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Art how to paint - Watercolor painting - creating texture effects

Updated on March 5, 2013

© frangipanni 2013. All rights reserved.

When creating art by painting with watercolor it dries flat and can be pretty uninteresting just like that. You are unable to build up thickness and layers like you can with oil paints or collage etc so here are few ways to create the illusion of 3D texture.

Creating textures

Creating textures can be done by adding color or lifting color with almost anything. Following are a few ideas for textures, what you can use (although with a bit of imagination this is endless) and how to do them.

You can use one color or several colors. You can apply to damp paper so it softens, or on dry paper so the paint stays hard edged. You can also do most of the techniques with plain old water which gives interesting textures, particularly spattering water into the sky when its still damp. To control where the paint goes you can cut a paper template to protect the rest of your work.

Spattering using an old hog’s hair paintbrush, toothbrush or similar.

Spattering is a great technique for rocks, shells, sand, leaves and backgrounds.

  • Try it on wet and dry paper.
  • Spatter on dry paper and then spray with water.

Other ideas:

  • Mask some areas and spatter.
  • Tear paper to create templates for controlled spattering.


  • Lay washes and spray lightly with water to create a random texture. Good for backgrounds giving them a mottled effect.

Etching dark lines

  • Use a stick, a toothpick, the prong of a fork, anything to drag and indent the paper. When the indentations are painted over, the paint will accumulate in them and create fine dark lines. Good for fur, hair, veins in leaves and flowers etc.


  • is an Italian term for scratching . Scratch a line with a fine sharp point either before washing or while the wash is still wet. The wet paint soaks into the bruised paper to create dark lines.
  • Try fine cutting with a scalpel or Stanley knife.

Stamping | Source

Old credit cards or stiff plastic

  • Cut to shape, to scrape larger areas of paint around. The smooth flat edge will act as a squeegee and push the paint off the area you are scraping. Good for rocks.

Stamping The stamping material could be anything. Great for repetition and backgrounds.

  • Try potato, pencil eraser, lace, burlap, leaves, grasses or your fingers. Use your imagination.
  • Use facial tissues, plastic wrap or screwed-up paper as stamps.

Use a slice of a sea or synthetic sponge dipped into paint. Good for rocks, foliage, grass etc.

  • Stamp sponge on wet paper
  • Stamp sponge on dry paper.

Salt etc

  • Apply salt, rice or sand to wet paint. (If salt or sand sticks to the painting, rub it away lightly with a dry sponge.)

Salt technique
Salt technique | Source

Tissue paper,

  • Position it over a wash and gently press down. Allow crinkles and creases to create patterns and lift color. When dry it will stick.

Wax paper, cut or torn into shapes

  • Wax paper can provide wonderful textures for rocks, leaves, bark, wood etc. You can cut or tear it and lay it into a wet/damp wash.
  • Additional color can be introduced under the edges. Allow to dry and then remove from the painting.
  • Try stamping with crumpled waxed paper.

Plastic wrap

  • Use as tissue paper. Allow it to dry before lifting.

Wax resist = white wax and colored wax (crayon)

  • The wax will resist the paint washes and create texture. Especially good for seascapes, grasses, rocks etc where texture is required.

Watercolor pencils, inks, pastel

  • Use other water-based mediums with watercolor or as a base for pastel, oil, ink and acrylic. Use them over but not under watercolor. If watercolor is on top, it will crack.

Use the backpage of your failed attempts at painting at play around. Try each and every texture mentioned above and then do it again. Play, have fun and discover. You will soon be looking at your household for new and inventive tools to create textures.

Some great online art supply directories are: (I am in no way affiliated with or receive any type of payment from these companies)

Check out my other hubs on painting and art.

Paint with watercolor, budding artist tips. Art answers to a few random questions.

How to paint and draw - perspective.

Paint in watercolor - REGAINING and RETAINING WHITES. How to paint edges with watercolor - Art beginners tips and techniques.

Art -Presentation, Framing and Finishing to a gallery accepted standard.


How to paint and draw using a Two-point perspective.

Paint watercolor tips. Art how to

Art How to paint En Plein Air (painting outdoors)

Watercolour paper and tips on painting moving water.

Art how to on Watercolor painting - Technique - washes.

Paint How to mix colors

Painting and drawing General mistakes, problems and how to fix them.

D I Y Framing - an easy how to on framing to save you $$$.

Art how to paint - make tints, shades, tones and colors.

Some other great hubs to read on watercolor are

Baby Steps to Beginning Watercolor Painting

Frank Clarke Watercolor Brushes

If you enjoyed my hub please check out my other hubs, comment, share and email the link to friends and checkout the items printed in blue for my recommendations and links.


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    • profile image

      michal 20 months ago


    • Frangipanni profile image

      Frangipanni 4 years ago

      Thanks again kidscraft. Glad you re enjoying the hubs.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      Very interesting--and yes--this looks fun and doable!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

      Excellent explanation of how to achieve different textures in watercolor. I've used several of them in my painting, but never tried the wax paper for rocks which sounds interesting. Thanks for some new ideas!

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Very good article! Everything is explained clearly! Fantastic!

      Voted up and interesting!