For the Artist, How To

How To: Playing with Salt

Salt can be used in all kinds of interesting ways in your watercolour paintings. I love using it to create texture in my rock paintings but it does so many things!

Here’s a simple exercise to add this fun resource to your own creative toolbox.

  1. Select some of your favourite pigments. Be sure to include any favourite mixes (I like Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna).
  2. Create a grid on a piece of watercolour paper and label each square with a colour and, if you are using different types of salt, the type you will use in that square. You can use regular table salt, but experimenting with different types of salt, such as coarse or fine-grain salt, can yield different effects.
  3. Working with one colour or mix at a time, dampen the appropriate square and then paint it with your selection.  
  4. While the paint is still wet, take a pinch of the salt you want to try and sprinkle it lightly and evenly onto the square.
  5. Repeat with your other colours and different salts. Have fun playing with this!
  6. Be patient and let the salt do its magic. As the paint dries, the salt will absorb moisture from the paint, creating unique textures and patterns. The salt crystals attract pigment particles, causing them to gather around the salt and create interesting effects.
  7. Leave your “experiment” undisturbed until it is completely dry. This may take several hours or even overnight, depending on the thickness of the paint and the humidity in the air.
  8. Once everything is completely dry, gently brush the salt crystals from the paper using a clean, dry brush or your fingers. 
  9. Evaluate the effects: Observe the unique textures and patterns created by the salt. The salt can create speckles, blooms, or a granulated effect, adding visual interest and depth to your painting. Does it look like snow? Stars? Moss on a rock? Fireflies? 

I encourage you to play with your watercolours and salt to see what effects you can create.  

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