Watercolour artists like to fiddle. No, not the musical kind. The poking the bear kind! Where you know you really shouldn’t…but do.  The kind that causes cranky, tired, overworked paintings. What to do?

fresh, no fiddle watercolours, debiriley.com
Fresh Flowers


Stop Fiddling!

Watercolour Techniques and Hints


Painting Direct

I chose to Paint Direct,  a watercolour technique style that as a general rule, is a safe bet to eliminate ‘fiddling’ and overworking the paintings. It keeps the work fresh and lessens mud.

Also, by choosing to paint the watercolours direct,  it allows me to leave more white space and have cleaner colours.

The white space balances out the tonal ratios to create a high key painting. High key is predominantly Light. Low key is mainly Dark/mid tones.

High key paintings evoke a   happy  lighter, sunnier emotion than the Low key, which are much more somber, duller, darker.

Painting Direct means:  that I’m painting directly onto dry paper straight away without dampening it at all.



Alas, it also means harder edges than you know I like!   But,  I can always soften up those edges. Later once its totally dry, I merely have to dampen my finger and smudge lightly over the offending sharp edges to soften those edges to an acceptable level.  Easy.


Freshness – alla prima

I also painted alla prima… (i.e. all in one go.) Its a term normally used for oils, but its been used for watercolours before as well!  And, it does wonders for the no fiddling.

My little painting “Fresh Flowers”  emphasises minimalism.

A hint of Zen,  East meets West.  With a lightness and airy spaciousness thats visually appealing due to the amount of white space I’ve left on the paper.

Quietly joyful,  the painting  has a spontaneous feel to it that is cheerful and inviting.

Fresh, clean flowers and No fiddling.


garden petunias photograph, debiriley.oom
Garden Flowers

One of my reference sources I used as a springboard for my painting.



12 great Hints to Stop Watercolour Fiddling


  1. set my timer for 5 or 10 minutes for the watercolour painting
  2. paint a brushstroke – and Leave It alone.
  3. make each brushstroke count. less is more. stop.
  4. allot myself a finite number of brushstrokes to use in total. count each one.
  5. limit my palette, lessens my muddying up my mixes
  6. be very clear ahead of time, what correction is needed. do only that. stop.
  7. Two (2)  times for successful w/c corrections:  bone dry Or shiny wet
  8. watercolour is Happy when it Flows onto the paper
  9. watercolour gets Cranky when its scrubbed 3-4 times in the same spot
  10. watercolour reacts unpleasantly when I willy nilly slap more paint onto it when it is at the wrong stage, i.e. just about dry, but not quite
  11. beforehand, line up 3 more sheets of paper…that are ‘waiting for me to put paint on them too’
  12. write these down on a post it & stick to my easel, to glance at while painting




watercolour rose bloom, no fiddling, debiriley.com
No Fiddling Blossom

This blossom was a study in simplicity. I’ve used the bare minimum of brushstrokes for its blossom petals and stem, just enough to tell the story and provide light and shade. 10 brushstrokes.


Rileys Rose, photograph, debiriley.com
Rileys Rose


Final Thoughts

For Watercolour Beginners, if you can’t do all 12 of the above listed hints; then, the four watercolour hints to stop fiddling I might suggest are  (#4, 5, 7, 8).


Try them,  and see how much just those 4 help you!


You’ll be amazed at how the mud, overworking, fiddling, discordance gets eliminated.       #11 is one I still always use; as without doing this… I know I will overwork and fiddle.


Enjoy the wonderful watercolour Wednesday flowers!