Progressive Watercolor Art Tutorial

Ok, are you ready for another watercolor painting tutorial?!  I am having fun with these.  I love that I get to share some art skills I've picked up over the years with all of you.  It's the art educator in me that gets excited :)

So, today you get to learn how to make, what I call a Progressive Watercolor Painting.  It's something I learned in high school and it's pretty simple to make.  The painting above is the one I painted especially for this tutorial.  The one below is my very first progressive painting and to tell you the truth, I like this one the very best.  It reminds me of the ocean.

So here's how you make it:

watercolor paints & brush
watercolor paper
a stiff board to tape your paper too
masking tape
blow dryer

Step 1:  Make a few sketches.

Take some time to plan how you want your painting to look.  It really pays off in the end. You can google images of cool looking plants to get some ideas.  Anything organic looking tends to turn out really well.

Here are a few sketches I made, just playing around to see what different shapes would look like.

Step 2:  Tape your paper down.

Lay your paper on a stiff board of some kind and tape it down with masking tape.  This secures your paper while you work and makes a nice border.

Step 3:  Draw the center of your design.

Locate the center of the paper and lightly draw the center of your design.  You only need to draw the very center at first.  I chose a flower design.  So I started with a basic flower shape in the middle.

Step 4:  Paint a light wash over the entire area of the paper.

Yes, you paint over the center drawing you made.  To make a wash, mix up your color of choice with some water and spread it as evenly as possible over the surface. The point of a wash is to create a smooth colored area.  Mine certainly wasn't perfect, so don't worry to much about it.

Dry the paper completely using a blow dryer.

Step 5: Paint another wash around the center design.

Paint over the entire surface except the center design you drew.  Then let it dry again.  The more washes you paint on, the darker and more saturated the color will be.  The object is to create a gradation of color from the center out.

Step 6:  Draw the next layer of your design.

I added more petals to my flower in between the spaces created by the center petals.

Step 7:  Paint another wash around the second layer and dry.

 Step 8:  Continue the process of drawing in more layers around and then painting a wash around each layer.

Make sure to dry each wash before starting another layer.  Keep going until you fill the frame of your paper.  I ended up doing about 5 layers on my 8 x 10 inch piece of paper.  I just kept adding more petals in the spaces.

Here's a look at the progression of the layers- it's pretty fun to look at!  Now you get why it's called a progressive painting, right?

Step 9:  Carefully remove the masking tape from the sides of your paper.

Ok, all done! All that's left to do is to frame it, hang it up, or do whatever the heck you want to do with it!  Whatever you do, remember to feel proud of yourself for putting in the work and creative a beautiful work of art!


  1. Oh wow, I must try this, I'm not that good at drawing but simple shapes I can cope with. I love the blue one. My sister does painting so I may be asking her very nicely if I can borrow some materials. Suzy x

  2. Thanks for this tutorial.... have never tried the masking tape thing.... will try for sure...

  3. This is very cool and looks like a fun project! Seeing all your paintings is making me itch a little to get out my paints.

  4. Stopping by for a visit and I am so excited to see this post. Just this morning my daughter showed me some supplies she bought and told me to pick a date for her to get me started learning watercolor painting. I can't wait to show her this post!

    Kindly, Lorraine

  5. To answer your question about the watercolors I used, Jessica Lucas, I used my professional grade watercolors- the kind that comes in tubes. But this project works with any kind of watercolors. So if you don't want to buy the expensive ones, just get the little $1 kit at walmart it will be fine.

  6. Wow, this is great. I love it. Thanks for writing a how-to for that fabulous piece of art. I'm going to have to try this. I'm your newest follower.
    Greetings from Germany

  7. so so lovely. I must try this one day. thank you for sharing this.
    cheryl xox.

  8. I love your painting. Pinning it!

  9. Wonderful! I definitely will be trying this out.

  10. This is really lovely! The way you present it makes it look possible for children to do. Will definitely give it a try.

  11. Well now.. THIS one looks like fun too! I think I may need to sign up as your newest follower! ~tina

  12. Lovely....I love water washed work and this is genius - easy & effective

  13. really pretty - a great reason to get my watercolours out again - thankyou for sharing :)

  14. wow looks amazing. I may need to try this over the weekend.

  15. I miss working with watercolor and this is definitely a good refresher. cant wait to try it this weekend!

  16. So beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing your tutorial, I will be trying this with a vibrant ink asap :)

    Thanks to Pinterest I stumbled over your site, and I will certainly be back!

  17. This is so amazing!! I've always wanted to try watercolors & this looks like a great place to start. Thank you so much for sharing your tutorials! :)

  18. Thanks so much for posting these! I keep seeing you come up on craftgawker, and I am so excited to try this.

  19. I lOVE this. Gonna try it out this weekend... Thanks for the tutorial :)

  20. I saw it...I DID IT!!! I loved what you did so much I went right into my craft room and did it to get the feel of it. I love the way it turned out. I am going back in to try a different design.

  21. I love your watercolor tutorials! They are so inspiring and now I actually know how to use watercolors! I typically use acrylic different!

  22. Great idea for exploring washes. I may try this with my elementary school art club kids. :D


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