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Home  Watercolor Techniques  Dry Brush, Wet-Into-Wet, Salt

    Example of the salt effect

Dry Brush,  Wet-Into-Wet,  and  Salt

  • Short tutorials
  • Painted examples
  • How they can be used in a painting

As artists, we love to explore different and creative ways to bring various forms of texture to our paintings. On this page I will introduce you to the techniques of dry brush, painting wet-into-wet, and the effects of salt, along with guiding you step-by-step on how to do these techniques, and examples of how you can apply them to your painting.

Dry Brush Technique

Dry brush is a versatile and creative technique that places more pigment and less water onto the surface of your paper. This technique works best on watercolor paper that has a nice texture to it, as in cold-pressed or rough.

Example of Dry brush  A sample of dry brush painted on cold-pressed paper

How to do the dry brush technique:
finished painting of birdhouse project

close-up of birdhouse project
In the close-up view on the right, you can see how the dry brush technique was used to create the illusion of wood grain, in both the birdhouse and the weathered fence.
First, load your brush with color, and blot several times onto a paper towel. Using only the side of your brush hairs, lightly skim over the texture of the paper. To deepen the value, repeat the skimming strokes again, after the surface has been allowed to dry.
personal note  For best results, use a brush that is more rounded with less of a fine point. A brush with a fine point has a tendency to create a line as you skim it over the texture of the paper.

Wet-Into-Wet Technique

Wet-into-wet is another versatile and popular technique where watercolor, or water, is dropped onto a wet surface. This is a great technique to use for creating the illusion of a soft out of focus background in your painting.

Examples of Wet-Into-Wet

Dried  a painted sample of wet-into-wet that has driedStill wet  a painted sample of wet-into-wet still with sheen

How to do the wet-into-wet technique:
color variations on leaves

close-up of the color variations
In this close-up view on the right, you can see the varying effects of color and texture that this technique can produce.
First apply clean water to the area you will be painting. When the sheen is almost gone, begin painting in your colors. You can also place water on top of the colors to create more effects.

For best results, keep the values of your colors close to the same. Also, wait for the sheen to be almost gone before dropping another color on top of a previous one. Otherwise, your surface will be too wet and the colors may not create the right effect.
personal note  Colors will dry a great deal lighter when applied to a wet surface. You may want to test your colors value on a scrap piece of paper before using them in your painting.

Salt Technique

The salt technique is both a fun and creative way to add a different type of texture to your painting. You can use table salt to achieve a smaller and tighter appearance, or sea salt which will give you a larger pattern and effect.

Example of Salta sample of the salt technique painted on cold-pressed watercolor paper

How to do the salt technique:
salt used to create texture in trees

close-up of salt texture
The close-up view on the right, gives you an even closer look at all the wonderful texture that was created using salt.
First, paint the area where you would like to apply the salt. When the sheen is almost gone, take a pinch of salt and sparingly sprinkle over the area you would like to see the texture. Let dry completely, but DO NOT LEAVE THE SALT ON YOUR PAINTING! As soon as the salted area is  completely  dry, lightly brush away the salt with a paper towel.
personal note   I find the secret to the salt technique is all in the timing, and the degree of wetness. Hot and arid conditions can cause the paint to dry way too quickly, not allowing enough time for the salt to take effect. Whereas, very humid conditions can have the opposite effect, and have you waiting for what seems like an eternity.

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