Waldor wet-on-wet watercolor painting is a wonderful process art technique that can help children learn about and experience color.
Single color wet-on-wet watercolor painting is a process art technique that is used and taught in Waldorf schools, and, by artists all across the globe. Scroll down to learn what wet-on-wet watercolor painting is, and, how to paint with watercolors using the Waldorf wet-on-wet watercolor technique.
What is Wet-on-Wet Watercolor painting?
As mentioned above, wet-on-wet watercolor is a process art method. It is also the primary watercolor painting technique taught to Kindergarteners and the lower grades in Steiner schools and Waldorf homeschools all over the world.
Wet-on-wet watercolor requires soaking heavyweight watercolor paper in water before painting it with watercolors. In Waldorf education, only the primary colors are used to create wet-on-wet watercolor paintings; red, yellow, and blue.
This means that as children learn to paint with watercolors, they work individually with each color, before adding a second color. For this reason, Waldorf wet-on-wet watercolor painting is an excellent way for young children to experience and learn about color.
When watercolor painting and colors are introduced, adding a second color becomes a magical experience for the child. For more information, see Two-Color Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting and Three-color Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting.
If the third color is added too soon, children’s watercolor paintings will often become completely brown or gray. This does not serve the child’s learning. This is why it is important to begin learning to paint with each primary watercolor all by itself.
Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting Supplies
In Waldorf education, only art supplies of the highest quality are used. Click on the link to learn the reasons that this is true.
- 140 Weight 11 X 15 watercolor paper
- a sink, tub, or tray large enough to soak the paper.
- A flat waterproof surface or paint board to work on.
- 1 to 1 1/2 flat wash watercolor brush.
- Red, Yellow, or Blue Watercolor Paint (Stockmar Paints are recommended, but high-quality artist tubes work just as well. Use Carmine Red, Lemon Yellow, and Ultramarine Blue.)
- 16 oz jar for water (canning jars and recycled glass jars with a wide mouth work well.)
- 8 oz canning jar for mixing and storing paints.
- Small 2 – 6 oz jar for paint (recycled baby food jars work great – we’re reusing glass jars that were for homemade baby food. You can also use 4 oz canning jars or this lovely set of Waldorf paint jars. You will only need one for this art project. Save the rest for two and three-color wet-on-wet watercolor.)
- Two natural sponges – or one cut in half. (One clean to wipe paper of excess water, and one to clean board or surface once finished.) We use the natural sponges sold at Trader Joes–love them!
- A rag or small towel
- Apron or painting smock.
How to Paint Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Paintings
Step 1 – Soak the Watercolor Paper
Fill a sink, tub or tray, or large bin with water. Place the watercolor paper into the water and allow it to soak for about 10-20 minutes. The idea is to get the paper nice and wet to help the paint flow.
Green Tip: Water your plants with the leftover water when you are finished!
Step 2 – Mix Up Watercolor Paint
Stockmar watercolor paints are concentrated, so they need to be mixed before they are used. The good news is that they only need to be mixed every so often. Mix up a bit of each color of watercolor paint, and put it in the refrigerator to store it. Watercolor paints can be stored for up to a year and thus can continue to be used until it’s time to mix up a new batch or a new color.
How to Mix Watercolor Paints:
- Place 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of paint into an 8 oz canning jar. Start small, and add more if needed.
- Add 1/2 – 3/4 cup of water.
- Mix well with a chopstick.
- Use a small piece of watercolor paper to test the vibrancy of your mix. If the solution is a bit pale, mix in more concentrated watercolor paint.
- Pour a small amount into a 2 – 6 oz jar.
- Place a lid on the remaining paint and place it in the refrigerator to store.
STep 3 – Prepare to Paint
- Invite children to put on an apron or art smock.
- Place 2 – 6 oz jar of paint and 8 – 16 oz jar of water near the work surface.
- Place the watercolor paper on a board or waterproof surface. (We used our DIY Outdoor Art Table and Mud Kitchen.)
- There is a rough side and a smooth side to each piece of watercolor paper. Make sure you place it rough side up.
- Use a clean sponge to wipe off excess water and smooth out any air bubbles.
- Lay the paintbrush down on a rag or towel next to the wet watercolor paper.
Step 4 – Tell a Color Story
In Waldorf education, a color story is often told before a child works with a particular color, and paintbrushes are often named.
In our homeschool, we call our brush Tippy to subtly remind our daughter not to leave her paintbrush in the jar or it will tip over. In our house, Tippy likes to rest on her bed–the rag or towel.
How to tell a color story
The story and colors used often have a seasonal element to them–something that the child may be experiencing in the outside world. The story I told my daughter before she did the painting below went something like this.
One morning Tippy woke up and noticed the red appearing on the Japanese Maple outside her front door. She said, “Hello Red! Do you want to play with me today?” As she started to run out the door her mother told her, “Don’t forget to wash your feet before you play Tippy.” So she dipped her feet in her bathtub (paintbrush in the water jar) and sung happily, “Red, Red, I get to play with Red today. Red, Red, I get to play with Red.” Then she wiped her feet off (brush paintbrush on rag or towel) and ran outside to greet Red (dip brush in red paint). “Hello Red! Do you want to dance and play? So they danced and they played (painting red on paper) and they danced and they played.
You get the idea. Please don’t feel like you have to tell the story the way I did. There are as many ways to tell a color story as there are colors in the world. Make it something your child can relate to.
Step 5 – Invite Children to Paint with Watercolors
Children learn best by imitating others. If this is the first time your child has ever done wet-on-wet watercolor painting make sure you demonstrate the action first so the child knows how to paint with watercolors.
This demonstration is often done while telling an extended color story while using proper watercolor painting techniques such as long uni-directional brush strokes.
Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting for children
Wet-on-wet watercolor is a fun and easy way to do process art with young children. All you need is a few simple supplies that can be used over and over again and a willing participant. Your beautiful creations can be made into cards like these and crafts like these once dry.
More Information About Waldorf Painting Techniques
- Painting and Drawing in Waldorf Schools: Classes 1-8
- Painting in Waldorf Education
- Wet on Wet: The Waldorf School Method of Painting and Color
- Painting With Children