How to Make Abstract Watercolor Effects

By Mary Love

Things Needed

  • Heavy-weight watercolor paper
  • Drawing board
  • Masking tape
  • Spray bottle
  • Water
  • Tube transparent watercolors
  • Paint tray
  • Large round brush
  • Container of water
  • Table salt
  • Plastic materials
  • Toothbrush
  • Blue painter's tape
  • Scissors
Enjoy the interesting effects you can achieve with watercolor paints.

Watercolor paints allow an artist to apply layers of transparent pigment which can result in a great depth of color and exciting effects. An abstract approach to your watercolor composition depends on lines, colors and textures to create a successful piece. There are several simple techniques that even a novice can master to achieve this. When it is executed well, the finished painting has a clean and luminescent quality that cannot be mimicked with oils or acrylic paints.

Prepare Your Paper

Choose a heavy-weight watercolor paper that has a textured surface. This type of paper is able to hold ample water and paint. Cut your paper to size.

Use a board for your work surface. it needs to be at least a few inches larger than your paper. Masonite works well. It is inexpensive and can be cut to size at your local builder's supply store.

Attach your paper to your board with wide masking tape. Place strips of tape along all four edges so the edges are completely secured to the board.

Spray your paper with water until it is well saturated. Allow it to dry completely before you begin your painting. This process shrinks the paper so it will not warp when you apply your paint.

Painting Techniques

Spray your paper with water until it is very damp. Load a large round brush with paint mixed with water. Drip the color onto the paper. Repeat this process with other colors. Let the colors bleed together. Spray with more water and allow drips to happen. Dip your brush into a container of clean water between colors.

Sprinkle grains of table salt onto wet paint. Crystal shapes will form in the paint as the salt granules absorb the water. Brush undissolved salt from the surface of the paper after the paint has dried.

Crumple plastic materials and position them on top of your wet paint. Experiment with plastic grocery bags and pieces of bubble packaging material. Place a weighted board on top of the plastic and allow your painting to dry. When you remove the materials from the top of the paint, you will discover interesting textures and shapes.

Load a stiff toothbrush with very wet paint. Hold the brush over your paper and run a finger across the bristles. A mist of paint will spatter onto the paper. The texture will be fine and sand-like.

Cut pieces of blue painter's tape with scissors and position them on dry paper. Smooth them with your fingers to make certain they are adhered. Apply a layer of paint over the tape. Remove the tape to expose new shapes.

Tip

Tube watercolor paints provide more concentrated color than pan watercolors. Mix less water with your paints to achieve more intense colors.

Warning

Be careful not to over-mix your paints or they will become muddy.

About the Author

In 1982, Mary Love's first book, "Shakespeare Garden," was published. She also authored professional brochures. Love was the subject of a PBS special profiling Northwestern Pennsylvania artists, highlighting her botanicals and birds. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in art education from Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pennsylvania.