Art & Science: Experiment with Watercolor Resist
Recently my daughter and I painted some alpine tree’s using white glue as the resist medium. It turned out beautifully… but not as I expected. When we painted over the glue with liquid watercolors it did not resist the paint! Instead, it created a gorgeous textured effect.
The textured effect is lovely for some projects, but if you want the resist to stay white when painted over like we did–it’s not ideal. We decided to do an experiment with a few common watercolor resist mediums to find out why.
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Art & Science: Experiment with Watercolor Resist
Experiment with Watercolor Resist: Materials
- White Glue
- White Crayons
- White Oil Pastel or a Colored Oil Pastel set that includes white
- 140 Pound Watercolor Paper
- 3/4″ Flat Wash Watercolor Brush and/or a 1″ Flat Wash Watercolor Brush
- Liquid Watercolors
- Glass Baby Food Jars (We made our own baby food so we turned these into our watercolor dishes. They work really well because you can put the lids on to use the paint again later. You can also use a muffin tin or ice cube tray.)
- Glass or Canning Jar
- Salt (optional)
Experiment with Watercolor Resist: Directions
Choose at least 2 resist mediums to do this experiment with watercolor resist. We used white glue, white crayon, and white oil pastel. There are many others such as painter’s tape or rubber cement that you could also experiment with.
Below are directions to produce the same experiment we did. Feel free to substitute any resist medium you would like to test.
- Draw a picture on one sheet of watercolor paper using white glue. (Allow to dry completely before painting.)
- Draw another picture on another sheet of watercolor paper using a white crayon.
- Draw another picture on another sheet of watercolor paper using white oil pastel.
- Place liquid watercolor paints in baby food jars, water in a glass, and paintbrush on a rag. (We used blue, turquoise-blue, and combined violet and blue for the last color. The water is for dipping into between colors, and the rag is for wiping the brush on before dipping into the next color after dipping it into the water. Check out Wet-on-Wet Watercolor for more information about painting with watercolors.)
- Invite your child(ren) to paint each drawing one by one.
- Sprinkle salt on each painting while it is still wet before it dries for another beautiful effect. (optional)
- Investigate and observe differences in the resist mediums as they paint and after it dries. (See photos below.)
Experiment with Watercolor Resist: Process
We painted three similar painting using white glue, white crayon, and white oil pastel as the resist mediums. Which do you think resisted watercolor paint the best and why?
The final dry paintings are on the right of each photo collage. Each painting was sprinkled with salt while they were still wet to add a little more science into the mix.
White Glue Resist Art with Salt
White Crayon Resist Art with Salt
White Pastel Resist Art with Salt
Experiment with Watercolor Resist: Conclusions
In an earlier project, we used white glue to make snowy alpine trees we wanted them to stay white, but they did not. We learned that you have to paint around white glue (not over it) to keep it white. This is not easy for young children like mine.
In this experiment, we set out to discover what would work better to produce the effect we wanted. We again discovered that white glue does not resist the liquid watercolors to leave the area white. We found that both white crayon and white oil pastel were able to resist the watercolors to leave the area white.
Why did the white crayon and white oil pastel resist the watercolor paint while the white glue did not?
The answer is simple science. Oil and water do not mix. When you paint over the oily wax crayon or oil pastel the paint is repelled and the area stays white. White glue absorbs the paint (even when completely dry) because it contains water. Mystery solved!
What about the salt? How and why did it produce the fun spotted effect that it did? The answer is also simple science. The salt absorbed the water and repelled the pigment. Science is fun!
Next, we wondered about other resist art techniques. Would the glue from a glue gun would resist watercolor paint? Why or why not? What about painter’s tape and rubber cement? Will they resist watercolor paint? Why or why not?
We will be giving them all a try to see what happens. Okay, I’ll admit that I already know the answers, but my preschooler doesn’t. What better way to learn some science than through her love of art? Do you know what she will discover? Sign up for our newsletter below so you don’t miss it!
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