Art Journal Watercolor Background Techniques: 5 Easy Ideas

So many artists are in love with watercolors! Well, it’s no wonder. They are perfect!

Why? Because watercolors are dreamy, light and airy. At least that’s how I see them. I use them a lot and experiment with them.

They are also great for creating art journal backgrounds. You can then write over them, with pens or markers, you can draw, doodle, whatever you want. Also, they won’t clog your pens like acrylics might do.

Do you need to be an expert on watercolors to use them?

ABSOLUTELY NOT.

USING WATERCOLORS DOESN’T HAVE TO BE HARD

I wasted a lot of time avoiding using watercolors in the beginning, because they were intimidating.

Have you seen how well some people use watercolor and wanted to cry? Ooooh, those people make such art that you want to tear every page you ever created, shred them to pieces, and make a bonfire out of them.

Then, you wanna take the ashes and burn it once more. And more. Until there’s nothing. That’s how comparing to someone else’s art feels.

But, don’t light any fires yet, please. Just read on and see how you can use watercolors in simple ways and still get beautiful results. The key is to experiment and enjoy.

So, today, I want to share a few simple and easy watercolor background techniques for your art journal.

SUPPLIES I USED FOR THESE WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND TECHNIQUES

Some of the supplies are from the store but a few of them are just something you can find in your own home.

  • An art journal with watercolor paper (you can try any thicker paper you’ve got, but once you try watercolor paper, you won’t go back.) If you don’t have a journal, pick a sheet of a separate paper, just to experiment for now.
  • Watercolors
  • A round paintbrush. I use a larger size for this purpose because you have a bigger surface to cover when doing a background.
  • Paper towel
  • Kitchen sponge
  • A stencil

ART JOURNAL WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND TECHNIQUES

WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND TECHNIQUE #1: DRIPPING

For this technique, you’re gonna need a lot of water. Well, I don’t mean like a full glass so you can drown your journal. Nooo. Just a bit more than you would usually use. (That’s why this works best on watercolor paper because this paper doesn’t absorb water like plain paper.)

First, put some water on top of your page. Then, let it drop down the paper freely. You can put a paper towel at the bottom to pick up the excess water.

Next, pick some watercolor with your brush and go over the top of the page again. Do you see how the color follows the water down? Watercolor will not go where it’s dry, so you have control where the drops will continue.

WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND TECHNIQUE WITH DRIPPING

If I want the dropping line to be longer, I use my brush and just pull it down with more water.

Also, you can mix colors and create a gradient.

Once you’re satisfied with how it looks, you can leave it to dry or take a paper towel and take off the excess by dabbing gently. As a result, you create a more washed-out look.

WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND TECHNIQUE #2: DRIPPING ON GESSO TEXTURE

Is it any different from the previous technique? Not really, but it creates a different look.

How? Well, with gesso, you can create a textured background. Just put some on the paper, move it around with your brush, or a toothpick, whatever will make a mark on the wet gesso.

So, when you drip watercolor on this kind of background, it flows differently. The water goes down faster because the gesso makes the surface smoother.

WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND TECHNIQUE WITH GESSO AND DRIPPING

And yet, some of this gesso texture keeps the water from going further. The result is a fabulous background!

You can also move your page around so that the water can flow up and down. It’s such a fun play.

WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND TECHNIQUE #3: USE A STENCIL

I used to play with stencil and acrylics only, thinking watercolors would only bleed through a stencil. Well, this Jon Snow knew nothing!

This is because the combination of watercolor and stencil makes a great effect. It’s all smudgy and uneven, and that’s what makes it interesting. This is a great way of letting go of the perfect and embracing the beauty in a mess.

ART JOURNAL BACKGROUND TECHNIQUE WITH STENCIL

So, this is a simple technique of creating a background with watercolors. Just put a stencil on the paper and paint with watercolor. Also, don’t be stingy on water and paint here. The more water, the more mess! Paint loosely and enjoy the process.

After this is dry, I love to put gesso over it to get a washed-out look. And if the watercolor underneath smudges a bit, it’s a cherry on the top!

WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND TECHNIQUE WITH STENCIL AND GESSO

WATERCOLOR TECHNIQUE #4: DABBING WATERCOLOR WITH A SPONGE

I’ve tried this one quite recently. For this technique, I use a small piece of a kitchen sponge.

First, I make a blob of watercolor on a plate/palette.

ART JOURNAL BACKGROUND TECHNIQUE WITH SPONGE

Next, you take the sponge and dip it into the water. After that, dab the sponge onto the paper. Then, create another blob of different color and dab while both colors are still wet.

If you feel it’s too dark, just wipe off the excess water and paint with a paper towel. Then the color will be lighter.

To make it more interesting, I also cut a moon-shape from a sponge.

I dipped it into the watercolor and stamped on the paper. I loved the effect! Look:

CREATING WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND WITH SPONGE

WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND TECHNIQUE #5: MAKE THE PAGES KISS AND DIVORCE (spoiler: this can get messy)

And make more mess! This is a simple one, it’s done in a minute. But the result is stunning.

First, open your journal with a blank spread. Paint one page with watercolor, either one color or more. Cover the whole page or just some parts. Just experiment!

Then, while the paint is still very wet, close your journal so that the blank page presses the painted one. Keep it like this just a few seconds and then divorce them!

Repeat if you want to have layers of color.

ART JOURNAL SPREAD WITH WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND

Wow! I get surprised every time at how this looks. And with every new spread, you get a different result.

So, if you’re clueless and have no ideas where to start, just go with this one.

DO YOU LIKE THESE WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND TECHNIQUES?

I know you do. That’s why you shouldn’t think watercolors are just for artists. You know, the artists that the world recognizes as such, with titles and studios and all that jazz.

You’ve seen through these short tips that you can create interesting watercolor backgrounds in your art journal in a matter of minutes.

That’s why I wanted to share these simple tips, so you can see how easy this can be.

Art journaling is all about the process. So, you should enjoy the process and not be stressed over the result.

Try them and let me know how it went in the comments!

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If you want to try these watercolor background techniques later, save them to your favorite Pinterest board!

watercolor background ideas for beginners
WATERCOLOR BACKGROUND IN AN ART JOURNAL

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