List of watercolour techniques

Want to improve your watercolour painting? One of the most important things you can learn is about the different watercolour techniques you can use with this magical medium. 

Watercolour can seem difficult to master because it works so differently from painting with oils or acrylics. In watercolour, you work from light to dark and use the water to change colours and make them lighter. It can seem backwards for people used to painting with other mediums!

But there are so many fun and unique effects you can get with watercolour, as long as you know the best watercolour techniques. This list covers everything from the basics for beginners to advanced and experimental techniques to boost your creativity.

Wet on dry watercolour technique

watercolour glazing layering technique

This is the simplest of watercolour techniques, involving adding more paint as the previous layers dry. There are various ways to use this technique:

Layering

The layering technique involves breaking a painting down into layers to build up the colour. In watercolour, we start with the lightest colour and layer darker colours over the top.

Details

You can also use wet on dry painting to go back over a painting once the first layers are dry and add finer details and textures.

Glazing

Glazing involves layering transparent colours over the top of each other, so you can still see the paint underneath. It creates colour mixes where the different paints overlap.

Read my full guide to using wet on dry technique for more examples and projects to try!

Wet on wet watercolour technique

wet in wet watercolor painting technique

This watercolour technique is really unique to the medium. It involves adding more paint into areas that are already wet, creating stunning effects as the paints bleed and blend on the paper.

There are several ways you can use wet on wet effects:

Touch

The touch technique involves allowing two areas of wet paint to touch together, allowing the paints to bleed between them.

Drop in

This technique is when you use your brush to essentially ‘poke’ more paint into an area that’s still wet. Load up with a darker tone or a different colour and touch your brush to other wet paint and watch it bleed out!

Paper soak

This is similar but you wet your paper with just water, and then add the paint. It will spread and dry beautifully.

Blooms and flooding

This more advanced technique involves adding more water to paint that’s starting to dry, creating blooms – they’re sometimes called cauliflowers and look like white patterns in the more dry paint.

Read my in-depth guide to wet on wet effect for more examples and tips to use this magical watercolour technique.

Watercolour gradients

two colour watercolour gradients

Gradients create a colour transition. There are two types – single colour and multi-colour.

Single colour gradients

A single colour gradient goes from darker to lighter and involves blending the watercolour to ensure a smooth transition.

Multi-colour gradients

These go from one colour to another with a smooth transition in the middle where the colours mix. You can then transition to even more colours as you go.

Read my detailed guide to watercolour gradients for my tips to create a seamless transition, including beautiful sunset projects.