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Art how to paint edges with watercolor - Art beginners tips and techniques.

Updated on March 7, 2013

© frangipanni 2013. All rights reserved.

This is a simple guide for beginners on getting edges in your watercolor paintings under control and just to get you underway on landscapes I have added in some suggestions for painting clouds and trees to give them perspective that I think will be helpful. Pick up your paintbrushes and get ready to paint!

Hard edges



Paintings look best if there’s a variety of hard edges and soft edges. It draws more interest to the painting. To create a variety of edges remember this.

  • Hard edges are created by painting on dry paper and
  • Soft edges are created by painting on wet or damp paper

Soft Edges


Dry Brush

Dry Brush – is damp brush

A brush loaded with pigment (and not too much water) produces crisp, hard edged marks. They tend to come forward in a painting, so are best applied around the centre of interest.


1. Squeeze the water from the brush, apply paint and paint a few grass stalks.

2. Fan out the bristles and make grass by flicking the brush upwards.


Wet-in-Wet – applying pigment to wet paper creates soft to blurred edges, depending on how wet the paper is. The soft marks are good for subtle backgrounds, foliage etc.



Backwashes - occur when paint on the brush is wetter than the paint on the paper.

To control backwashes (cauliflowers) the paint on the brush must be thicker (drier) than the paint on the paper.

Backwashes are generally unsightly but can be effective in skies, foliage, flowers, old buildings etc where texture is needed.


1. Paint a square of colour and as it is drying add a watery dab of another colour.

2. Paint another square of colour and as it is drying add a thicker dab of another colour.

Lifting Wet Watercolor

Lifting Wet Watercolor -

Use facial tissues for creating soft lighting effects.

Natural and synthetic sponges are great to lighten a wash in a little more dispersed and textured manner. They can be cut into any shape you need.

Paper towels give a more angular texture. If you lay a glaze over another wash and it was a mistake, quickly lay a flat section of paper towel down and blot the entire wash up before it has time to affect the underlying wash.

Damp brushes will pick up the wet paint.

Sgraffito – scratch or scrape away color. This bruises the paper in the process.

Edges and tips for painting clouds and trees.


What to look for:

  • Light The top part of clouds will be lit by the sun.
  • Shadow. Clouds have shadow and the colour of the shadow part of the clouds compared to the colour of the blue of the sky is important in conveying weather conditions.
  • Change in size.As you move towards the horizon, clods are smaller and less distinct. Close to the horizon, the clouds lose their identity as separate shapes.

Remembering the edge techniques try

1. Paint a square of bold blue and lift out white clouds. While still damp, dab in violet to the underside.

2. Paint a square of bold blue and lift out streaky clouds with a damp (thirsty) paint brush.

3. Wet paper and wait ‘til the shine goes then paint in blue sky around cloud shape. Add violet to the undersides and soften with water if needed.



  • Trees become smaller, bluer and less distinct as they move away from you.
  • The trunk of a tree needs something to show it is on the ground – eg some ground, rocks, grass etc.
  • The trunk and branches will have a light side and a shadowed side. This gives them their roundness.
  • Leaves and shadow will cross in front of and behind the trunk and branches.
  • Foliage will be yellower when it faces the sun and bluer in the shadows.
  • Foliage is rarely a solid mass. Leave gaps. (Leave places for the birds to fly through)
  • Branches and foliage becomes thinner towards the top of the tree.
  • Angle your trees in towards you painting rather than out of it.
  • Rather than painting every leaf, look for the shape of the bunches of leaves (gum tree), how they hang (willow tree) and/or the overall shape of the tree (pine tree)
  • Use a varied mix of greens, blues, yellows and reds rather than one flat layer of green. For this reason green is better loosely mixed on the palette or on the paper rather than using commercial green from the tube. If you use commercial green mix it with another color to give it variety (eg a little more blue, yellow or red.)
  • Paint in the knot and cracks using an ultramarine and burnt sienna mix.
  • Paint 'blobs' as shown below (any dark mix) While wet, use damp brush to soften lower edges.



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    • profile image

      Christina cleary 2 months ago

      Really found thes suggestions very clear and helpful. I,m not a painter, just beginning a new craft at an advanced age lol an need all the help I can get. Thank you for your clarity.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 4 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Good tips. Thanks!

    • Frangipanni profile image

      Frangipanni 4 years ago

      Thank you kidscraft. I love your hubs too. Have a great day!

    • Frangipanni profile image

      Frangipanni 4 years ago

      Thanks peachpurple. Everybody can improve but always remember it's for the enjoyment. Have a nice day

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      You do beautiful work! Voted up and awesome!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i love water coloring. With your hub, i believe i could learn to paint well. Thanks. Voted useful