The use of texture in watercolor painting can really add an interesting element to your painting but it is often overlooked because most artists do not know how to achieve this effect. Without texture, your watercolor paintings can appear flat and one-dimensional.
Can watercolor have texture?
Yes, watercolor can have texture if you know what you are doing. Sure, watercolor paint itself has very little texture, it is not like acrylic or oil paint where it can be applied in an impasto but with some careful planning and work, you can create texture.
One of the simplest ways to add texture to your watercolors is to use traditional drawing techniques using watercolor to give the illusion of texture and another method is to use everyday items that you can find around the house and mix it with either the watercolor paint or add it to the watercolor paper.
For example, you can add texture to your watercolor paintings by mixing sand, granulated pigments, scumbling your paint, using stippling painting techniques, mediums, and more. By using techniques and objects you can create more interesting and dynamic pieces with greater impact.
Another great way to add texture to your paintings is by using unconventional painting techniques. For example, you can try layering colors on top of each other, splattering paint onto the canvas, or using a dry brush.
These techniques can add a lot of character to your paintings and make them more interesting to look at.
Texture in watercolor is often overlooked because most artists do not know how to achieve this effect.
Let’s have a look at what you can do to add texture to your watercolor paintings with these 17 techniques.
Apply the watercolor paint using drawing techniques such as cross-hatching
Use pencil drawing techniques such as cross-hatching, parallel lines, waves, curves, and stippling. This will create a texture on the painting that looks like it was created with a pencil or pen and ink.
Paint and draw using watercolor pencils or aquarelle
Create a textured drawing using normal drawing techniques and watercolor pencils (also known as Aquarelle pencils) and then wash over the pencil work with a wet brush to work the pencil pigment into a wash.
Make an under-drawing using pigment pens or a fine liner.
This is a great way to create texture on your paintings as it will give the finished watercolor painting a really interesting look.
Most times artists will apply the pen work after the watercolor has dried but reversing it can give some different effects.
Allow each layer of color to dry before adding another one.
Allowing each layer of watercolor to dry before adding the next one will create a texture similar to that of a stained glass window.
Every additional layer of watercolor will still show the layer below it, giving it a 3-dimensional layered look.
Use scumbling in your watercolor to create texture
Scumbling is a great way to create texture in watercolor, especially if you are looking for a soft, ethereal look.
To scumble, simply add a little water to your paint and then dab it onto your paper with a dry brush. Work the paint as you blend it with other colors.
This can be a bit more difficult to achieve with watercolor paints so you can try and mix in some gauche paint to give it some thickness.
Use stippling in your watercolor to create texture
Stippling is a very simple technique that can be used to create texture in your watercolor paintings. Simply dip your brush into the paint and then tap it onto the paper.
This will create little dots of color that will build upon the paper.
You can also use a stippling motion to blend colors together. Some artists can achieve an almost 3D bubble-like effect using layers of stippling.
Add granules of pigment to create a surface texture
If you are looking for a more intense texture, you can add granules of pigment to your watercolor paint. This will create a very rough surface that the paint will cling to.
You can buy pigment granules at most art stores or you can create your own by grinding up some old paints or pastels.
Be careful not to add too much water when adding pigment granules or you will end up with a thick layer of paint that fails to achieve the textured effect you were looking for.
Add a medium to create texture in your watercolor
One way to add texture to your watercolor paintings is to use a medium like gum arabic or glycerine. There are many different types of commercial watercolor mediums available on the market and each will give you a different texture.
Some common watercolor mediums that can be used to create texture are honey, molasses, or sugar syrup.
As weird as it sounds, honey, molasses or sugar syrup allows for higher pigment loads and adds to smooth washes. Mediums such as honey will draw moisture from the air making the pigment stay a little wet rather than drying completely.
Granulation medium for watercolor paint, such as the one shown below, “Increases the granulation of color, giving a mottled appearance to colors which usually give a smooth wash, or enhancing the effect of granulating”.
Mix watercolors with pastels
The mixing of watercolors with pastels can be used to create interesting textures and colors. When you mix the two mediums together, you will get a texture that is unique to both.
The watercolors will soften the pastels and the pastels will add texture to the watercolor. It will become almost paste-like that can be applied as an impasto.
Use the dry brush technique
The dry brush technique is a great way to add texture to your paintings. To do this, you will need a brush that is relatively dry and has very little paint on it.
When you brush the paint onto the paper, it will not be able to spread out like it would if the brush was wet. This will leave behind tiny bristle marks that will create the illusion of texture.
Create texture in watercolor using a masking fluid
Masking fluid is a great way to add texture to your paintings. This is because it will create a raised surface on the paper that the paint can cling to.
When you are finished painting, you can then remove the masking fluid and reveal the texture that you created.
Alternatively, you can leave the now dried masking on the paper as this in itself will have a textured look to it.
Use splatters in your watercolors
You can also splatter your watercolor paint using tools such as a toothbrush or paint bristles. Splattering your paint does not create actual texture but like the other techniques, it will give the illusion of texture.
Use textured paper for your watercolor paintings
If you want to add texture to your paintings, you can also use textured paper. These are papers that already have a texture on them, such as those with a waffle texture or those that are embossed.
Paint your watercolor over a collage surface
Another way to add texture to your paintings is by painting them over a collage surface. This can be done by pasting bits of fabric, leaves, or other objects onto your paper before you start painting.
Use a straw to blow on the wet paint to create bubbles
When I first heard about this technique, I thought it was a bit strange, but it actually works really well! To create texture with bubbles, use a straw to blow on the wet paint.
This will cause small bubbles to form on the surface of your painting.
You will get random texture-like patterns and effects that range from circles to bubbles to odd shapes that look three-dimensional.
Add wax to the surface before painting with watercolor
If you want to add texture to your painting but don’t want to use any extra objects, try adding wax to the surface before you start painting. You can use a variety of items to apply the wax, such as a crayon, or a candle.
The wax will create a texture on the surface that you can then scrape off or etch onto and then paint over the wax.
Use different colors and shades to create depth and interest
One of the best ways to add texture to your paintings is by using different colors and shades to create depth and interest.
Try adding a darker color to the bottom of your painting and a lighter color to the top. This will create a sense of depth and make your painting more interesting to look at.
Supporting video – 8 ways to add texture to watercolor
In the video below, Alice highlights 8 simple techniques she uses to create texture using watercolor paints plus the use of a few additional items.
Joseph Colella (Joe Colella) is an Editor and Writer at WastedTalentInc. As a frustrated artist with over 40 years experience making art (who moonlights as a certified Business Analyst with over 20 years of experience in tech). While Joseph holds a Diploma in Information Technology, in true wasted talent fashion he spent years applying for various Art degrees; from the Accademia di Belle Arti (Napoli), to failing to get into the Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at the University of Western Sydney. While he jokes about his failures at gaining formal art qualifications, as a self-taught artist he has had a fruitful career in business, technology and the arts. His goal is to attend the Julian Ashton School of Art at The Rocks Sydney when he retires from full time work. Joseph’s art has been sold to private collectors all over the world from the USA, Europe and Australasia. He is a trusted source for reliable art advice and tutorials to copyright/fair use advice and is committed to helping his readers make informed decisions about making them a better artist.
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