22 Watercolour Hacks You Need to Know
Watercolour is so versatile. There are countless cool effects you can achieve with watercolours, that will take your painting from drab to mesmerizing! Here are 22 hacks (yes, you read that right!) you can try with watercolours that will not only help you create more exciting paintings but will also make the process a little easier.
1. Painting stars
To create natural-looking night skies and galaxies try using white paint (gouache works great) on a flat brush and then flick the brush upwards with your finger. This can create beautiful and varied stars. You can even use a toothbrush!
2. Use a sponge to paint foliage
Take a dry sponge ( like a washing-up sponge) and dip it into your watercolour paint. Then simply tap the sponge onto your paper to create an expressive foliage texture.
Tip: Squeeze out excess paint from your sponge to make sure you get tiny details for your foliage.
3. Use two water jars
Tired of constantly changing your water jar? Use two water jars! Rinse off your brush in the first jar and then rinse again in the second jar – the second jar will take a lot longer to get dirty and reduce those annoying trips to the sink.
4. Avoid tape tearing your paper
Before applying the tape to your paper, use your jeans (or any other material that fibers can be removed from e.g. carpet) and stick the tape to this – this will reduce the stickiness of the tape. When removing the tape, these fibers allow the tape to peel right off the paper without any damage.
5. Preserving highlights
Keeping your highlights white can be tricky. Use a white-coloured pencil (or a white wax-based pencil) to create a ‘resist’ – this waxy pigment will not allow the watercolour to get through and creates bright, white highlights.
Extra tip: use an eraser over your highlights to remove any watercolour stains and make them pop even more!
6. Speed up drying time
If you are tired of waiting hours for each layer of your painting to dry, then don’t worry; you can speed up the process by using a heat tool (I use a hairdryer). Be careful though and use low heat and speed settings so you don’t damage your paintings.
7. Using household products
Make your watercolour wash look that much more exciting with household products. Personally, I love to use salt and cling film to create snow and ice effects. When your watercolour is not too wet (but not too dry either!) apply them and wait overnight for fantastic results!
8. Use soap with masking fluid
Using soap with paintbrushes when using masking fluid. Before dipping your paintbrush into masking fluid rub it on a bar of soap to create a slippy barrier. This helps protect the paintbrush and makes it really easy to remove the masking fluid. No more ruined paintbrushes!
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9. Invisible sketch outlines
Using a watercolour pencil instead of a graphite pencil can prevent your sketch outline from showing through your painting. Watercolour pencils are water-soluble and allow the sketch outline to dissolve in the beautiful watercolour paint you apply on top.
10. Use masking fluid
Want to do a beautiful background but don’t want to get paint on your main subject? Use masking fluid to protect it. Make sure the watercolour has dried completely before rubbing the masking fluid off with your finger and then you can get started on all those beautiful details you have planned for the main subject.
11. Flattening warped paintings
A simple trick to prevent your paper from warping. Dampen the back of your paper slightly and then place heavy objects on top and leave overnight; this will dry the paper out into a nice flat sheet.
12. Creating highlights
Use a clean, damp brush to lift up watercolour. This can reveal some really pretty highlights. Remember to do this when the watercolour is still wet! Tissue can be a great alternative for clouds etc., but be careful, it does create harsher edges compared to the brush.
13. Use white gouache
White gouache works amazingly with watercolours! If your highlights aren’t bright enough or you made a mistake and painted over them then don’t worry, just go over it with white gouache. Extra tip: remember white gouache dries slightly darker than how it looks when wet.
14. Iron your paintings flat
Using an iron to fix warped watercolour paper. To flatten out watercolour paintings place your painting upside down on an ironing board, cover with a cloth, and iron over it (on a low setting) for a couple of minutes.
15. Too much water?
To remove excess water puddles from your painting use a pipette to suck up the water. This can be more successful than tissue, as it removes water without damaging any effects or techniques you have used.
16. Using scrap paper
Have you got a load of paper ends from when you have had to trim your sheets down to size? Well, don't throw them away! They are great to use for painting swatches, testing colours or even experimenting with new techniques.
17. Lifting dry watercolour
Adding highlights to dry watercolour washes. You can lift up dry watercolour paint using a clean damp brush. To reveal highlights go over the area of watercolour you want to lift up with a clean, damp brush and then lift up the paint with some tissue.
18. Easy tape removal
Using a heat tool when removing tape. To make it even easier to remove the tape first go over the tape for a few minutes with a heat tool (I use a hairdryer.)
19. Easily remove masking fluid
Using a tea towel to remove masking fluid. Using your fingers to remove a lot of masking fluid can make them quite sore. However, using a tea towel instead (or any cloth that has a bumpy texture) is a lot more effective at removing masking fluid. It is faster, easier, and removes all traces of the masking fluid.
20. Removing tape
Removing tape without tearing your paper. To prevent your tape from ripping your watercolour paper pull it at an angle that is away from the painting. Also, make sure you pull it very slowly!
21. Tight ink bottle lids
Ink bottle caps can sometimes be impossible to remove. If you are struggling to open your bottle of ink put it in some hot water for a few minutes and it should be super easy to open!
22. Trick for painting outside
Painting outside can be fun and relaxing. However, one thing that is not fun is the wind blowing your sketchbook pages. Use binder clips to hold down your sketchbook pages and avoid a frustrating painting section.
Feeling eager to grab your watercolours and start painting?
Remember to check out my FREE watercolour class! It demonstrates the most important watercolour techniques you need to know to make eye-catching paintings. Get access here.