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Watercolour Painting Exercises: 5 basic watercolour techniques to use as warm ups

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

The first lesson of my six week Expressive Watercolour Course starts with some warm ups to get the watercolour mojo flowing.

Here are the techniques I personally like to use:

  1. wet on wet

  2. charging

  3. adding clean water with spray

  4. adding clean water with brush

  5. lifting out

Equipment needed: 2 water pots, board, paper, masking tape, brushes (round, rigger and flat), palette, apron, water spray, kitchen roll

Paints used (but you could use any three colours you like):

Cotman student watercolour tubes in yellow ochre, ultramarine, burnt sienna

How to do these techniques

Below are some notes on how to do these exercises. They are great ways to start a painting process, especially for a meditative, mindful approach to painting. I could do some of them all day ...

1 Wet on wet

This is all about playing with colour and water! Wet a shape within the next section thoroughly – eg an oblong. Add a medium strength mix of each colour to see how they mix and blend on the paper.

3 Charging

Work with wet paint on dry paper. Make a light square with colour 1. Drop in a darker mix of colour 2. Make a tonally strong square with colour 2. Drop in a darker mix of colour 1.

Keep alternating these colours to see how they naturally mix on the paper.

4 Adding clean water

Spraying with a water sprayer (eg old window spray bottle). Lightly spray one of your squares with the water spray. Tilt the paper to let the paint run into the water your've sprayed.

Use a brush to add clean water. Stroke the brush along one edge of the still wet squares to see what happens…

9 Lifting off

Go back to your wet on wet exercise is dry or nearly dry. Use a clean, just damp flat brush to lift off areas. How to do this: dampen brush, rub lightly on the page, clean the brush in clean water, dry the brush, rub lightly on the page. You may need to repeat more than once to get the paint to lift off.

This is especially useful when painting Seascapes or Mountains

And there we have it - 5 different techniques. These are my favourites - I usually start a painting with a mix of charging and wet on wet to playing with colour.

Colour is an inspiration and focus for me and I love to play around with how my colours will blend and mix on the page before I start painting for real.

How do you like to start a painting? I'd love to know :)

See you next week


About the Author

Ione Harrison is a contemporary landscape artist and teacher with over 30 years' experience of painting and teaching.

Based in North Yorkshire, she works from a studio in Nunnington and delivers workshops across Yorkshire.



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