October 10, 2019

Painting Textures in Oil and Water Color

How to Use Tools for Painting Textures in Oil and Water Color

In the past few year, art supply stores have expanded their line of tools that help artists make textures in paintings.  But you don’t have to buy fancy texture tools! Household materials can help you create awesome textures in oil and water color paintings as well.  Here is a short list of some cool ones you can try.

How to Paint Textures in Oil

Materials: oil paint, linseed oil, various texture tools


Example of dry brush technique

Drybrush Texture

There are many ways to create texture in oil paint. One is drybrush.  Simply paint an area, let it dry,  Then take thick paint (not thinned out with linseed oil or thinner) and drag it across the page over what you painted. Use an older rough brush if you have one. The trick is you don’t want to top layer to totally cover the bottom- just add an irregular surface. This creates a scratchy effect.


Example of impasto technique. The paint is raised up.

Impasto Texture

For some textures it is important for the paint to be think. You may create an impasto effect. This is where the paint is applied thickly and raised above the surface. Often using multiple layers, you can build up the thickness of the paint. try layering different colors.


Example of scraping tools for texture

Other texture techniques are more subtractive.  You may use these tools- or anything you have at home, to scrape the clay- meaning you take paint away.  For this one, paint a layer of color and let it dry. Then paint another layer of a different color on top- the top paint layer should be thick. Quickly- before it dries, scrape in a tool to create a texture.  This may be something you have around your home, or purchased tools made specifically for this purpose. (see image)


tools for making texture in paint

How to paint textures in Water Color

Materials- Good quality water color paper, cellophane, water color paint, salt and water

Note: Good quality water color paper is important to painting techniques turning out well.  With better quality paper, the paint will sit on top of the paper- giving you time to manipulate it. Cheaper paper absorbs the paint immediately which stops you from creating the texture.


example of cellophane texture in water color paint

Cellophane Texture

Both water color texture techniques use household materials. Start by cutting a large piece of cellophane, or cling wrap (the type you would put on food in the fridge). Put it to the side. Then mix a water solution of water color paint- preferably a dark color.  Load up the water color paper with a layer so that the color is raised above the surface, as if you were dripping it. If it’s not wet enough this technique won’t work. Then take the cellophane and place it over the wet paint, crinkling it as you go. Play with the direction of the wrinkles. Leave it there until it is dry- usually a few hours. When you take the cellophane off you will see a wonderful surface- which would take hours to paint.


Example of salt texture in water color paint

Salt Texture

The second technique requires salt. Again, paint a watery, dark area on your paper. Then pour salt on it- being careful as to where you place it. Make some areas heavy and some light. Let it dry. Wipe off the salt (you can use it again!) You will see that the salty absorbs the paint and creates a star constellation effect. It is quick and effective.

Want more?

I have another post on Making Textures focusing on gesso underlay.

James Gurney has a wonderful blog about painting with lots of tutorials. His book Color and Light is also quite informative.

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  1. Thank you for mentioning how you can achieve the best results by using quality paper when painting with watercolors. My brother would like to paint a picture for his wife’s birthday next month but worries that watercolor painting might be difficult since he doesn’t have any experience. He should find someone that can help him improve his skills.

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