How to create watercolor texture techniques

One of the best ways to make your paintings more interesting is by adding a variation of textures.

In this post, you’ll learn several different watercolor texture techniques to take your paintings to the next level! 

The techniques you could use to add texture to your watercolor painting include: granulating pigments, dry brush, scumbling, masking fluid, sponging, splattering, salt, scratching, wax resist, lifting, and dragging.

With the techniques listed below, you can use texture to pull the attention of the viewer, and highlight certain elements to improve the interaction between the viewer and your art piece!

Let’s get started… 

watercolor texture techniques

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Watercolor texture techniques


Using pigments that granulate is a technique you could use to create texture. Granulation is when the pigment particles separate and dry into tiny textured spots (image below). 

There are both non-granulating and granulating pigments, you can usually find this information on the label of the paint tube or the company website. You can also read an article I wrote on how to test for granulation.

Rough paper works better in expressing granulation textures, you can see this in the image below:

Watercolor granulation

Dry brush technique

The dry brush technique refers to loading your brush with a mixture of paint then dampening it to remove most of the moisture and painting rough textured brushstrokes against the paper.

Start by mixing the color you want and loading your brush with it. Next, remove the excess water from your brush by dampening it on a paper towel or cloth. Using the brush on its side can help create rough textured strokes.

Creating texture using the dry brush technique with watercolors

Masking fluid

Masking fluid is used by watercolorists to preserve certain areas of the painting. With masking fluid you can mask out streaks of your painting to add texture. Feel free to explore this technique by using different tools to apply it. For example, splattering masking fluid with a toothbrush or using a toothpick to spread it around can produce different textures. 

You can always read my article on how to use masking fluid to learn more!

Masking fluid watercolor texture techniques


Sponges are an excellent tool when painting tree foliage! They can produce a range of different textures. With a sponge you can create lovely textures depending on the size of the sponge holes, and how much paint you soak them with. Additionally, you can also use different strokes to apply the paint. For example, you can drag the sponge to create wisps or dab it to create concentrated tiny spots.

Adding watercolor texture with sponging technique

Splattering Technique

You may have seen artists splattering their work to add texture. This is also a great way to create expressions of texture that draw attention to a specific element in your painting. For example, you can splatter when painting foliage, flowers, rocks, or waves. You can also use a toothbrush for this!

How to create a splattering watercolor technique with your brush:

  1.  Start by mixing the color you want to splatter. Cover the surrounding areas of the painting with scrap paper.
  2. Hold your brush approximately 10 to 15 inches above your paper. Tap the brush handle or flick the bristles to create a splatter over your painting.
  3. Before splattering your painting, I recommend testing it out on a separate piece of paper first. This way if the spots are large and watery you can reduce the excess water on a paper towel. You can also hold the brush at different heights to produce different sizes.

Salt textures

Sprinkling salt is another technique many watercolorists use to create texture! If you sprinkle salt on your painting while it’s still wet, it absorbs the water and pulls the pigment. This creates tiny textured dots (as shown in the image below). 

Not only is this technique a lot of fun, but there are so many possible ways to adjust it to create unique textures! 

Several different factors will produce different results when using the watercolor salt technique. Some of these factors include using different sizes of salt and different amounts of moisture on the paper.

I have a post explaining the watercolor salt technique in depth, including examples if you want to learn more.

Here’s how to use the salt technique for texture step by step:

Creating texture with salt

Scratching Technique

Scraping and scratching watercolor techniques are two ways to create highlights, sharper edges and 

There are two ways you can use this technique:

  1.  Scraping the paint while it’s still wet. This allows you to create interesting shapes. For this, you can use a card to scrape the wet paint.
  2. Scratching the paper after it has dried to add a few highlights, water reflections…etc

The image below shows how to scratch the paper after it has dried:

Wax resist

Wax resist is a lot of fun to use! You can purchase a wax resist in the form of a stick or crayon and then use it in your paintings. 

When you apply the wax to your watercolor paper, it repels the water and creates a beautiful-looking texture. It’s very handy when painting water reflections and in some cases, it can be an alternative to masking fluid!

To use wax resist in your watercolor painting, start by applying it where you’d like to create texture. Once you’ve applied it, you can paint over it. 

Unlike masking fluid, once you’ve applied wax resist you will not be able to remove it. So make sure you’ve planned your painting well.

Another alternative to wax resist is oil pastel which produces the same results!

Paper Towel technique

There are two ways to create texture using a paper towel. The first way is by lifting wet paint off the paper and the second way is by scrunching the paper towel and using it to apply paint onto the paper. 

Lifting paint using a paper towel is an excellent way to add clouds. You can use a paper towel to paint patches of foliage, flower bushes, and sand…etc

Lifting technique using a paper towel
Painting with a paper towel


Although scumbling is mostly thought of as an oil painting technique, you can still use it to create texture in watercolor painting. Scumbling in watercolor is a technique where you paint random, uneven, irregular brushstrokes close together to create an impression of texture. 

If you wish to learn more, I have written a detailed article on the watercolor scumbling technique

Adding texture with scumbling technique

Rough paper

Out of all three paper textures, rough paper works best for creating rough textures. Many artists use rough paper when painting landscapes for additional texture. For example, when painting crashing waves or scenes with heavy foliage. The image below shows a comparison between rough paper and cold-pressed paper using the dry brush technique. You can see how the rough paper has way more texture:

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