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How to fix mistakes in watercolor

How does an artist fix his or her mistakes in watercolor? Well, I got good news and bad news.

First, the bad news. You sort of don’t.

Well, not entirely. But this isn’t a medium like digital art where you can simply fix it digitally. It’s a bit more involved than that.

Also, you can use watercolor ground to fix mistakes, but I don’t necessarily recommend that either. When you paint over watercolor ground, you still see it. Watercolor is transparent.

Unless, you hack it by putting a little bit of similarly colored gouache directly over the watercolor ground, then painting with watercolor on top of the gouache. That’s a hack. But it works. And it’s also a lot of work and easy to screw up.

So that’s the bad news. Then what’s the good news?

Well, there are a few things you can do still. Keep reading.

Water down the mistakes

My favorite thing to do is water down the mistakes. Look closely. You’ll see I painted over the lines. But, it’s OK. It actually gives the painting character.

example of how to fix mistakes in watercolor
Look closely at the white. Most watercolor artists don’t mind as it gives the painting character

I’ll explain what I did.

Make sure you got all the paint off your brush. Then, have a piece of paper towel handy. This is where you don’t want to use the bargain brand paper towel. I found that there are paper towels that are downright shitty. Buy the good stuff.

Tear off a strip of paper towel and have it handy. Now with only water on your brush, water down the mistake while quickly wiping the water with the paper towel.

Do this enough that the mistake becomes to watered down that it’s no longer a problem. I’ve found two times is enough.

Note that if you also do the next step, you still may want to do this step.

Paint over them

As I just mentioned, you probably should water down the mistake before painting over it. That would make it a lot less noticeable.

Now that it’s nice and watered down, simply paint over it. You may have to layer a few times to cover it. Also note that the stronger the color (generally darker, but not always), the more work it takes to paint over the mistake.

I’ve done this so many times that you won’t even notice when I’ve done it. You get good at this technique simply by doing.

I strongly advise you to paint every chance you get. It’s experience anyways that makes you improve.

You’ll have your share of mistakes. And that’s OK. They happen.

Just get good at cleaning them up well enough that they’re not that big of a deal. Don’t be a perfectionist either. Perfectionism doesn’t have much place in watercolor. Watercolor is a different beast entirely. You pretty much let the water do its thing.

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