Single color wet-on-wet watercolor painting is a process art technique used and taught in Waldorf education in schools and homes all over the world. It is a wonderful way for young children to learn about and experience color.
In Waldorf education, the primary colors are the only ones used; red, yellow, and blue. The children work with each single color by itself for quite a while before adding in a second color.
Adding in a second color becomes a magical experience for the child after working with single colors. For more information see Two Color Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting and Three color Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting.
The young child will spend a long time painting one, and then two colors before adding in the third. When the third color is added in too soon, the painting will often become completely brown or gray. This does not serve the child’s learning. This is why it is very important to begin with single colors.
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Single Color Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting
Single Color Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting: Materials
In the Waldorf tradition, good quality art materials are always used. It is believed that they appeal to and are better for the sensory nature of the child.
- 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.
Single Color Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting: Preparation
- fill your sink, tub or tray with enough water to soak the amount of paper that you are using. I usually fill it about an inch deep. (Green tip: water your plants with this water when you are finished.)
- Soak for 10-15 minutes.
You will need to mix paint the first time you use each single color, but will not need to mix it again for a very long time after that.
- Place 1 tsp to 1 tbsp of paint into your 8 oz canning jar. (Start small so you can add more if needed)
- Add 3/4 – 1 cup of water
- Mix well with a chopstick
- Use a small piece of watercolor paper to test the vibrance of your mix. If it is too pale add more color and mix it in.
- Pour a very small amount into your 2 – 6 oz jar for painting.
- Place lid on remaining paint and place it in the refrigerator for next time. These paints will store indefinitely.
Prepare to Paint
- Put on Apron.
- Place 2 – 6 oz jar of paint and 8 – 16 oz jar of water near the work surface.
- Place paintbrush on rag or towel.
- Place the watercolor paper on a board or waterproof surface. (We used our DIY Outdoor Art Table and Mud Kitchen.) There’s 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.
Single Color Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting: Tell a Color Story
Color stories are often told before a child works with a particular color, and paintbrushes are often named. In our house we call our brush Tippy to subtly teach our daughter not to leave her brush in the jar or it will tip over. In our house, Tippy likes to rest on her bed–the rag or towel.
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.
Single Color Wet-on-Wet Watercolor Painting: Invite Child to Paint
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 what to do.
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 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
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Nell has over 20 years of experience working with children and is the founder of Rhythms of Play. She believes in the wonder of childhood, the power of the imagination, learning through play, and getting outside in all seasons! Learn more…