By nature, watercolors lend themselves to abstract painting — after all, with the right approach, the colors can be hard to control. With a few simple tools and techniques, you can produce abstract watercolor paintings with intricate details that capture the beauty of the natural world.
We’ll walk you through three easy techniques using common household items. Then, we’ll combine the techniques to create an abstract landscape.
Abstract watercolor techniques
To craft my work, I used three techniques that require the following supplies:
- Watercolor paints
- Watercolor brushes (large and small)
- Plastic wrap
- Table or sea salt
- Watercolor paper (pick your favorite)
The salt and plastic wrap will manipulate the pigment in ways you couldn’t with a brush. They’re great method for creating texture and are especially helpful in abstract landscape paintings.
Wow With Watercolors!
Technique #1: Wet on wet
This is one of the most basic techniques — so basic you might have already done it before! Start by painting water (and only water) onto your paper. Then, dip your brush in the desired pigment and spread it over the water wash. The paint will feather and diffuse. Add more color and different pigments as desired.
Technique #2: Salt on wet wash
To create this look, first paint a wash on your watercolor paper. You want the wash to be wet but not too shiny — let it soak a little into your surface. Then, sprinkle salt onto the pigment. It will begin to collect the paint. The effect will vary depending what kind of salt (table or sea salt) you use and how wet the paper is. Brush the salt off once your paper is dry.
Technique #3: Plastic wrap on wet wash
For this last technique, paint a wash on your watercolor paper. Then, while it’s wet, lay the plastic wrap on top. Be sure to crinkle the plastic wrap and to not lay it flat on the paper — the wrinkles enhance the effect. Remove the plastic wrap once your paper is dry.
After practicing these methods, it’s time to combine them into one abstract watercolor painting. For a landscape, the salt and plastic wrap techniques work well as clouds and grass.
First, I quickly penciled in a few key shapes and an indication of the horizon line. You can make up a landscape in your head or use a reference photo. Just remember your photo won’t look like your artwork!
Afterward, start painting the sky using the wet-on-wet technique. I added a few shades of blue, and then I sprinkled salt on top of the pigment. It adds just enough texture to give you a cloud-like look.
Work from top to bottom and begin painting the ground. Using the wet-on-wet technique, I applied plastic wrap over part of the green pigment (some, but not all) to create the illusion that these are blades of grass.
Wait for everything to dry and remove your tools. You should now have a lovely abstract watercolor painting!