All about liquid watercolors and how to use them Deep Space Sparkle Tips for Teachers

All About Liquid Watercolor Paints

One of the most common questions and personal email queries I receive concerns about liquid watercolor paints. They are still a novelty for many people so when you first buy them, you may not know what to do with them. Here are my suggestions for working, storing and prepping liquid watercolor paints.

Liquid Watercolor Paints Questions:

What are they?

Liquid watercolors are a concentrated liquid watercolor paint that come in 8oz bottles. They can be used full strength, but I always add water. They are best diluted with regular water at a ratio of 1:1. The stronger you want the color, the less water you use. The lighter you want the color, the more water you use. They are a great substitute for pan watercolor paints as they produce such a rich, vibrant color.

What Brand do you use?

I buy the Sax brand through School Specialty. I also like Dick Blick’s Liquid watercolor. They have glitter liquid watercolor as well.

How much should I buy?

This is the toughest question and I’ll be honest, a little frustrating. I can’t possibly know how many students you have, how many classes you teach, how many projects you do that would use liquid watercolor. I think what people are really asking is, the bottles look so darn small. Is it a waste of my budget? I can only say that I love the results liquid watercolors provide and so do the kids. If you can afford a set, give it a try and see what you think.

It may help to know that I don’t throw my liquid watercolors away. I store them in small condiment containers with plastic lids or glass baby food jars. This keeps the watercolors well. If a color, like yellow, gets too muddy, I toss it, but mostly the colors stay true. For me, I can go about a year and a half before I start to run out of basic colors like red, yellow and blue. You may want to double up on those colors.

What about mixing?

Liquid watercolors are great if you want to cover a large area fast even on sulphite or regular drawing paper. The watercolor paints do sack into the paper but it dries well. For this pig painting, it was so quick and easy to splash some green and blue paint on the background and some watered-down red onto the pig. A very quick oil pastel resist lesson. I didn’t even use watercolor paper, but the colors are much more vibrant if you do.

If you want to teach a lesson on mixing and mingling, I would stick with the regular pan watercolors.

How do you set-up the paint in a classroom setting?

I use a 6-well plastic palette (again, from School Specialty or Dick Blick. Do a search on their site for palettes. Their stock varies from year to year so I can’t be any more specific than this). I place the plastic containers or baby food jars that hold the watercolors in the wells. This prevents them from tipping over. I place the brushes in plastic water containers so the kids know not to set the brushes in the watercolor paints.

For a table of 5-6 kids, I use two water containers, 3 brushes in each and set the tray of 6 w/c paints in the middle. Works well.

After I’m done with the paints, I place them in a drawer in my art room (see picture).

For added watercolor art lessons for your classroom of children or kids at home, check them out HERE.

Please ask a question about Liquid Watercolor Paints below…

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  • Janie B

    Thank you so much for this post. I’ve had this same question about liquid watercolors. I was afraid it would be too messy and expensive. But, I’m intrigued. Maybe I’ll get some for next year. You rock!

    • Wendy Cope


      Do you store the liquid watercolors in MINI muffin tins, or regular size muffin tins? I went to Costco and bought a box of condiment cups that are about 1.5 inches in diameter at the base. The regular size muffin tins are too big and the condiment cups slide around and the mini muffin tins are too small. I’ve looked EVERYWHERE for plastic palettes that have flat wells and can’t find any. Help me out here! I want to start using my watercolors but have to figure out this small detail. thanks.

      • Patty

        You can buy them through Dick Blick. Here’s a link:

        They are not mini-muffin palettes and have nothing to do with baking “real” muffins. They are just called muffin-style because that’s what they look like. Also, you can use baby food jars to store liquid watercolors or go to a kitchen supply store (like Smart and Final) for the condiment cups.
        Hope this gets you going in the right direction.

        • Wendy Cope

          Hi Thanks for your response. Referring to the link above that you sent me: Are the wells in these palettes deep enough? I’m afraid the plastic condiment cups I have will get knocked over. What do you think?

  • Jacquelien

    We use liquid watercolours often in our classes. I did’nt know the right translation of our Dutch word, ecoline. I used to translate it as coloured ink, but that was wrong. So I rewrited the labels on my blog posts just last weekend!
    One of the not mentioned differences between coloured ink and liquid watercolour is that liquid watercolour can be washed out of clothes; coloured ink (mostly) cannot!

  • ms. kerns

    I LOVE my liquid watercolors that I got for my classroom after being inspired by so many Deep Space Sparkle lessons! I’ve stored mine in a six color palette with covers as well. I think next year I will look to store green and blue in larger containers if I continue doing landscapes, but otherwise no complaints. I LOVE the color and even the kids have said they LOVE the liquid watercolors. I have a few examples of work on my blog and hope to have some more in a few weeks. Thanks Patty for the post!

  • amy

    I use the Dick Blick brand, which is comparable in price to the Sax brand for a set. I only use them with my own kids, but we use them all the time, and full strength, and they really do last. They also blend beautifully. I always found the pan watercolors frustrating when I was a kid, but maybe that was the brand. We all love the liquid watercolors, though.

  • Denise Ferrell

    you introduced me to liquid watercolors and I used them today on the frog lesson with 1st grade. Oh.. they are so proud at how they looked! Thanks for all the tested lessons and art wisdom.

  • Cheryl Hancock

    Hi we call these water colours -edicol dyes in Australia they usually com in powder form for us to mix- The dyes are derived for food colouring and so tend to be expensive. Mind you they go a long way.
    One of my favourite techniques is using it with wax crayon as the resist , straw blowing- bubble prints add a drop of detergent to the mix- and also with salt used as a bleaching agent- sprinkle on wet dye.
    Cheers Cheryl