How to Splatter Watercolor Paint

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Watercolor is a versatile painting medium popular with artists for its flexibility and immediacy. Splatter can be used in watercolor for dramatic effect both in abstract and representational artwork. Create the impression of trees and flowers in a landscape with splattered watercolor, or stormy clouds in a sky. The applications of splatter are numerous and easily explored.

Things You'll Need

  • Watercolor board or paper
  • Artist tape
  • Masking fluid
  • Masking brush
  • Small buckets or bowls
  • Water
  • Palette
  • Watercolor paint
  • Flat or fan-shaped watercolor brushes
  • Paper towels
  • Hard eraser
  • Mask areas of your watercolor board or paper to be protected from splattered paint. Use artist tape to mask geometric shapes and create straight edges. Apply masking fluid with a stiff masking brush to cover other details and areas of the surface which are to remain clean from the splatter. Allow masking fluid to dry before proceeding.

  • Fill small buckets or bowls with water. You will need at least one bowl to use only with fresh dry brushes and one with which to clean your brushes.

  • Place watercolor paint or paints to be splattered on your palette. A palette with small cups or divided areas is recommended as it will keep the different colors contained and from mixing with other pigments on the palette.

  • Choose a watercolor brush appropriate for the size of the splatter effect you wish to create. Select a small brush for controlled, accent splatter. Select a large brush to cover more of the painting surface with heavy splatter.

  • Load your brush with clean water, saturating the bristles thoroughly. Pick up paint with your brush, just touching it to your palette for lightly pigmented splatter or mixed in thoroughly to splatter a heavy layer of color.

  • Splatter paint from your brush onto the watercolor board or paper. Shake the brush vigorously at the painting surface to create random drop effects. Point your brush at the canvas and run your fingers over the bristles to create splatter in a controlled direction. Reload the brush with clean water and paint as necessary to complete the desired amount of paint splatter. Wipe away excess or undesired splatter with a paper towel.

  • Determine if you want to splatter another color onto the painting. You may wish to let the original layer of splatter dry first in order to create sharp layered effects. Otherwise begin with a clean brush immediately, allowing the splattered colors to blend together on the painting surface before drying.

  • Remove masking materials once the splattered paint is dry. Use a hard eraser to rub away masking fluid, being careful not to rip or tear the surface of the painting.

Tips & Warnings

  • To create a softer final effect, saturate your paper with water before splattering paint. The paint will bleed and flow after splattering and create a random appearance of color but without hard edges. This approach is useful in painting images such as sunsets or rippling water surfaces.
  • Protect the area surrounding your work surface with drop cloths or plastic sheeting. Splatter tends to fly far beyond your intended painting surface to hit walls, floors and nearby furniture.

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References

  • "Creative Watercolor Techniques"; Zoltan Szabo; 1974
  • "The Watercolor Landscape Techniques of 23 International Artists"; Terri Dodd; 2003
  • "The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques"; Ralph Mayer; 1991
  • "The Encyclopedia of Water Color Techniques"; Hazel Harrison; 1990
  • "The Watercolor Book: Materials and Techniques for Today's Artists"; David Dewey; 2000
  • "The Encyclopedia of Watercolour Landscape Techniques"; Hazel Soan; 2009
  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
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