Patty Palmer of Deep Space Sparkle shows you 4 watercolor techniques to do with your kids

4 Watercolor Techniques Every Student Should Know

If you love watercolor as much as me, you might be looking for the best watercolor projects to teach your students.

I’ve done hundreds over the years and my favorites always have one or more of the following techniques:

  • Waterproof marker as a precise drawing medium
  • Non-water soluble oil pastel or waxy crayon to act as a resist and/or barrier
  • Wet-on-wet technique for color blending
  • Salting for a magical touch

Watch this video as I walk you through each technique in this pretty Fall Art Project:

You can practice these techniques without doing a lesson. Introducing simple techniques as an experiment allows children to experience the techniques first and then they can use them in their own work.

The October Freebie pack is chock full of Fall themed lessons, drawing guides, technique tips and video tutorials. Download this handy drawing guide before you get started:

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How to Use the 4 Watercolor Techniques in a Fall Leaves Art Project

Give each student a 9″ x 12″ @ 90 lb watercolor paper. Regular sulphite paper doesn’t work as well as the watercolor paints will soak into the paper reducing the effectiveness of the wax resist, wet-on-wet and salting. BUT using a waterproof marker does work well.

Children should have access to a waterproof black marker (I like Sharpies), non-water soluble oil pastels or waxy crayons and some watercolor paint (either pan or liquid is great). Here’s a post on the watercolor brands I like.

Additional projects you might like to try:
Watercolor Tulips

Notre Dame Cathedral Project

Technique #1: Waterproof Marker

waterproof marker techniques
  • With a waterproof black marker, draw a simple leaf shape.
  • Carefully paint inside the shape with watercolor paints.

When to use this technique: When you want a strong, detailed line for an intricate drawing. For a leaf drawing, the waterproof marker creates thin, detailed lines.

Technique #2: Wax Resist

wax resist and oil pastel techniques
  • With a wax crayon or oil pastel, draw a simple lead shape.
  • Add in lines or details with oil pastel or crayon colors.
  • Paint over the entire drawing with one color of paint.
  • What happens to the lines?

When to use this technique: When you want to add colorful or white line details to a drawing and add a splash of color over top but not have the watercolor paint cover the details.

When you want to paint the background and don’t want the leaf color to bleed into the background color.

Technique #3: Wet-on-wet

wet-on-wet technique
  • With a brush dipped in water, paint over a section of paper.
  • Select a color of paint and brush over the top of the wet section.
  • Select another color and dab onto wet surface.
  • What happens when the paint merges?

This technique is fun for kids to see as the watercolor often spreads like a star and mingle with any color getting in its way. It’s also a great time to explain the scientific properties of water.

When to use this technique: The best time for this technique is when you want watercolor paints to mingle, creating a new color OR when you are painting a large background area. Kids tend to paint on dry paper which can be very streaky. Adding water to the paper first, softens their natural tendency to paint in uneven amounts.

The finished products looks pretty cool.

Technique #4: Salting

watercolor salting technique
  • With a brush dipped in water, paint over a section of paper.
  • Select a color of paint and brush over the top of the wet section.
  • Before a paint dries, sprinkle table salt over paint.
  • What happens when the salt dries?

There are a few things that MUST be done in order to achieve a pretty starburst effect with salting:

You must use translucent watercolor paints. Cake or puck tempera paints or heavy opaque watercolor paints might be too heavy for the salt.

You must also give the salt and watercolor a chance to work by using watercolor paper. If the paint soaks into the paper before the salt has had a chance to take effect, nothing much will happen.

So use translucent watercolors (I LOVE liquid watercolors) and watercolor paper.

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watercolor techniques

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  • Veena

    It’s awesome video on learning the water techniques in such a kids relatable art project . Thanks

    • Patty

      Thank you Veena!

  • June Hockison

    The link in my email for the October Freebie Pack does not appear to be working. Can you look into it and send it to me again? I’d really love to have this resource for my students. Thank you so much!

  • Amanda

    I just downloaded the freebie pack but it sends an error and can not be opened. <3

  • Kara Sabatella

    I am also getting an error code……thank you so much for this WONDERFUL freebie pack !!

  • Kari Mart

    Love your projects!

  • jeanne.paulsen

    Would love to do this with my students; unfortunately, the link is not working on your website. Are these guides in the Sparklers Member site?

    • Patty

      Can you try again? This October PDF is not part of The Sparklers Club 🙂

  • Sue

    love it! thanks 🙂

  • Jessica


  • Kirsten Ledbetter

    Great teaching ideas for my class!

  • Jennifer Cunningham

    I love it!

  • susan grady


  • Sharon

    Love the leaf example.

  • Valerie

    Thank you for this wonderful freebie!

  • Jennifer Johnson

    Love this leaf project!

  • Helen Baldwin

    Your program is awesome, Thanks for the great ideas!

  • trinity

    omg awesomejdgiyfdfdjsh

  • Deborah

    i have recently discovered you on line and i cant thank you enough for brightening up my life!
    i teach art after school club and i prepare my own lessons i do have an art background. i decided to use one of yours this week ( i’m teaching on line due to corona virus lock down) i also bought your book on amazon . so i used funky cat this week, as last week i did a whole project on pattern so i asked them to make sure they put lots of pattern around eg the collar, in the background i asked them to do circles and in each circle to add different pattern . One girl added a briefcase as i told her her cat looked like it was going to the office! I’ve been doing this for approx 4 years now. ( since i had a huge change in circumstances not in a good way ) but i thought it might be refreshing to do other peoples lessons too ( my first time). i’m now a huge fan . Thank you so much .Not that you need to see my work/ projects but i’m happy to share some of my ideas with you too . Deborah x

  • anthony shelton

    a fabulous lesson to be used by students of various ages and skill level. The watercolor techniques can be used in a variety of art projects with varying subject matters.

  • nicole melgaard

    Could I possibly get a copy of the 4 watercolor techniques handout that accompanies the watercolor leaves project sent to me? Super video!

  • Heather Johnson

    I am so thankful for you! You offer so much, everything is beautiful, simple to put together and teach, and absolutely something kids have fun doing… not to mention, they are proud of the product! Also, you give so much out for free! Thank you, thank you, thank you! (Lots of exclamation marks in this post!)

  • Kellie Bruce

    These lessons for October are amazing.

  • Kathleen Slife

    These are perfect for first time homeschooling art projects!

  • Suja Zachariah

    Great ideas!! Thank you for posting them!!!

  • Yvonne De Bernardis

    Lindisimo, gracias desde Lima Peru

  • Chris McMichael

    The salting looks like so much fun! Magic!

  • Christine Craig

    This is perfect! I would love a PDF.

  • Linda Paterik

    Love it and can’t wait to teach these 4 watercolor techniques to my four grandchildren in their next homeschool art class.

  • Erin

    Do you think a 45 minutes class would be enough time to do teach Folk Art trees to students, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades? Thanks

    • Patty

      Its a very quick project. If you demonstrate each type of tree, it could take longer than 45-minutes, but if you pass along teh handout and demo 1-2 tree style, I think the kids will do great!
      Here’s a tip: anytime your class time is short, consider reducing paper size so kids draw or paint smaller. Makes a larger project more time doable 🙂

  • Umaiya Sultana

    My favorite’s wet-on-wet.

  • sdeutsch

    I LOVE all the projects and ideas that are on this fabulous site. I teach grade 7 and 8 visual arts and while I often use many of the projects with this grade level, I am looking for the ‘next level’. Any ideas as to what to do or where to look?

  • Samantha

    Just did some watercolor leaves with my daughter today for her homeschool art class. It took us a little longer (she wanted to draw a maple leaf but couldn’t quite get it to look how she wanted it) but the result was so beautiful and she had fun learning the different techniques. I wasn’t sure I would like salting, but the salt gave the background the look of colorful little snowflakes and we loved it! We’ll probably do this again before fall is over now that she has learned which colors look better together. We also used oil pastel on one of my leaves for the veins and it looked really neat, so she wants to do that, too. Thank you for the wonderful lesson!

  • Kim McKee

    what paper is best for watercolors my studetns are using traditional dry watercolorsand they are not blending well looks like scrtches all over the page.

  • amy garland

    LOVE this! I am teaching my kids art at home. Thank yo ufor sharing.



  • Donna Birney

    love these lessons!!

  • terri

    video handout

    • Bethany

      Hi Terri! I’m not sure what you are looking for. If you want to download the freebie pack just add your name and email address to the box and we will send that to your inbox. If you aren’t seeing something else, please feel free to reach out to me at support@deepspacesparkle.com and I am happy to lend a hand.

  • Sharon MacLean

    Which 90 lb watercolor paper do you recommend?

  • Manuela

    An awsome and inspiring video.

  • Clarinaluz

    I like how this one lesson is loaded with valuable techniques. THANK YOU!

  • Rebecca Adlington

    Sooooooo helpful and inspiring! Thank you x

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