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How to add visual texture to watercolor and acrylic washes.

Adding a bit of visual texture to your paintings will make them stand out.  You can also use visual texture as a starting point to layer more colors or to make an abstract background.

You might also like: Mounting a watercolor painting on a cradled panel board, a step by step tutorial

Here are my favorite ways to add texture to a watercolor or acrylic wash.

For all the techniques shown here, you will need to first paint a wash of watercolor or acrylic on your surface (paper, canvas, yupo or stone paper, claybord…)

your wash should still be wet to add visual textureIdeally your wash should still be wet when you start adding texture, but not too wet, just at the point before the edges start drying.

paint a watercolor wet wash

1 Salt visual texture

salt visual texture

For salt texture, you can use coarse or fine salt, but coarse salt will give you a more obvious texture. When your wash is drying, the salt will absorb some of the water, moving the water and the paint around the grain of salt. The resulting texture will look like this:

fine and coarse salt on watercolor wet wash

You can still see the location of the grains of salt. This technique works great but I am not sure about the effect on the paper or canvas archival properties, so you might also want to experiment with an alternative which is rice.

2-Rice visual texture

Rice works the same as salt, but you get a texture that is more subtle.

rice visual texture


Add a few grains of rice while your paint wash is still wet.adding texture to watercolor wash with rice

You get a texture a bit similar to salt, but a bit softer.



3-Alcohol visual texture

Alcohol is one of my favourite way to add visual texture to a wet wash of watercolor or acrylic. Just use a dropper or put your thumb to partially close the opening of a bottle of rubbing alcohol.

alcohol visual texture on watercolor

Alcohol textures.alcohol on wet acrylic ink wash


4- Alcohol based ink visual texture

Alcohol based inks will give you the same textures as alcohol while adding a bit of color at the same.

Alcohol based inks textures

Alcohol based inks textures

5-Water visual texture

I you like alcohol based inks textures but are looking for something a bit more subtle, you can try just adding drops of plain water to a wet wash. The water will make the paint move away and produce what is called a “bloom”, this works well on paper. It will also work on canvas but might be too subtle to really notice.

drops of water on wet wash

You can use a dropper to add water to your wet wash

watercolor blooms

It will cause the formation of blooms on your paper.

6-Plastic wrap texture

Plastic wrap is another of my favourite ways to add visual texture, because you get a more geometrical look. Just apply some plastic wrap on top of a wash:

plastic wrap on wet wash

Make it fold so in some of the places it touches the wash and in some other places it does not.

geometrical textures on paper

Once dry, you will get nice geometrical textures on your paper.


What are your favourite ways to add visual texture to your paintings?



How to add visual texture to watercolor and acrylic washes.
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