Watercolor Tips and Techniques

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July 29, 2015

patience and painting of a snailI recently learned of Etegami, a Japanese folk art. It's a simple hand-painted drawing accompanied by a few words. It's usually done on postcards and they are meant to be sent to someone. What I love about this style of art is that is not meant to be perfect. The paint can go out of the lines or not cover everything and that is the desired look. I taught this technique to a few middle school classes and the kids loved the project. It's so easy and fun. The kids really enjoyed making their creations.


Total Time: Not very long to make a picture. But, we made lots!

Yield: to make!

Source: Japanese folk art


  • watercolor paints. We had some that we made from markers. But, you can use the type with the paint in the trays and you add water to them (found at most dollar stores).
  • paintbrush
  • water
  • Sharpie marker
  • watercolor paper - This is kind of expensive, unless you use a coupon at the craft store. We've also done it on regular paper but the paper warps a bit.
Etegami (Japanese Folk Art)


  1. Cut your watercolor paper into quarters, so that it's postcard sized.
  2. Traditionally, etegami is done with sumi ink to make the outline of the picture. Since we had none, we used Sharpies to draw the outline. The kids liked not waiting for the ink to dry before they painted the color on. Most etegami pictures are a simple design with a few colors.
  3. Etegami (Japanese Folk Art)

  4. Apply the paint to your picture. Remember, it doesn't need to be perfect. Just have fun with the color and go to your "happy place"!
  5. Etegami (Japanese Folk Art)
  6. Write a couple of words or a short message.
  7. Etegami (Japanese Folk Art)
    Etegami (Japanese Folk Art)
    Etegami (Japanese Folk Art)
  8. You can mail your masterpieces or keep them!
  9. Etegami (Japanese Folk Art)
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April 23, 2018

It is nice to use pretty smelling lotion in the place of water when painting with watercolors. This makes the colors more pastel and the final art looks really nice ;)

Lotion and Watercolor Art - orange and blue watercolor

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7 Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

February 18, 2009

I am an artist. I need to know how salt causes the paint pigments to separate and cause a starburst effect?

Reen from Cherokee, NC


By londa (Guest Post)
February 18, 20090 found this helpful

I taught my art students to sprinkle salt on still wet water color painting to make a cool texture. None of us cared how it worked. It was fun, and safe even for kindergarten.

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By M (Guest Post)
February 18, 20090 found this helpful

The salt absorbs the paint around its immediate area.

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By Poll (Guest Post)
February 18, 20090 found this helpful

The star burst effect of using salt results in the moisture being soaked up by the salt. I have used this effect on silk painting and water colour. If you use rock salt you get one effect, if you use normal table salt you get a finer effect you can also use epsom salts to create another type of effect.


I hope that helps.

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By Reen (Guest Post)
February 19, 20090 found this helpful

I thank you for the responses. I am fully aware that this works - I have done it for many years - what I am looking for is the scientific explanation.

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By Robin (Guest Post)
February 19, 20090 found this helpful

You can check out simple explanation here or here

Salt will mix into water. The fine particles spread evenly throughout the water. As the water evaporates, the mixture dries and becomes solid again. Salt forms into crystals as it dries. The crystals are shaped like cubes with flat sides that reflect light causing the sparkle.

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May 18, 20170 found this helpful

Watercolor is pigment and optional binders suspended in water. The water is what moves the pigment around. When you sprinkle granules of salt onto the paper, it does two things: first the granule absorbs the water it touches, along with the pigment that is suspended in the water, which causes the light specks on the paper.


Second, as it absorbs water, it pulls more water toward it from the rest of the page, along with pigment, which causes those rings or bubbles of color around the pale speck where the salt granule was touching the paper.

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October 31, 2007

Watercolor paint box.Advice for keeping the paper flat when working with watercolors. Post your own tips here.

Use Water First

First of all, water color paintings are going to "pucker" or curl a bit because of the use of water. My art teacher in high school had us wet the surface that we painted on (not sopping but perhaps with a sponge or wet cloth) and then lay down the water color sheet to be painted. This sort of equalizes the paper, water on bottom and water on top. This helps the paper not to move around, also.

By SL Edens

Stretch Paper And Get Good Quality Paper

Most watercolor artists stretch their watercolor paper on a frame to avoid this happening. Stretching reduces the "puckering" you're talking about. Also, there are many grades of watercolor paper, some are COLD pressed, & some HOT pressed. watercolor paper comes in many price ranges. Below is a website called "Daniel Smith", they are a high quality artists' supply. They will send you a free catalog and happily answer any questions on their 800 number if you'll just contact them:

By Cyinda

Dunk And Staple Before Painting

I usually dunk the whole sheet of paper in a dish pan of water, then staple it to a to a board, let it dry (it will shrink just a little). When it is dry, you can paint on it, while still stapled to the board. Eliminates a lot of the wrinkling.

By sundaeskies

Lightly Soak Paper

Yeah, lightly soak the paper, than paint on it.

By Robin

Expert Advice For Cheaper Paper

Watercolor painting can be a challenge, and 'stretching' paper may seem just 'too much' before getting to get right to what you want, painting! With just a few minutes prep-time, you can have a great surface to paint on which will give you better results.

With lower grade paper, (lower weight per sheet), soaking (yes, sloppy wet soaking)of the paper works best. Soak the paper for a few minutes submerged in water, lay it out over a wooden board and stapled the paper every few inches around the sides, starting from the center edge of each page, then the corners, then in between those staples. Let the paper dry and wha-la! 'Stretched paper' that won't buckle on you and pool your paint where you don't want it. Practice makes perfect--let me know if this is helpful to you. :)


By Kerra


By Mona (Guest Post)
July 27, 20080 found this helpful

Use masking tape to create a "frame" around all four edges of your paper, taping it to your table, drawing board, or whatever you are painting on. If you are not using good watercolor paper (very expensive) just try using a little less water when you paint. Leave the painting taped down until it is dry.

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March 27, 2020

Recreate the entire solar system with supplies you probably already have at home. It's a great way to decorate a child's room and learn about the planets.

Planetary Artwork - finished artwork

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May 20, 2019

Try this easier approach to creating beautiful watercolor paintings, using water soluble markers. This post explains the process used in watercolor painting using markers.

10 Minute Watercolor Using Markers

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February 27, 2017

Watercolor pencils are an easy and effective way to add beautiful color gradations and shading to you artwork. This is a page about how to use watercolor pencils.

A row of different colored pencils.

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