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  • Writer's pictureAlexandra Benson


Updated: Nov 6, 2023

My Supply list for my watercolor exploration:

  • various papers

  • various brushes (soft, rough, waterfilled)

  • rag

  • watercolors

  • water

  • pencil

  • salt

  • saran wrap

  • tissue paper

It is important to tape your paper down to the surface. It'll help the paper not move around while painting and help reduce the warping that happens when paper gets wet.

You can stretch your paper prior to using it. Soak it in water for 5-15 minutes and then allow it to dry thoroughly before using it. Otherwise, just wet the paper before starting your experimentation. I used a spray bottle full of water.

My first exploration was marking making with a brush that has a water reservoir built in and a round soft brush. I focused on using only 2 colors. I found the soft round brush easier to control than the water-filled paintbrush.

Next, I tried a series of lines with a single paintbrush, adjusting the thickness. I also sprayed water, loaded my brush with paint, and dipped it in the pooled water to watch the effect.

In class, I experimented with PRANG school brand watercolors, I added red, yellow, orange, blue, green, purple, all into the pooled water. It was interesting to see the colors did not mix. When I blotted it away, there was still evidence of every color I used.

Next was a wash. I took a big brush loaded with water and created an ombre wash with different hues of blue.

I created color chart, using different amounts of water to dilute the pigment for each square. The top square was loaded with color, each square after I added only water to created a more transparent color.

Mixing colors, I added a lot of paint and water, one of each color meeting at the center where they mixed into a new color.

I created a tint and tone in blue by adding black and white. I noticed that the white was not very strong.

I found that purple and red did not mix well, and green and orange did not mix well.

I wanted to try creating some shapes. I added blobs of water and dipped pigment into the color, watching as the colors mixed and moved.

Once it dried, I used a Micron pen to create a design.

I tested out the newspaper as a surface, it wrinkled a lot and the colors were very muted. But it could be a neat addition to a collage project.

I created a series of shapes, tried blotting with crumpled paper, adding salt to wet areas, and mixing wet colors with dry colors on drawing paper. The texture created with the salt was interesting. The texture created by blotting saran wrap on wet paint left very abstract shapes.

saran wrap texture

I wanted to create a little floral painting. I sketched out my design on a small piece of rice paper. The colors bled into other colors if the paper was still wet. Once it was dried, I was able to go back in with a Mircon pen to outline the design.

On drawing paper, I explored how the water reacted to the paint and how the paper maintained its form. I created a portrait using a variety of colors, some which mixed nicely. Others, like the black, needed to dry before I could add more color to it. Again, I went back in with Micron pens to add more detail once the painting dried.

My final experiment was with tissue paper. I added two layers of gesso.

Though the idea was fun, the tissue paper texture experiment proved to be a bit frustrating as there was too much texture and the work ended up looking rather messy. The colors ran together too much and creating detail with Micron pen after the fact was a daunting task, the pen often getting stuck in the crevices of texture. If I were to try this again, I would create just small waves of texture, not the large folds seen in the picture below.

While in class, we worked on making marks, the following pictures show my explorations while in class. I used Prang watercolors and watercolor pencils, a mix of watercolor paper and light weight drawing paper.

Project Ideas:

  • Watercolor resist paintings

  • create a large page of watercolor paint, cut into strips when dry then weave with other papers

  • Create collage papers by painting on newspaper

  • Create blob art and then with Micron Pens draw in a design

  • Watercolor portraits

Supporting Materials & Tools:

  • Table Protectors

  • water container that is sturdy enough to not spill

  • smocks

  • weights to hold the paper down (Washi tape, rocks)

  • variety of paintbrushes, length and width


  • variety of paintbrushes for more control

  • variety of paper sizes

  • watercolor pencils if there is an aversion to using water

  • mind maps to come up with ideas

Age Group & Behavior Expectations:

I would recommend watercolors to 6th grade and up because it takes some patience to wait for layers of paint to dry before adding more paint, which could be a source of frustration for younger students.

Students are expected to respect materials, and clean brushes, do not mix colors in the cakes but on a palette to avoid muddying of the colors. Walk in the classroom, and ensure that bookbags are not blocking pathways. Do not run with brushes in hand or near faces. Sign-out materials.

Safety & Health:

  • Important to demonstrate how to use watercolors appropriately, clean the brushes, prepare the paper

  • Clean hands if paint gets on them

  • No glass containers

  • If labels are missing, do not use them. Read all labels to ensure the ingredients are safe for students.

  • Make sure that sinks are accessible without bags, wires in the way

Artist Inspirations:

Georgia O'Keeffe

Linda Woods


Hafeli, M. C. (2015). Exploring studio materials: Teaching creative art making to children. Oxford University Press. Pages 81-87.

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