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 dilute washes, they can be flat, blended or graded. In reality we seldom use flat alover washes and they are generally graded or blended bur are worth practicing.


  • 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

  • Dragging or sweeping dry brush can be used to create texture 

  • Drawing dry brush is when you use the brush like a pencil to draw - try practicing writing your name and painting fine lines 

Now log into the Watercolour techniques tutorial to access all of the watercolour technique videos. You do not need to submit al of these exercises to me they are for your practice but feel free to ask if you need any assistance or advice with them. 

Log in by clicking here: Watercolour Techniques the password is  Waterone 

The depth and detail Tutorial will provide further insights to the application of watercolour 

Log in by clicking here: Depth and Detail the password is Paint-Detail21

For guidance on leaves I have also given access to the Leaf Tutorial the password is Leafyear20


Watercolour Exercise for Assessment. 

After working through the watercolour techniques tutorial you will paint some small subjects using the various techniques learned.


Small subjects such as a simple fruit, flowers or leaf are perfect. 

Please submit: 

1 flower

1 leaf

1 fruit 

Also submit your colour mixes for each - you may wish to study or refer to the colour tutorial below before completing this exercise. 


These subjects can be practice pieces for a larger work or ones you have done independently. 

Colour Mixing 


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.

There are many alternatives for colour mixing and although I don't necessarily recommend painting lots of colour charts, it is important to always practice colour mixing in advance of any painting as part of your initial studies. 

Colour changes in relation to light and shade so matching the basic hue is just the beginning of the challenge, as the the colour shifts from cooler to warmer hues and is dilute or more saturated or perhaps there are underlying colours, such as blues under green, yellow under reds and violets under browns. This it is worth spending time experimenting with colour. 

For an in-depth guide I direct you to the Colour Mixing tutorial for reference,  with regard to informing your work. 

You do not need to submit any work for this tutorial. 

To access the Colour Mixing Tutorial click here: Colour Mixing Tutorial  the password is ColourMaster

Using Watercolour Techniques 

below are some images showing the use of techniques and colour

Photinia leaf green small.jpg
dry brush.jpg
green chart small.jpg