Watercolor Tips and Techniques

Watercolor can be a very difficult and frustrating media to work in, especially for children.  To get the most out of your watercolor experience in your homeschool, especially if you are using it for nature study, here are a few tips:

  • Watercolor is not the best medium for realism, but it is a fabulous medium for expressionism!  If your student is older and more interested in creating a realistic portrayal of something, a better medium might be graphite pencil, or colored pencils.  However, if you can go into your watercolor experience with the goal of giving the suggestion of an object or animal, and its defining features, you can use the wide variety of colors available in watercolor to achieve something expressive.
  • Try this: Say you want to paint a bird.  Use a pencil to faintly draw the outline of the bird; basically a silhouette.  Now with your brush and plain water (no paint yet), wet the entire shape of your bird.  Now, pick up color, and touch your brush into the wet shape in certain areas; the belly, the tail feathers, the head.  This is called a wet-in-wet technique.  Leave this to dry completely.  Now, using some darker colors, you can add details to your bird, such as an eye, markings on the feathers, etc.
  • Here’s another fun way to make using watercolors a bit easier for children: use a fine black pen to make a drawing first, then use the watercolors for color.  This way, you can achieve greater precision and detail with the pen, but you still have the colorful fun of paint!