If you want to create texture in watercolour paintings, you can use granulating colours and granulation medium. You can also use watercolour ground and these days, even pearlescent watercolour ground. The development of painting mediums has given artists so many choices.

Mixed media artists have always had the option of piling thick paint onto the support and adding collage. Some artists will add things like sand or textiles to create the look they want. But for watercolour artists, the options are more limited.

Collage is increasingly being used in watercolour work. But methods that rely on creating more three-dimensional work, like laying on thick paint to create texture, are not feasible.

“Painting does what we cannot do – it brings a three-dimensional world into a two-dimensional plane.”

Chuck Jones

When I teach my Experimental Watercolour workshop I divide the course into three sections, one of which is about using tools to make interesting marks with watercolour. Using patterns and marks in watercolour can give the impression of three dimensions. It can also provide rhythm and contrast within a painting, both of which create visual interest for the viewer.

This week I’ve been painting some small postcard pieces to complete the Running With Brushes collection. Our goal of creating 1000 paintings for charity is so close. This project has given me lots of experimentation opportunities. I collect all sorts of things that I think will make unusual marks in paint. There’s a growing box of these mark-making treasures in my studio.

Texture in watercolour with zero-cost tools

As you’ll see, a lot of them are items that would have gone into our clean recycling. You can develop a repertoire of personal marks with tools that can be created at almost no cost.

Shape stamp for watercolour

Stamp shapes

Use the polystyrene shapes from packaging to stamp shapes. This was done with the original packaging pieces but you can cut them and even join these with tape to make different texturing tools.

Pattern stencil for watercolour

Pattern Stencil

The top of a spiral bound sketchbook sheet can be used as a stencil for regular patterns – in this case, square. Variations would be those with circular holes, or tearing the paper off so that you only get part of the shape showing on the page.

Grid pattern watercolour marks

Grid shape

This one is a bit different. A small box of chocolate came with a reasonably study cardboard inner layer separator. By applying paint to the ridges and then pressing it onto the paper, I created a fairly large grid structure in my painting.

What can you find in your clean recycling to mark-making tools for your watercolours?

If you can’t find any commercially produced tools that give you the textures you want, make your own. Use cardboard and a hole punch, carve some polystyrene or use a plastic vegetable tray base to cut stencils. If you want even more variety of marks in your paintings, you might add some texturing media as well. The combination of mediums and your own tools will give you hours of experimenting and ultimately, your unique mark-making language.