TUTORIAL: “Knowing How Much Water to Use” with Angela Fehr

Angela Fehr Watercolor Knowing How Much Water To Use

When I first started painting, I used the “paint & blot” technique to keep my paintings under control. Second guessing nearly every stroke, I would dab a bit of paint on the paper, then almost immediately blot it off with a wad of paper towel. I think I removed more paint than I ever put on the paper!

A big factor in this was a lack of confidence; if a color went on a little too dark, or a brush stroke was a little larger than necessary, I had no assurance that I’d be able to work with that unplanned aspect. Another factor was that I just didn’t know what that brush stroke was going to do until it hit the paper.

The good news for every new painter is that this problem is easily solved. The more you paint, the easier it becomes to anticipate what is going to happen at the different stages of the painting, with different amounts of paint and water. Experience is a great teacher! One day, I realized that the paper towel that never left my hand was no longer being used nearly as often, and that was an exciting sign of progress, confidence and growth.

As an instructor, I’ve learned a few descriptions of the different aspects of water load that I enjoy sharing with students to help the learning process along. When you are aware of the difference between a juicy brush, a thirsty brush and a neutral brush, you can be more intentional about how you use your brush to maintain balance in your painting and create different effects as you paint.

In my third World Watercolor Month lesson, (for the July 20th prompt of Wet & Dry) I’m getting back to basics, sharing insights into managing the water load on your brush and paper to create different effects. (Confession: I’m not a smooth wash master. I love texture, bleeds and blooms, so while I talk about creating an even wash, you’re not going to see it happen in this video!)

I’d love to hear from you! Are there terms that helped demystify water load for you in your painting journey? Share them in the comments below.

Don’t forget that as a World Watercolor Month Artist Ambassador, I’m sharing more lessons and giveaways at watercolorsummerchallenge.com and donating 10% of sales of Sun, Snow & Flowers, a 3 painting online watercolor class, to the Dreaming Zebra Foundation. Thank you for supporting World Watercolor Month so generously!

Angela Fehr is an internationally known watercolour artist and instructor living in in northern British Columbia, Canada. Teaching over 5,000 students in her online school, Fehr emphasizes fluid and intuitive painting, teaching technique clearly and encouraging students to explore their own unique style as they develop watercolour skills.

Recommended8 recommendationsPublished in Tutorials, World Watercolor Month
18 Comments
  1. Pam 4 weeks ago

    Thanks Angela I am a novice still with the paper towel at the ready.

    • Author
      Angela Fehr 4 weeks ago

      Paper towel can be such a good friend! It will get easier, I promise!

  2. Sheila 4 weeks ago

    Thank you Angela. I am also new to watercolor, started off clutching my paper towel, now…not so much. I am glad to see that I am not alone. LOL I think that my my greatest obstacle is FEAR. Fear of what, I am not sure, I will imagine that it is failure to create what I am trying to achieve. I tell myself that it is JUST a piece of paper and some paint, and to just do it, but…I often freeze. I love your advice, JUST KEEP PAINTING. I will add that to my inner cheerleader repertoire. 🙂

    • Author
      Angela Fehr 4 weeks ago

      Fear doesn’t always listen to reason! I like to tell myself before every painting “It’s just a sketch” and then if it turns out it’s like a bonus!

      • Sheila 4 weeks ago

        Yes ma’am! 🙂

  3. Sharon Nolfi 4 weeks ago

    Great lesson, Angela. Thanks for sharing it.

  4. Sandra Strait 4 weeks ago

    Thank you, Angela! Very clear and concise explanation of controlling water with your brush. I have to admit that I still struggle with this.

    • Author
      Angela Fehr 4 weeks ago

      The good news is that it is a learned skill – experience and time will help it feel more natural!

  5. June Hadaway 4 weeks ago

    Thank you for sharing Angela. This will be helpful in my paintings for sure.

  6. Les Grindey 4 weeks ago

    Very helpful great write up I am enjoying your site Angela pep talks really helpful to me

    • Author
      Angela Fehr 4 weeks ago

      Thank you! I always hope that someone else will be encouraged by the things I have learned to keep me motivated and hopeful!

      • Les Grindey 4 weeks ago

        Hi Angela the encouragement was just at the right time for me . Enjoying my video jumpstart 4 weeks It’s a great way to learn .

  7. Les Grindey 3 weeks ago

    video wet dry great . in studio got started .Juicy ,Thirsty ,Neutral what a great help to have the 3 words in my head . tried a painting of a warp just went with it see how it turned out thanks les

    • Author
      Angela Fehr 3 weeks ago

      It helps to have the words, doesn’t it! I was so excited when I realized that I could describe brush water load using these terms and make it easier for my students. 🙂

      • Les Grindey 3 weeks ago

        It will always be with me and your videos very enjoyable way to learn

  8. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 3 weeks ago

    Great tutorial, Angela.

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