10 Watercolor Painting Hacks to Make Painting Easier

10 Watercolor Hacks to make your painting easier! by Grow Creative Blog

Hi friends!

I've been painting with watercolors for the past seven years and I want to share the watercolor tips and tricks I've learned along the way!  After all, anything that can make your materials clean-up, or set-up easier, will only make your painting experiences better!

10 Watercolor Hacks:

1. Wet the paint before-hand.

Have you ever had a hard time getting enough pigment on your brush when you are starting a painting?  I have! Starting with dry paint on a dry palette can be a little frustrating when you really need some deep saturated color.

The tip: Fill your rinse jar with warm water, dip your brush in it and squeeze that warm water over your dry paints.  Let it sit a couple minutes and then you will be good to go! Lots of pigment will cling to your brush when it is already wet!

wet watercolor paint  hack

2. Use a blotting cloth.

So much of how your watercolor painting turns out depends on how much water you have on your brush.  You really need to be able to control how fluid or dry your paint is.  Also, you need a good way to switch from one color to the next without contaminating the other colors.

The tip:  Place a paper towel or even an old sheet cut into pieces right next to your rinsing jar. That way every time you need to rinse or even get a little bit of the water out of your brush, you can just swipe it on your paper towel or sheet.  It works like a dream and I couldn't paint without it!

watercolor materials set-up

3: Recycle food jars into rinse jars.

Art stores love to sell rinsing jars to artists, but it's totally unnecessary.  Some artists are even tempted to grab a drinking glass out of their cupboard when they are in need of a rinsing jar. Bad idea!

The tip:  Save and clean your food jars! Just wash out those used pickle, jam, or spaghetti sauce jars and use them for rinsing.  They work great, save you money, and don't ruin your drink ware!

watercolor materials set-up

4: Buy watercolor paper at Michaels & use coupons.

Choosing paper can be daunting! The paper has a big effect on how your paintings turn out.  By far, the best paper I have ever used is Arches brand.  But it's usually a bit too pricey for me.  So I often use Strathmore coldpress paper.  It's the next best thing, in my opinion, but even it can get pricey if you don't know where to buy it.

The tip: Use a 40% off coupon at Michaels.  They always have these coupons available all the time, plus they regularly have sales on their strathmore watercolor paper.  So it's a win! If you want to save even more $$, buy the bigger watercolor pads and cut them down to the sizes you need.

watercolor paper tips- where to buy

5.  Condition your brushes.

After lots of use, brushes can get dry and the bristles start to separate. Natural hair brushes are made with  guess what??  Natural Hair!  That means you can use conditioner on the hair bristles just like you would your own hair.  This moistens the bristles and keeps them from separating.

how to condition a paintbrush

6. Use a window or some pencil lead to trace or transfer an image.

I have two different tracing tricks for you:

1. Color all over the back of your paper with a pencil.  Really cover it well, then flip it over onto the paper you want to transfer the image to.  With the pencil side down, trace outlines with a sharp pencil. The graphite transfers to the paper underneath.  Presto!
Pencil transfer art trick

2. Tape a photo of what you want to trace to a window while it's light outside.  Then place your drawing paper over it and trace the outlines.  The light shining through the window acts as a light table so you can see the image underneath. 

7. Use stencils to make easy patterns.

If you are looking for an easy way to add some texture to your paintings, use stencils!

The tip:  Tape or hold a stencil down firmly on top of your paper.  Using not-too-watery paint, fill in the stencil.  Carefully lift it off your paper and let dry.  So easy!

Watercolor stencil textures

Watercolor aztec stencil textures

8. Use a wet paper towel to lift paint mess-ups.

Everyone has their mess-ups. If you drip a little paint you can lift it off the paper if you act quickly.

The tip:  Keep a moist paper towel rag on hand while you paint.  If you need to lift paint off the paper, gently dab it on the spot and let the towel absorb the paint.  If you do this immediately after the mess-up, you can get most of that paint off.  If you wait till it dries, it's a bit harder.

Also, never scrub the paper.  Some papers are tougher than others, but generally, scrubbing wears the fibers down, leaving an unsightly mess.

How to fix mess-ups in watercolor

9. Use masking fluid substitutes.

Masking fluid can be expensive.  Here are a few cheaper substitutes that have surprisingly good results:

Rubber Cement- apply with a toothpick or brush before.  Gently rub off after paint dries.
White Crayon- draw design, then paint over it.
White Colored Pencil-draw design, then paint over it.

rubber cement watercolor masking fluid method

10. Use white gouache to create white space.

If you have a hard time leaving white space like I do, then whip out some white gouache paint. Gouache is a paint that I like to think of as somewhere between watercolors and acrylics.  It's thicker than watercolor, but still very water soluble.

The tip: After your watercolor paint is dry, mix white gouache with a little water and add in those highlights.  This trick does wonders for watercolor flowers! It gives them a soft, pastel look that I love.

Watercolor Hacks- painting flowers:: Grow Creative Blog

There you have it folks! I hope these watercolor tips make your painting easier and more fun.

Do you have any of your own watercolor hacks? I'd love to hear them!


  1. Ooh, I totally want to try using white colored pencil as a resist! Good tips! I second the need for a blotting paper towel. :)

    1. Thanks and yes, I could never paint without paper towels!

  2. Love all of these tips! Thanks for compiling them in your post.

  3. Awesome watercolor tips for the classroom. Thank you.

  4. these are great tips. thanks so much, elise!!


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