes alone. Gum Arabic is usually mixed into the water color wash but can be added to the jar of water if you prefer to use it throughout the painting. Gum Arabic should not be used directly from the bottle because thick films will be brittle.

Gum arabic is easy to use. simply pour some into a mixing saucer, dip a clean brush into the gum, carry it over to the wash, and mix it well. Mixing paints with gum arabic gives washes more body, making the fluid paint less runny, more viscous and easier to manipulate. Paint becomes glossy and more transparent. With paint mixed with gum arabic, every brushstroke remains visible unless you go go over it. Swirling, circular motions with the brush create a lively, busy texture. If the paint is thick enough, you can scratch right back to the paper to leave a white line. You can do the same with your fingernail, a comb or a piece of cardboard, creating random or squiggly lines (sgraffito). If you scrub into a gum-water wash with a brush or piece of tissue, you make little air bubbles. These burst, creating a speckled effect that remains on the surface of the paper when the paint dries, making a highly textured surface.

Add glycerin to a puddle of watercolor paint to slow down its drying time.

Aquapasto is a thickening gel that increases the body of the paint, reducing its flow. Mix aquapasto with the paint or use it pure by applying it in several layers with a spatula on the surface of the paper prior to painting.

Texture medium contains fine particles that add texture to the watercolor. It can be applied directly onto the paper or mixed with watercolors first.

Iridescent medium give pearlescent or glitter effects to watercolors. It is particularly effective when mixed with transparent colors over dark backgrounds.

Impress, Imprint

Impressing or imprinting is pressing something into wet paint. Imprinting differs from stamping because the object is not painted prior to being placed into the moist wash. Each pigment reacts differently to this process, yielding a variety of textures. Each impressed object will also react differently. The only way to find out what results you'll get is to experiment, experiment, experiment.

Start with a very moist, damp surface wash. Daub the wash on in short strokes so plenty of liquid is left on the paper but no actual puddles. Place the chosen object into the wet wash and pat them down with a soft brush, or weight them down so they make good contact with the paper surface. Do not disturb the impressed item until the paint underneath is completely dry.

Impress with various found objects. Start with a very moist, damp surface wash. Daub the wash on in short strokes so plenty of liquid is left on the paper but no actual puddles. Place the chosen object into the wet wash and pat it down with a soft brush, or weight them down so they make good contact with the paper surface. Do not disturb the impressed item until the paint underneath is completely dry. Objects to impress: dog hair, razor blade, key, rubber band, string, match sticks, leaves, coins, corrugated cardboard, bubble wrap.

Impress with fibrous materials: cheesecloth, gauze, netting, open-weave fabrics, string, thread, grasses, moss, nylon stockings.

Impress with various kinds of paper or plastic. The sheet of paper or plastic can cover the entire painting or a small area. Each type can be applied flat, crumbled, crinkled, stretched, accordian-pleated, twisted, folded, or cut into irregular shapes.

Here are a few examples.

  • Press tissue paper into wet paint, allowing creases and folds to form. Leave the tissue paper on the paint for a while, but remove it before it has dried completely or it will be glued in place.
  • Impress plastic wrap into wet paint. The plastic wrap can be crinkled beforehand or it can be laid on flat. Plastic wrap can be stretched to form parallel lines or stretched from one point to create a fan-like pattern. Soft edges will be achieved if the plastic wrap is removed before the paint dries. Hard edges will result if it is left until the paint has dried.
  • Secure one corner of plastic wrap with tape or a thumb tack. Pull the plastic warp taut to create radiating folds.
  • Lay down a bright abstract painting. Tear plastic wrap into small pieces and press them into the wet watercolor. Position the plastic wrap so that it overlaps a light and a dark area simultaneously. Position the plastic wrap so that the folds create directional lines. Mix a rich, dark puddle of paint. Drop this dark mixture near the edge of one of the pieces of plastic wrap. Tip the paper so that the paint runs under the plastic wrap. Repeat with an even darker mixture. If the paper is starting to dry and the dark paint is not moving under the plastic wrap, spray the area with clean water.
  • Impress with a variety of other materials: rice paper, dry cleaner bags, supermarket vegetable bags, grocery bags, aluminumm foil, wax paper.

Interesting textures can be made by pressing your hand into the wet paint. Experiment with different parts of your hand.


Bruising involves using a hard tool to make indentations in the paper. When you apply a wash, the paint gathers in the indentations, creating lines or marks that area darker than the surrounding wash. These indentations can be made before paint is applied, while the paint is still wet, and after one wash has dried but before a second wash is added.

Almost any hard tool can be used to bruise the surface of the paper. Each tool leaves its own characteristic mark. For fine lines, stroke the surface with push pin, tack, needle, crochet hook, the dull edge of a knife blade or a nail. For thicker lines, use a key, chisel or a screwdriver. Draw or stab the paper, depending on the type of mark you want.

For multiple lines at one time, use a comb or a saw blade.

For round indentations, stab the paper with a blunt tool like the end of a brush handle.

Variation: Paint a wash over a previously dried area. While the paint is still very wet, bruise the area with a stylus. Paint will fall into the bruised area. Then blot up the entire area. All of the paint will be removed except for the paint that has fallen into the grooves created by the stylus.


Frosty patterns can be captured on watercolor paper by actually freezing liquid watercolors on the paper in a solar box, and then gently mopping up the excess water and ice as the painting begins to thaw.


Tip the paper back and forth. The rocking motion causes some paints to form a type of granulation called "reticulation."


A large sheet of plastic can be used to cover the entire painting while it is drying. This will not only give a unifying texture to exposed areas as they make contact with the plastic, but will slow the drying process so that you can add more colors and water right under the plastic

© 2009 Scott Brown. Website design by Clarion Design.