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How to paint with watercolors on canvas and add zentangles: Forest Quilt

Watercolor and mixed media on canvas

Forest Quilt,
Watercolor and mixed media on canvas
12 x 39 inches



You can paint with watercolors on canvas, it works very well for wet in wet techniques for example. The challenge with painting with watercolors on canvas is that it is difficult to layer watercolors as the previous layers will lift too easily, the advantage is that you can carve lights by lifting up colors.

Here is how to paint with watercolors on canvas and add zentangles.

drawing with pencils on canvas

Start with a rough outline of your drawing with pencil on canvas


light wash for background

 A good way to start is to paint a light wash on the canvas, here I mixed a light lime green.

alcohol on watercolor

As your wash is still wet, you can sprinkle some alcohol to add textures

fixing watercolor with gel medium

As this background would lift very easily, you can fix it by painting plain acrylic medium on top. It will move a bit the paint but once dry will be permanent.


painting the foliage wet in wet

You can then paint another layer on top, here I am painting the foliage letting the colors mix wet into wet.


wet in wet painting technique

I also am painting the trunks wet in wet


zentangling on the trees

You can then start zentangling on top of your painting. Here, I did choose designs that had a signification related to trees.


Adding a wash of green.

At this point in the painting, it is a good idea to stop for a while and assess the results. For example here I find the trees color to be too pink and blue, so I am adding a wash of green so the color scheme works better for me.


zentangling foliage

I did add zentangle tothe lower part of the painting with foliage related designs


Watercolor and mixed media on canvas

Forest Quilt,
Watercolor and mixed media on canvas
12 x 39 inches




Original is sold but you can buy prints at Fine Art America


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{ 18 comments… add one }

  • Betty Wilson September 22, 2015, 6:39 am

    I just love this unconventional but simple idea. May I share it with my watercolor students? I love it!!!

    • Sandrine Pelissier September 22, 2015, 6:41 am

      Thanks Betty :), yes you are more than welcome to share it with your students, just be sure that you cite the source.

  • Penny Heflin March 4, 2014, 8:53 am

    Love your work because you are not afraid to try different things, do you use regular store bought alcohol that you find anywhere? and how do I learn Zentangle? thanks for sharing your beautiful works of art.
    Penny Heflin

  • Caroline Wickham October 14, 2013, 6:15 pm

    Sandrine, I am a textile artist who went to art school then design school, in Ontario. Your work, your sharing inspires me to keep on, to not give up, to experiment until satisfied! Thank you!

  • Tinkerbell September 26, 2013, 2:06 am

    I am a huge fan! Im still trying to perfect my watercolor work. And yes I have tried using it on Canvas but the challenge of the water resistant surface was quite a hurdle. I will try the wet on wet technique on a small one and see how it goes!

    I love this piece…:)

  • Janice Schafir September 25, 2013, 6:59 pm

    You could put some absorbable ground on the canvas before putting down the watercolors!

    • Sandrine Pelissier September 25, 2013, 8:36 pm

      Yes, I tried it once but I think I prefer the more water resistant surface of the canvas, it reminds me a bit of painting on yupo paper.

  • Janice Schafir September 25, 2013, 6:57 pm

    I love the creativity in your work, thank you!

  • Diane O September 25, 2013, 8:36 am

    Lovely effects! What did you use for the Zentangle designs? Ink? Marker?

    • Sandrine Pelissier September 25, 2013, 10:07 am

      Thanks Diane, I tried lots of different markers and brands and what I did find works the best was Copic markers and Sharpies ultra fine points.

      • Diane O September 25, 2013, 10:20 am

        Thank you. I’ve used Sharpies with my acrylics and they worked pretty well. Obviously, they work well with watercolors, too :)

  • Nicole September 24, 2013, 1:38 pm


  • Christiane Kingsley September 24, 2013, 6:11 am

    Beautiful, Sandrine!
    May I ask what kind of canvas you are using for the watercolour? I did not realize that you could apply watercolour on top of gel medium for acrylics! Fascinating.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Sandrine Pelissier September 24, 2013, 8:32 am

      Thanks Christiane :) I used a regular canvas, the same kind you would use with acrylics and oils.The challenge with painting with watercolors on canvas is that you can’t layer the colors, they will lift of the surface. It is working well for wet in wet techniques.

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