TIPS – Gilly Marklew on texture

How to create texture with watercolour

There are many, many ways to create texture with watercolour, and I have folders full of experiments. Many years ago, I was first attracted to creating texture after seeing the work of one of my watercolour heroes, SEAW member, Tessa Shedley Jordan. She used to grind up her own watercolours and add gum arabic to them. The results were really sedimentary and amazing. This is not something I have mastered but have since discovered my own technique.

I expect we have all by now heard of the amazingly sedimentary Daniel Smith colours, which I can’t get enough of. Using them on heavy rough watercolour paper produces its own separation through sedimentary deposits in the valleys of the textured paper. I have experimented by mixing D S paints with Windsor and Newton (see above), then with other D S paints together, and through this, I did manage some rivulet effects using paint and water alone which is what I was aiming for.

Using granulation medium

But wanting to explore more, I tried Daniel Smith paints with granulation medium. This is not a cheap option, but I liked the results. I wanted to create a rivulet effect which is ideal for dramatically representing stormy skies, or gritty textures like rusty metal, or gnarled wood, but this effect still eluded me, despite the money I had spent on it!

It was only when I discovered that in order to create it, you must fly by the seat of your pants, turn your paper nearly vertical in the direction you want the flow to go, and reduce the number of your brush marks by 98%. This means loading your brush up with granulation medium, and a generous amount of pigment, and only touching the paper with your loaded brush at the top, and allowing it to flow down of its own accord. But be warned: do this too many times, and you will wash away all of your texture; not enough fluid, and it won’t flow. Then you have to be patient and watch it develop, which is the hardest part for those of us who want to be in total control of the outcome. Once you have abandoned the idea of control, the most beautiful things happen on their own. This applies to watercolour in general but is multiplied when using this technique. It appears to be deceptively simple, but ask my ex-students and they will tell you it takes some practice, but practice on a small scale is a lot cheaper, and less frustrating than trying to get it right on an underpainting you are invested in.


If I am painting on a small area like my demo, I pre-wet my paper with granulation medium.  With larger paintings like my Sebastopol geese painting , I pre-wet my paper with water and the granulation medium seems to work just as well.

NOTE: If you have tried this at home and it didn’t work, Gilly will be happy to give you some trouble shooting ideas.

See more of Gilly’s work here

Gilly will be running a oneday workshop on this subject during the AWASH festival of watercolours to book and find out what else is on, click here.

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