How to create texture in watercolour painting – 11 techniques

Adding texture to your watercolour paintings is a great way to take your art to the next level. Beginners often struggle with work that looks flat, so these techniques can bring an element of depth and fun. 

Also, you may have a lot of these materials already at home, so it’s a cheap way to experiment!

Here are 11 creative techniques to add texture to your watercolour painting.

Granulation

Granulation is when clumps of pigments within the paints stick together, settling into the texture of the watercolour paper and providing a subtle texture. Some pigments granulate naturally with plenty of water – you can activate them by dragging your brush back and forth on the paper to form clumps.

Other paints can be made to granulate with a special granulation medium, which causes the mixture to separate. Read more about granulation in watercolour with my guide.

granulating pigments paints in watercolor

Salt texture

Salt can add beautiful texture to watercolour paintings by absorbing some water, creating a speckled effect. Larger grains of salt cause a star-like pattern, while fine grains look like sparkles. Sprinkle your salt onto the wet areas of your painting and allow to dry naturally, before brushing it off.

Read my guide to salt in watercolour for more tips.

salt effects in watercolour painting - example

Dry brush strokes

Dry brush technique involves using a relatively dry brush with minimal water and paint to create broken or scratchy marks. This technique allows the texture of the paper to catch the bristles, resulting in textured and detailed effects.

Load your brush with a small amount of paint, tap against a paper towel to dry off and apply the paint with light pressure. Use the dry brush strokes to depict various textures such as foliage, tree bark, or fur.

Read my guide to dry brush techniques in watercolour.

dry brush watercolour technique

Splatter texture

Splattering is a playful watercolour technique that adds spontaneity and texture to watercolour paintings. It’s great for putting a ‘painterly’ feel on your work. However, it’s best used sparingly to avoid making the paper look dirty.

Load your brush with paint, hold it above the painting, and tap the wooden brush handle to release the paint in tiny drops. The bigger your brush, the bigger the spatter will be. Use more water for a lighter effect and remember that less is more with spatter.

Read my full guide to splattering your paint for more examples and tips!

lavender painting with watercolour splatter

Wet-on-wet technique

Wet-on-wet watercolour technique involves adding wet paint onto an already wet area, allowing the colours to blend and mix naturally. It creates soft edges and beautiful transitions. This technique is perfect for adding texture to any painting.

Try adding drops of other colours into your work, letting them blend out naturally. You can also create shadows and darker tones around the edges. Experiment with different colour combinations and observe how they blend and merge on the paper.

wet on wet effect hearts painting in watercolour

Adding drops of water

Clean water is a great way to add more texture to your watercolour paintings. You can splatter or drop clean water over your dried painting to reactive the paint in some areas, creating hard edges.

You can also add drops of water to paint as it’s drying, flooding the areas and creative little rivers of light – one of my favourite effects!

using clear water drops in watercolour painting for texture effects

Masking fluid

Masking fluid is a liquid latex material that can cover areas of the paper to protect them from the paint. It can create beautiful textures in watercolour painting – simply splatter the masking fluid over parts of the paper and let it dry, then paint over the top. I love using a toothbrush dipped in masking fluid to create the finest spatter.

Once the paint is dry, gently rub with your finger or a clean cloth to reveal the white paper underneath. Read my full guide to masking fluid for more ideas and tips.

watercolour galaxy painted with masking fluid

Plastic film

This is a great cheap way to add texture – use a thin plastic film, scrunch it up and press it over wet paint. It will gather the paint into the folds, creating a dimensional finish. Let the paint dry fully before lifting the plastic film.

painting of flowers using plastic film to create textured effects

Bleach

Bleach and watercolour is a potent combination. It can change the colour of the paints and add a wonderful separation effect. Try putting small drops of bleach into your paint and allowing it to blend out. You can use the bleach neat or dilute it for a watery effect.

bleach effects in a watercolour swatch

Brush handle grooves

Add line details to your paintings by using the tip of your paintbrush handle. While the paint is still wet, turn your watercolour brush upside down and use the end to gently drag through the paint, creating grooves that allow the paint to settle.

Be careful with your touch – you don’t want to press hard enough to rip your paper.

iris flowers with brush handle effects to create lines texture

Powder watercolours

Some watercolour brands create powdered pigments which create a wonderful colour explosion when sprinkled onto wet paint. You only need a bit of the powdered pigment for a bold effect, so use it sparingly.

If you don’t have these special paints, try sanding the edge off a watercolour pencil or crayon and sprinkle that over, or you can even try espresso powder!

powdered watercolour paint sprinkled in swatch for texture

Creating texture in watercolour is easy with these 11 techniques. Use them to push your art to new levels of creativity and get away from a finish that can look flat or dull.

More techniques to experiment with

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