Painting Texture in Watercolour (Part 2)

Painting Texture in Watercolour (Part 2)

Conveying different textures in watercolour can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of using the medium.

Because of the interplay of water and pigment, there is a wide range of different textures that you can make with your brush. 

If you would like to read more about how to think about painting textures, please check out the first part about Painting Texture here

In this post, however, I would like to explore the use of different materials to create an array of textural effects.

The addition of regular household items into to your artist toolkit can render beautiful passages of colour and lead viewers to wonder, “Just how did they do that?”


Stamping different tools can often help you get marks that would be very difficult to paint by hand.

When it comes to stamping, I usually get a nice pool of colour on my palette to pick up with my stamping tool and then once it’s well saturated I just pat it down on to my paper surface.

Here are some materials you can consider when you are creating texture by stamping:


A common kitchen sponge is a must have for any watercolour painter.

When it comes to creating marks that may look like foliage or moss, or even sand and stones, using a sponge could be a very effective tool. 

Cardboard pieces

The edge of a piece of cardboard could be just the right tool to create clear, delineated marks that could convey stone walls or bricks.

Especially if you have corrugated cardboard, the lines can transfer very well to evoke a brick-like texture.


The beauty in stamping is that you can often get a very consistent mark.

If you need small round circles if you are painting then simply using a q-tip to stamp your colour is an easy tool to use and find.

More circles: Jar lids and straws

Sometimes you may need to create a larger circle.

In this case I’ll sometimes use a jar lid, stamp it into my colour and then I get a very clear circular line, which is often quite tricky to paint freehand.

For smaller, open circular shapes that look almost like bubbles, I recommend using a straw.


As opposed to stamping the colour over the paper, another idea to create texture is to mask your painting with different tools to create the look you’d like.

Here are some more tools you could use to create some beautiful masking effects:

Masking fluid

This is what perhaps comes to mind first when you think of masking in watercolour painting.

Masking fluid is a liquid latex formula that is removable once it dries. It can be painted directly on to your image to mask and protect any area from being painted over.

For a full comprehensive post about how to paint with masking fluid I recommend this great blog post by Nicola Tsoi.

Masking fluid is a precise tool for any number of textures, from bright flowers and grasses in a field to sea foam in the sea.

It all depends on how you want to use it. I typically use masking fluid in very fast, splashy strokes, so the edges of the mask don’t appear too sharp.

Masking tape

Masking tape is useful for slightly larger, rectangular-shaped areas you may want to mask. For example it’s a great way to show stones on walls be tearing up the tape in little pieces and placing them side by side.

Lifting Off

Lifting off paint can be an effective way to create softer, atmospheric textures like what we see in clouds and water.

You can also read more about these types of techniques in this handy post, “Experimenting with Watercolours” on the Etchr blog by Rincs.

Here are everyday items that could come very handy in helping you make softer, amorphic textures:

Paper Towels 

I mentioned lifting off with a paper towel to create clouds in my blog post about painting clouds.

Paper towels are so handy when it comes in lightening a wash and leaving a bit of texture that I always insist on bringing paper towels whenever I go out painting.

Cling Wrap

Cling wrap or plastic film wrap is also a very interesting and playful way to get unusual textures.

Simply place a strip of film wrap down on a wet wash of colour and then lift it off when the wash has dried.

You will often get long pockets of pigment that dry up in interesting lines. These can be useful to convey all types of surfaces, from fabric to tree bark to the markings on a sea shell.


Perhaps one of the most popular tools to use to create textures in watercolour, salt leaves a very specific, almost floral appearance as it lifts and essentially absorbs the water from a wash.

To use salt in your painting, sprinkle some grains of salt over a wash that is drying.

You’ll notice that the salt can absorb only so much, so try not to have too heavily saturated a wash. 

Splattering, Spraying and Blowing–Some other random textural effects

Splattering the paint with your brush is a tried and true way to add some texture with a wet or dry piece of paper.

I like to gently splatter the paint on to my paper by tapping the brush about two inches over my paper so the effect is more controlled.

Spraying is effective in creating misty effects. You can obtain such a result by lightly spraying your paper first and then dropping in colour. 

Finally, as you may have used a straw to create bubbles, blowing through a straw can lead to very odd, elongated textures, that are reminiscent of coral and tentacles.

You can get this effect by blowing into a very saturated wash that is already painted on your paper.

The number of ways that you can create textures is limitless. It really is all about what you may have around in your home or studio.

Portrait of Germanicus by Jun-Pierre Shiozawa

The idea is to simply play around and see what effects you may get. Have a favourite technique? Leave a comment to share how you create textures in your watercolour paintings!

Jun-Pierre Shiozawa is an artist and illustrator based in Nice. Jun-Pierre teaches watercolour painting workshops all over the world. He believes that sketchbooks are for everyone–not just artists–and that one should carry a sketchbook with them wherever they travel.
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