Watercolour Techniques and Colour: Core Skills 

This part of the course can be carried out at any time but I strongly recommend covering it before undertaking new works. 


Most of you are experienced in quite advanced watercolour techniques, however it's always worth refreshing your knowledge or looking for any gaps in that knowledge. Botanical artists and illustrators use a variety of watercolour techniques from the of washes to dry brush techniques. It's always worthwhile self-assessing your strengths and weaknesses in techniques to see what can be improved upon. Perhaps you are good at washes but find it hard to build that rich accurate colour that you strive? for or maybe you find dry brush easy but struggle to control the washes?  perhaps you struggle to maintain light or to build shade? All of these issues can be improved upon with practice but we need to be honest about where our weaknesses lie and should address them, otherwise we keep making the same errors. 


An element of personal style comes into our use of watercolour but ideally you need to be able to master all techniques well. I've included some techniques videos and some how to put techniques into practice videos. However, these techniques are often not mutually exclusive and can be mixed and manipulated, and in reality there is a lot of 'back and forth'. in general though, we start with a pale wash of some description, whether flat, graded or blended or a wet-in-wet approach. Thereafter, form and colour is built up, we might choose to add selective colour in areas by dampening the surrounding areas and dropping colour in where needed, we may also us the dry brush techniques and will require some fine detail painting.

This process requires our judgment on what the best approach will be but it shouldn't be an 'ad hoc' approach and we should be fairly clear about the plan of action. For some people it'd intuitive whereas others need to be very clear about what to apply and when. Regardless of approach, carrying out sketchbook studies and/or study ages is vital in working out a process that is suitable for each subject. Failure to adequately prepare, can cause a great deal of uncertainty in a final painting and speaking from experience, that's when the problems occur.


What are the Watercolour Techniques 

The Washes:

  • Tea washes are simple vary dilute washes, they can be flat, blended or graded


  • Graded washes, grade into white, so are used to indicate dark to light areas, typically used around highlights

  • Blended washes involve blending two or more colours

  • Wet in Wet is similar to graded but involves a larger puddle of paint which colour is dropped into and then controlled

  • Overlaid washes, is when we layer washes of one colour to achieve more saturation or use two colours to create a third colour instead of mixing paint, this is also how glazes are used


The Dry Brush Techniques


  • Modelling dry brush is a technique that is used to render the surface of a subject by using small circular motion or strokes. It's ideal for larger smooth areas


  • Stipple dry brush involved using small dots painted with the tip of a small paintbrush, with the tip

How we mix and apply colour is also worth assessing, it's easy to get into bad habits, such as using the same green mixes or shadow colours.

Watercolour Techniques