Painting techniques

Techniques in watercolour paintings


The most basic watercolour technique is the flat wash. It is reduced by first wetting the area of paper to be covered by the wash, then mixing sufficient pigment to easily fill the entire area. The pigment is applied to a sloping surface in slightly overlapping horizontal bands from the top down. Once complete, the wash should be left to dry and even itself out. Don’t be tempted to work back into a drawing wash, the results are usually disastrous! A variation on the basic wash is the graded wash. This technique requires the pigment to be diluted slightly with more water for each horizontal stroke. The result is a wash that fades out gradually and evenly.


Glazing is a similar watercolour technique Do a wash, but uses a thin, transparent pigment applied over dry existing washes. Its purpose is to adjust the colour and tone of the underlying wash. Non-staining, transparent pigments such as Rose Madder (or Permanent Rose), Cobalt Blue and or Auroline are ideal for glazing as they can be applied layer after led to achieve the desired effect. Be sure each layer is thoroughly dry before applying the next.

#Dropping in colour

This technique is simply the process of introducing a colour to a wet region of the painting and allowing it to blend bleed and feather without interruption. The result is sometimes and predictable but yields interesting and vibrant colour gradations That can’t be achieved by mixing the pigment on the palette.


Wet-on-wet is simply the process of applying pigment to wait paper. The results very from soft undefined shapes to slightly blurred marks, depending on how wet the paper is. The wet-on-wet technique can be applied over existing washes provided they are thoroughly dry. Simply wet the paper with the large brush and paint into the dampness. The soft marks made by painting wet in wet agreed for subtle background regions of your painting.

#Dry brush

Dry brush is almost the opposite watercolour technique to wet in wet. Here a brush loaded with pigment (and not too much water) is dragged over completely dry paper. The marks produced by this technique are very crisp and hard-edged. They will tend to come forward in your painting and so are best applied around the centre of interest.

#Lifting off

Most water colour pigments can be resolved and lifted off after they have dried. Staining colours such as Phthalo or Prussian blue, Alizarin, Windsor red, yellow or blue are difficult to remove and are best avoided for this technique. The process for lifting of his simple – wet the area to be removed with a brush and clean water, then blot the pigment away with attached. Using strips of paper to mask areas of pigment will produce interesting hard-edged lines and shapes.

This is one of my watercolour paintings. I love experimenting with the medium.

Techniques in other kinds of painting

#Oil paints

As the name implies, pigments are already mixed with oil (usually linseed) in the tube, which makes for slow drying and easier blending. Clean up with turps or preferably and odourless solvent. Can be used straight from the tube (impasto) or thinly for underpainting or glazing. Usually used over canvas or board prepared with an acrylic or gas so undercoat. Retouch varnish may be used to even out the shine when finished. All other vanishes should not be applied until the paint has cured (around 6 months). Oils pretty much maintain their mixed colour once drive for, unlike water based paints which tend to dry darker or lighter than when wet.

#Poster colours

Poster colours contain a binder which remains water soluble when dry. Pigments used are generally of a courser quality than water colours and are therefore more opaque, specially pastel shades which are achieved by mixes that include white. Can be wetted again for further blending. Framing is usually as for water colours.


Here the pigments have been moulded into sticks using distilled water and a minimum of binders. Some are wrapped in waxed paper to prevent breakage. They come in square and round sticks and in pencil form full stock usually used on tinted pestle paper which has a texture (or ‘tooth’) to hold the dry granules of pigment. Spray fixatives prevent rubbing, button to dark in the pestle work. Framing is behind glass with the mat board to prevent the work from touching the glass.

#Acrylic painting

Painting executed in the medium of synthetic acrylic resins. Acrylics dry rapidly, serve as a vehicle for any kind of pigment, and are capable of giving both the transparent brilliance of watercolour and the density of oil paint. They are considered to be less affected by heat and other destructive forces than is oil paint. They found favour among artists who were concerned about the health risks posed by the handling of oil paints and the inhalation of fumes associated with them. Because of all these desirable characteristics, acrylic paints became immediately popular with artists when they were first commercially promoted in the 1960s.

This is one of my acrylic paintings.

#Tempera painting

Painting executed with pigment ground in a water-miscible medium. The word tempera originally came from the word temper, which means ‘to bring to a desired consistency’. Dry pigments are made usable by ‘tempering’ them with a binding and adhesive vehicle. Such painting was distinguished from fresco painting, the colours for which contained no binder.

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