Craggy rough knolls and indented valleys that you can touch and feel, but wait, I’m using watercolour paints!   How, can I achieve such sculptural, tactile effects with watercolours?

craggy tactile texture in watercolour using molding paste,
Watercolour Craggy Mountain


Watercolour Technique For Texture

  • This approach uses acrylic molding paste to create a rough craggy surface to paint on once it was thoroughly dry.
  • The molding paste dries white.  It acts a bit like fresco.  It absorbs some paint in when you paint on it.
  • Your colour vibrancy is lessens about 10% or so.  Not too much, but I notice it. And, for some things I love this and exploit this characteristic.






  1. The First step is to prime a wood board.
  2. Then  apply acrylic molding paste on the board with a palette knife in wide sweeping movements that are merely suggestive of hills and valleys.
  3. Do several at a time.  Some may not be as successful as one would hope for, I’ve discovered. But, they might be great for forest scenes, or beach, ocean, or florals.   They’ll be good for something!
  4. Let the paste dry completely.
  5. It is ok to use heavy watercolour paper. I’ve had success doing so; but,  I needed to be more light handed with the molding paste.  Easy does it.
  6. Once it is dry,   ascertain areas of  sky, mountain and foreground.    And apply your colours to those areas, in the correct tonal values.     Use a brush, use a wet in wet technique or pour the paint slowly ….onto designated areas and let them merge together.  Fun!

You could get really creative and sculpt & build these up. Layer by layer, for a fascinating tactile experience.   Mountains in watercolours… thats just the tip of the iceberg of what you could do.




Watercolour materials needed


primed gessoed wood board,  paints, brush, palette knife, spray mister, molding paste

To prepare the board,  simply apply about 3 coats of gesso onto it.

Make make sure that each coat is thoroughly dried –  before you apply the next coat.  It will ‘peel’ off and not provide a suitable grip for the molding paste or the paint, otherwise.


watercolour palette choice colours

The first several I do, I choose to work in a limited palette, of just 2-3 colours.

In Touching The Mountain,  I used Daniel Smith Indanthrone blue Pb60 paired with burnt sienna PBr7.

With a Limited palette, its a great way to create a unified  watercolour painting.  Its wonderful for me as a warm up, its ‘easier’ and  less things to think about.

Then as I continue to do more …then I start ad libbing with more colours as the session progresses.    Steady.  Progressive.  This approach works best for me.



watercolour deptH In the mountain

I need a background, middle ground  and foreground.

In each area,  the correct     tones, edges, details, contrasts, warmth/coolness, line use  must be correctly placed to create enough depth in the landscape.



watercolour tonal values

  • The painting succeeds or fails …… based on the evidence of Light, Mid, Dark tones throughout the image.   If its muddled, unclear,  inadequate lights – the painting will not be a successful image.
  • The minimum you can scrape by with – Light, Mid and Dark tones are necessary  in order to have the painting be a balanced  piece.
  • I don’t want it to be too heavy on the dark side i.e.  95% dark 4% mid tones 1% light.   That creates imbalance.
  • The ratio  I usually,  prefer is roughly about ….  55% light 35% mid      and   10% dark   or somewhere in the range.
Murrurrundi Mountain mist photo
Mountain Mist Murrurrundi

This photo gives an idea of the memories I was working from when creating my painting, Touching The Mountain.  Mountain Mist Murrurrundi, NSW  was taken in the hometown of my dear friend – her lovely gardens featuring in the post Waiting On A Friend.



Touching The Mountain in watercolours was a fun, fast image using novel,  out of the box tools and ideas.

It gave me the sculptural feel that I love,  combined with the loose fluidity of watercolours – gorgeous.