Texture Techniques


In past articles we have looked at Texture Techniques using collage and Gesso with watercolor washes to create physical textures in our paintings. This article will focus on creating visual texture. Visual texture is the illusion of texture brought about by the manipulation of paint. Physical texture is the three dimensional build up of the paper surface to physically alter its texture. Physical texture you can actually run your hand over and feel. Visual texture can only be seen, not felt.



Texture Techniques - Source photo

Our subject for this exercise is this old stone wall with its weathered door and window. The simple geometric composition and limited color range make an ideal subject for experimenting with texture.




Brushes:   1″ flat,    1/4″ Flat,    #2 liner or rigger,    Old 1/2″ Bristle Brush

Paper:  1/4 sheet 300gsm Cold Press

Watercolors:   Quinacridone Gold,  Burnt Sienna,   Ultramarine Blue,  Indigo,   Alizarin Crimson

Other:  Water spray bottle,   White Gouache,   Brown Pastel Pencil,   Burnt Sienna Ink and pen

Square brushes are great for geometric shapes. The rigger or liner brush will be used for the fine lines of detail. The old bristle brush gives those loose random marks that put life into the painting. We will also use some ink lines to add to the texture.



Being such a simple subject there is no need to rearrange things with thumbnail sketches. We can draw straight onto our paper with a brown pastel pencil. There is no need for too much detail a few simple outlines, but be careful where you place things. Avoid lines through the centre of your painting and try not to cut shapes in half.


The lines of a pastel pencil will slowly dissolve during the course of the painting. Any marks that are left behind are lightfast and can remain as part of the finished work.


First Wash

Start by mixing up some Quinacridone Gold, Burnt Sienna and a little Indigo. We want a dirty yellow/grey – slop it on roughly then, while it is wet, vary the mixture on your palette slightly and drop some of this into the wash.


The first wash is just a rough under wash to build the textures onto. Try to vary the tone and color slightly.



Use your old bristle brush for a rough unpredictable finish on your first wash.

Add some color

The big door is a mixture of Alizarin Crimson and Quinacridone Gold. Put it in after the first wash has dried. While the door is still wet the shadow on the left can be dropped in with a mixture of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. The same mix of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna can be used for the upper windows.


These geometric shapes are best applied with your 1″ flat brush


Suggesting detail

Use a combination of rigger lines and fine random marks made with your bristle brush to define some of the stones. As you apply the lines soften some of them with your damp 1″ flat brush. Once these lines dry use your 1″ flat brush to put some colour variation into the stone shapes.

Let the wall dry then use your 1/4″ flat brush to paint some detail into the window. Draw lightly into our original shape with a hard lead pencil to make the job of picking out the detail easier. Use Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna to paint the detail.


Don’t cover the whole wall with detailed stones. Allow them to disappear towards the top right and bottom left to hold attention around the door and window.



The suggestion of boards in the door can be made with a mixture of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, dragged in with the rough, parted tip of your old bristle brush. The marks extending below the door can be lifted off with a damp 1″ flat brush before they completely dry.


Texture Techniques Using Ink Lines

Let everything dry again then use your pen and ink to define some of the main stones. Put the ink on and quickly spray it with a fine mist of water to get those nice feathery textures.

Detail can be added to the distant wall with your rigger brush and a mixture of Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna. While you are using this mixture, put some more strength into the stones in the main building.


The spidery marks of sprayed ink suggest the weathered surface of stone around the centre of interest.

Spray and Spatter Texture Techniques

Once everything dries some more texture can be added by spraying paint onto some of the stones. Mix up a dark grey and use the bristles of your 1″ flat brush to spray on a fine texture . Don’t over do it, the idea is to get variation into the stones to make them interesting.


A piece of scrap paper with a hole cut the shape of a stone makes the splattering a safer exercise.

Opaque Variation

Before we get started with the Gouache a dark wash of Indigo can be used to push the distant building further back.

Now it’s time to have fun with some opaque mixtures of Gouache. On a separate palette squeeze out some White Gouache and a small amount of Ultramarine Blue, Quinacridone Gold and Burnt Sienna. We are going to mix a variety of warm pinks to add more variety to the stones in the wall. Some cooler grey can also be splashed in and washed loosely over the top of the wall and foreground stones. Again be careful not to over do it. Just enough to add more variety.


Aim for as much variety as possible in your stones – size, shape, color, tone and texture.



Final Green Contrast

The final step is to put some more interest around the door. Splash on a mix of Quinacridone Gold and Indigo to suggest a small bush. While the paint is still wet, soften some of the edges with your 1″ brush. Wet the paper on the opposite side of the door and drop in a small amount of green to balance the main bush.


Our finished painting has the appearance of an interesting variety of textures while remaining completely flat and two dimensional.


An evening in Genoa

In this painting a combination of Watercolor, Gouache, ink and pencil were used to conjure up the textures of the old city of Genoa seen through the haze of twilight and Prosecco.

An Evening in Genoa


Stones and Shutters

This painting explores the geometric textures of Siena with a combination of Watercolor, Gouache, ink and pencil lines. A variety of texture techniques are used here to create the brick, timber and wrought iron textures of the city.

Stones and Shutters



Author: John Lovett