DIY- Watercolor On Canvas

You can't deny the appeal of canvas- it's thick, textured, and just gives off that "hey, I'm real art"-vibe. However, most of time, watercolor painting is done on watercolor paper. There are some good reasons for this- it absorbs the color better, it's smoother and easier to paint on, and as an extra perk, it's super-easy to store or frame. But I'm a rebel at heart- so I started experimenting with watercolor on canvas.

I first shared this tutorial over on my friend Rachel's blog, Lines Across, a few weeks back. She is so good with unique, fun + inspiring DIY projects, so when she asked me to contribute a few of my own, I was thrilled. As I shared with her, canvas is denser and has more indentations (than paper) so the unexpectedly great part is that it creates a more textured and dimensional look- it's so cool! Another perk is that it's much more durable- you can wipe, blot, scrape, scratch- and the canvas remains intact! If you ever painted on paper, you know that's definitely one of the downsides- the slightest wipe, and it starts peeling. I love using canvas to create really layered watercolor paintings, for this exact reason. Sound like fun?? Good, it is! So let's get started...

What you'll need:

  • 1-4 paintbrushes (I like to use a variety of shapes to create different brushstrokes, but feel free to use as many as you like)
  • A watercolor paint set (Prices range dramatically but if you're just starting, you can get some good, inexpensive sets from craft stores. You'll probably want to stick with the dry pans if you're just starting, as they're easier to clean up and store than tubes.
  • A cup of water (You'll want to rinse your brush in between colors, to prevent creating unintended colors... water is also key to creating some fun effects!)
  • Your canvas (Most craft stores like Michael's and Joann's carry a wide variety of shapes and prices... 8x10 is a good size to give you enough canvas to work on, but still be easily transportable.)
  • A couple paper towels (to blot up extra water/ wipe the canvas/ dry the brushes)

Step One: Lay out all of your materials, including putting some butcher paper or newspaper under your canvas. Even watercolor painting can get messy! If you're able, choose an area of your home that gets good lighting. It's so much easier to see the colors and water-effects in a well-lit area.

Step Two: Part of the fun of painting on canvas is the looser, more abstract look it creates... so go with it! Pick a color palette to work with, and start by creating abstract brushstrokes on the canvas. Dots, lines, wide strokes... just have fun with it! Try playing with letting the colors bleed into each other- while one color is still wet, take another color and let that stroke brush against a previous one... the water acts like a magnet, pulling the two colors together and blending them where they meet. The more water you add, the further into each other the colors will mix. Make a brushstroke you don't like? Take your paper towel and gently using the edge, wipe away the area you don't like. It should wipe almost entirely clean-away! (Another great perk of canvas!) If there's still any color residue, add a tiny bit more water to that part of the canvas and wipe again. It should virtually erase it!

Step Three: Keep adding colors and strokes to your liking, until the canvas slowly fills up. If you do NOT want certain colors to mix/touch, allow the first layer to dry completely before adding another. Generally, a fresh layer added to a dry layer will just "sit" on top, rather than blending together. Another great thing about watercolors, is that you can come and go as you please! If you must step away, and your painting dries, just add some more water and it's ready to go again.

Remember, if you paint something you don't love, that's ok! Unlike acrylic, it's not permanent. Just wipe it off with some water, and continue- or better yet, layer on top and keep going! Most importantly, have fun!!

Xx Natasha