Watercolor paints are some of the most accessible art materials out there. Any dollar store or grocery store carries them. Clean up is minimal. Two wins, right? What if I told you I have nine watercolor techniques for your kiddos to try that will bring new life to that tray of dried up watercolor paints?
Check out these nine creative ways of using watercolor paint. Allow your people to experiment and find even more new ways of using paint and paintbrush, or maybe even no paintbrushes at all!
Everyone has them. Watercolors, that is….
Whether you’re an art teacher or a mama making with her kids at the kitchen table chances are watercolors are on hand. These are some easy ways to manipulate watercolor paint. There are dozens more, I’m sure. Don’t use these ideas as constraints but rather as a jumping off point.
In the interest of full disclosure I used liquid watercolors to achieve such bright colors. I used this Color Splash set of liquid watercolors. The bottles are tiny but they are concentrated so they last a long time. They are not a big investment and make some really beautiful, bright paintings!
Other than the “vivid” factor all of these processes will work exactly the same with plain old Crayola cake watercolors. I’ve used these for years both in the classroom and at home! They’re inexpensive, washable, and have lots of great colors. Use what you have. That’s my motto, art and otherwise.
Painting doesn’t always have to be done sitting primly with a brush. (You may not want to share that tidbit with your kids. If that’s the only way painting is done at your house that’s okay too!) Experiment. Once kids see how fun it is to make marks by dropping things into paint, laying objects in wet paint, and making “invisible” pictures they won’t want to stop.
I started with an oil pastel resist. The first pic above shows watercolor done on top of a simple white oil pastel scribble. The oil pastel resists the watercolor which makes it kinda’ magic to paint right over your marks, see the paint bead up, and slide back off onto the paper. Off course any color of oil pastel will work for a resist. In this line exploration project the kids used allll the colors. The fun of using white though is your drawing seems “invisible” until it is painted over.
This resist process can also be done with plain crayons. Oil pastels are just soft enough they make a larger mark, making the resist more dramatic.
Add some salt…
While watercolor is still a little wet throw some salt on there. I’m not talking about fine, iodized table salt. I mean the crunchy, chunky kosher salt. Then once the salt has been tossed brushes go away. Let the salt sit, undisturbed, until the watercolors are dry. The salt will soak up a little of the color. When brushed away it leaves pretty little crystal-ish marks.
And maybe some plastic wrap…
When you’ve got some bright colors and maybe a little water pooling in places is the perfect time to throw a little plastic wrap onto your painting. That’s right, good old cling wrap from your kitchen pantry. Wad it up loosely and lay it in a wet spot. Leave it there until it’s completely dry. When you remove it you will see some really cool shapes and lines formed by the colors pooling as they dry.
Back to the pantry…
Just like the cling wrap this wax paper comes straight from the pantry. No fancy art supplies are needed. When you have plenty of wet paint and water pooling on your paper tear some wax paper up into shapes that make you smile. Place them in the wet paint and go drink some coffee or juice box, whatever. When it’s all dry and the wax paper is taken off the shapes remain because of the color pooling under the wax paper.
This is a slightly more controlled effect than the saran wrap. Wax paper allows a little more intentionality in placement.
I’m going to put rubbing alcohol and lemon juice in the same category. The process with both of them is the same and the effects are very similar as well. Use a pipette or a loaded paintbrush to drop rubbing alcohol on to semi wet paint. The effect is an immediate ring in the watercolor paint. Doing this repeatedly can get a bit hypnotic.
Dropping lemon juice into semi wet watercolor paints doesn’t produce such an immediate reaction. But if left to sit until it’s dry the citric acid in the juice will bleach the colors of the watercolor paint producing super interesting shapes.
Both are interesting. In a closed room or a classroom situation the lemon juice is far less noxious.
Remember rubber cement…
Okay, rubber cement is something you don’t see everyday. But…picking a jar up for this is totally worth it. Use the brush that comes in the bottle and drizzle rubber cement all over the place. This feels against the “rules” so it is naturally fun.
Let the drizzly awesomeness dry before you paint over it. When that’s dry take your finger and gently rub the rubber cement off; leaving behind a brilliant white outline. It’s so pretty. I could do this one over and over.
They do make a special little rubber cement pick up tool. Unless you’re making a mural or you have hyper sensitive digits you’ll be okay.
Seriously, you didn’t close the pantry door did you? Go back there now. Grab some rice, any kind, and throw it in your wet paint. Place it carefully or toss it in the air and see where it lands. Both work for me, as I don’t have to clean your house.
Let it lay in the paint till dry. This is especially interesting if you have more than one color of watercolor working together. Colors mix and pool around the rice creating some awesome texture to the finished piece. Of course, the rice brushes off when dry!
And don’t forget the leaves….
Let nature do the hard work and place some pretty leaves in your wet paint. Drying can take a long time but is so worth it to see the pretty leaf prints in your paint.
I did a whole blog post rundown on this one. I had to add it in here because I think it’s an unusual addition to the watercolor techniques but such an easy and fun one! The results are still pinned above my desk. I could look at them all day.