Watercolor Techniques

This page illustrates four of the most common watercolor techniques—blotting, scraping, wet-on-wet, and dry brush.

Lighthouse / Turner
Long Ships' Lighthouse, J. M. W. Turner, about 1834–1835
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Blotting and Scraping
Blotting involves removing wet pigment with a sponge or a slightly damp brush. In this painting, artist J.M.W. Turner used blotting to create the flickering illumination from a distant lighthouse at the middle left.

Scraping is using a knife to scrape away dried pigment and expose the paper below. Turner created the bright white highlights on the waves using this technique.

Indians Making Canoes / Homer
Indians Making Canoes, Winslow Homer, 1895
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens; Gift of the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation

Wet on Wet
The wet-on-wet technique involves wetting the paper before applying color with the brush. The pigment pools on the surface, produces a flowing, watery effect.

Winslow Homer used the wet-on-wet technique to create the lush green of the grass at the center of this painting.

Death of Lara / Delacroix
The Death of Lara, Eugène Delacroix, about 1824
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Dry Brush
Dry brush is the application of pigment with the smallest possible amount of water. This creates a broken, rough effect.

Eugène Delacroix used dry brush to create the rustic look in the foreground and on the trees in this painting.