Flowing and dripping watercolors.

As I gradually learn about watercolor, I keep coming across this idea : USE MORE WATER!!
(and use more pigment if you don’t want that your painting seems weak and diluted).

It was already actually one of my “10 tips for nice and fresh watercolors”. 😊

So, I keep working on it and I keep figuring out that I can do even more in this direction!! Yeah, even MORE water!!

The reason why water is so important, for watercolor, is because water make the pigment float, move and react… 😉
Like so, your use of water determines how the paint is going to set on the page, whatever your taste is.

You like smooth regular washes? Create a carpet of water where the pigment will be able to set regularly!
You like crazy watery effects, melting colors and granulation, like me? Make the watercolor run on the page to create fascinating patterns! Don’t create a lake, for a change, but a river for your colors!! 😀

You can even envision to disturb your wash at the right time to play even more with our fascinating medium. 😝




Let me tell you my watery experiences of these past few days. 😊

I am not sure how it happened in my head… The same day, I ended up buying Jean Haines new book “Paint yourself calm” (I already owned one of her previous book, “Atmospheric watercolours”) and I created these two dripping watercolor sketches, during my sketching walk. 😀

The path was full of incredibly tall foxgloves. Jean Haines often paints them and use this sort of dripping style so it was almost natural for me to start painting in a loose way, letting the water and the paint flow on the painting.

This very short video, below, is essentially to show you the impressive foxgloves but you will be able to see, too, my sketch as a work in progress, with drips at the bottom of some washes, along with my dirty box-palette. 😅 😉


Walking back home, I was thinking that I wouldn’t want to admit this really fun technique would only be suitable for flowers and maybe landscapes… You know how I love to sketch EVERYTHING!!
Thus, I decided to try to paint a street of my little town using this dripping technique! 😛 Sometimes, I am a bit audacious!! 😝😁


If you are nor sure what it is, as it’s a bit abstract 😁, there is the church bell tower, with a warm color, at the top, and then the street, with some houses on each side. I think the dripping process is even more apparent, here.

One of the characteristic of Jean Haines technique is that she uses gravity to give a direction to her paintings.
To make the watercolor flow, your sketchbook or watercolor paper has to be at an angle, of course (don’t hold it flat but hold it more vertically).
And then, you tilt your sketch the way you want the paint to flow (tilt towards the left or the right). Slanted composition are really dynamic so that’s a nice idea to make the paint drip diagonally!
Here, I wanted the flow to follow the direction of the road and of the angle of the roofs, to the right of the sketch. I tilted my sketchbook towards the left with this purpose. 😉

Don’t you think it’s sooooo fun?!
I should show you a little demo for that, one of these days. 😝😉


The next day, I kept working with this idea of dripping sketches, in a path ending with pine trees.



Here, I essentially kept my sketchbook vertically to make the color flow following the direction of the path.
The flowing process creates lovely melting colors effets and sometimes backruns (“cauliflower effect”) like on the close-up to the right. 😀

Do you like this approach or does it seems to be too abstract for you?
I admit that I find it soothing not to worry too much about the depiction of the subject, just playing with water and colors. 😉

And I like the results too! ☺️


Would you be interested that I would take a bit more about Jean Haines book(s) and maybe other books?
I like to buy watercolor and urban sketching books to get information but above all inspiration (just browsing them to give me the urge to paint! 😜). So I have quite a few I could talk about. 😉
You tell me! 😊

28 thoughts on “Flowing and dripping watercolors.

  1. I love whatever you talk about. It is all interesting to me. I am going to try making rivers.

  2. This post came at just the right time for me. I am wanting to get back to having fun with watercolor, and let all the colors I love mix on the paper as they will. Your ideas and even more your joyful enthusiasm for all you share with us is a good reminder and model for me. And I love the results you get.

    As for discussing watercolor books, it is fun to see what you take away from a book and where the inspiration leads you.

    • Ann, yes it’s so important to have fun when we create.
      We worry often too much about the outcome, the descriptive part of the sketch and we forget to have fun…

      I am happy that my article just came at the right time to inspire you.
      Thank you so much for you kind comments about my enthusiastic post!!

      I wish you some amazing loose sketches. ☺️

  3. I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations on books. I have quite a collection myself, but it’s good to hear about other good ones!
    I love your rivers of colour! I’m hoping you will do a video using the MORE water with rivers etc, and show us the actual mixing and application of the paint and water. I’m coming to the conclusion that for that to work well, I have to start with colors fresh from the tube, and not ones that have dried in my pallet. It takes too long to rewet the pans to get enough pigment, especially if using lots of water. Do you agree? Do you have any tips to pass on in this regard?

    • Thank you so much, Robin!! ☺️

      I will try to make a video of a demo for this kind of juicy flowing sketch. 😉

      I think that, indeed, our watercolor sketches are nicer when the paint is quite fresh. That’s why I don’t put a lot of paint on my palette, to keep it rather fresh and, then, I spray it with water, before painting.
      During the Portugal workshop, I put a lot of paint in my pans and was putting more when the pan began to look a bit empty, to be sure I would have plenty of paint available but, a few weeks / months later, the paint I have not used quickly is so dry it seems to be only powder / tiny rocks of pigments.
      These days, I worked on emptying completely most of my pans (using the dry bits for various dirty painting experiments, as I don’t like to waste) because the little rocks of pigment tend to make my sketches dirty.

      So, I think picking paint straight out of the tube can be great, at home (Jean Haines seems to do that and, for some exercices, she makes us put some paint from the tube straight to the paper). If not, a fresh semi-dried paint on the palette is always better than has-dried-for-month paint!!
      Plus, do you think of spraying often your paint when painting? It changes everything.
      Last thing, depending on the brand, the paint can rewet really differently. I love Daniel Smith for their very special paints but I think their paint doesn’t rewet really well and, these days, I buy more Sennelier paint, as they are so smooth and creamy (they are made with honey)!

      Hope that helps!

    • Hi Robin, Great to see you here following Anne-Laure. She certainly stimulates me to get back to my paint and brushes and away from this computer but then work work work. Keep painting, let the paint flow…love the idea. Thanks Anne-Laure

  4. I have Jean’s new book on order, can’t wait for it to arrive. I LOVE her drippy watercolors, and yours too… it is a fun way to paint isn’t it? Thought I’d share my drippy watercolor page from yesterday… I cheated I did the outline in pen… then dripped the colors in

    • Yes, that’s really nice!!
      Your sketch is interesting, as it show how we can work just with a top hard edge and letting the colors, the buildings melt below.
      That’s how I proceeded for the town sketch : starting creating the edges of the bell tower and then letting the color flow towards the bottom of the page.

      Your rainbow is so fun!!

      It will be nice to share about Jean Haines book. I hope you will like it! ☺️

  5. Hi Anne-Laure. I have Jean Haines’s book, World of Watercolor and now I’m pretty sure I need her other two books. I LOVE watery, drippy watercolors and your latest pages are so lovely! Thank you for sharing them.

    I’m getting excited about the symposium and I can’t wait to meet you!!.

    • Hi Cathy,

      So you liked “the “World of watercolour” book ? I was not sure what would be the difference with one I already had… 😉

      Thank you for your compliments about my sketches!

      For Manchester, how do you think we could keep in touch?
      Viber? Whatsapp? Do you have a smartphone? ☺️

      • Hi, Anne Laure. I can try to Message you on Facebook, and we could get in touch that way.

        • Hi Cathy,

          Ok ! I don’t let Facebook bother me with the notifications 😉 (they are disabled) but I can try to check it rather often.
          We can talk about that again just a few days before Manchester. 😉

  6. Hi Anne-Laure what can I say ? I really love all your work and your way with colors. You make them so vibrant, juicy and alive, you actually make me want to eat them !
    Thank-you for your generous sharing of your art. I’ve watched a number of times your tutorials and I keep coming back because I love them so much.
    every time I discover a different detail …
    I didn’t knew Jean Haines but I’m already planning on buying one of her books and please do talk to us a bit more about the books you have.
    I will look forward your new posts

    • Thank you so much for your kind comment, Serena!
      I am really happy you like my work so much and even want to eat my pieces lol !!!!!!!

      I try to always play more and more and to be bolder and bolder with my colors.

      I am so happy that my demos can inspire you that way.

      I will try to talk about watercolor books and especially Jean Haines ones but I need a few weeks to read and practice with her last one.
      Plus, as I am going to attend the Urban Sketchers Symposium, in Manchester, (Hiiiiiiii) and will spend some holiday time with my family in August, I am not sure when I will be able to talk about it. But I will.
      Please remind me that I told that in September if I couldn’t work on this article sooner. ☺️

  7. Hi Anne-Laure,
    Your paintings are inspiring and beautiful. I would like to know how you drip paint. I think I need a different water brush or something. I would like to know more about Jean Haines dripping techniques or yours. It’s all so beautiful. Thanks for your generosity in sharing.

    • By the way, I have often wondered about adding water to dry paint. I mean, doesn’t it dilute the intensity after awhile? Especially if you have added water many different times? I’d like to know more about paints and what happens when you add water.
      Thank you

      • Laura, are you talking about adding water to the paint dried in your pans, on your palette?

        As I was saying in one of my answer to your previous question about the small pans, yes I think that, when the paint becomes too dry, it’s more and more difficult to rewet it, and you need to add more water, maybe, so it becomes trickier to get intense juicy colors. 😉

    • Hi Laura,

      Thank you for your kind comments and questions!

      To make the paint drip, you need to use a lot of water so, for this purpose, I think the best brushes are the pure squirrel ones.
      They hold so much water!!

      Then, you need to pick a lot of paint and of water in your brush. Don’t wipe it! And have fun!!

  8. Thank you Anne-Laure for your reply. I am afraid, my paint in my palette is getting about a month old, so I might as well experiment as much as possible and use it up so I can get on to some fresher paints. I would love to hear (video) or read anything you might teach us. It is so much fun to read and show whatever you paint and create. It’s all inspiring.
    Thank you so much. ❤️

    • Once, I had some really dried pigment on my palette (little rocks of pigments) so I get it out of the pans with a knife.
      I didn’t want to toss it as I don’t like to waste 😉 so I put the little rocks on some paper, with water, and I painted, dragging the pigment with my fingers!!
      It was fun and this experiment even ended up to be a painting I like but, even just for the fun, it’s nice.

      Doing this gives a good idea, too, of, how too few we use of pigment (sorry for my English!)… You’ll see if you do it. 😉

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