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How to paint watercolour pebbles

Esther Curtis shows you how to recreate the natural shades seashore with her watercolour project. Learn how to paint watercolour pebbles step by step

How to paint watercolour pebbles

The subtle colours and gentle shapes of pebbles and shells offer endless inspiration for creating art. However, replicating the pale shades and sometimes complex patterns effectively can be tricky. Here, Esther Curtis shows you how to use watercolours with masking fluid for a natural effect.

Watercolour paints are great when you want to create light and natural tones on a painting and can be used to create striking works of art. This project gives you the opportunity to experiment with masking fluid, which can be used to pick out patterns on the surface of the pebbles. Esther says: “Masking fluid can clog up your brush. To prevent this from happening, dip your brush in a small amount of washing-up liquid before dipping it into the masking fluid.”

“Pebbles are rarely uniformly grey or brown. If you look closely you’ll see blues, purples, greens and yellows. Use artistic licence to bring out the colours you like best,” she adds.

This relaxing project is a great way to spend an afternoon and create something beautiful for your home at the same time.

If you want to take up watercolour painting, you can buy basic watercolour sets in most craft shops and you can get great results even with the cheaper brands like this watercolour set from WHSmiths (£7.99). If you’re looking for a better quality watercolour set, it’s a good idea to invest in a set like the Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolour sketchers pocket box (£18.99). You can find more recommendations in our best watercolour paints guide.

You’ll also need to invest in some watercolour paper. This is a thicker paper that will absorb the paint without buckling and ruining the look of your painting. This Faber & Castell A4 pad (£4.99) is a good option for a beginner. Once you’re comfortable with watercolours, you can upgrade to a more expensive paper like the Stratford Expert 100% cotton watercolour paper pad (£19.99).

For this project, you’ll also need to order some masking fluid such as this Daler Rowney Simply Art masking fluid (£5.99).

Looking for more art projects to inspire you? Learn how to paint a watercolour cactus, try this monochrome painting for beginners project or brighten up your home with these DIY painted plant pots. We’ve also put together a collection of easy watercolour painting ideas for when you’re looking for creative painting projects. If you’d like to develop your artistic skills further, check our our guide to acrylic painting for beginners.

Read on to learn how to to paint watercolour pebbles with Esther’s step-by-step guide.


You Will Need

  • Pencil
  • Watercolour paper
  • Watercolour paints
  • Masking fluid
  • An old brush
  • Brushes in various sizes
  • Kitchen towel

Total time:

Step 1

Choose a selection of pebbles and shells and sketch their rough outlines lightly in pencil.

How to paint watercolour pebbles step one

Step 2

Use an old paintbrush, to paint masking fluid onto the parts of the pebbles that you want to remain white. You don’t need to be too precise here, as rough edges give a natural look.

How to paint watercolour pebbles step two

Step 3

Once the masking fluid is completely dry, use a paintbrush to wet the area within the pebble’s outline. Now choose a base colour and paint it in.

How to paint watercolour pebbles step three

Step 4

Now add layers of darker colour over your base colour. Then add texture to your pebbles with stripes, by stippling or with a dry brush.

How to paint watercolour pebbles step four

Step 5

Decide where you want your light source to be and add pale shadows accordingly. Layer a darker colour near the edge of the pebble to really make them pop.

How to paint watercolour pebbles step five

Step 6

It’s now time to peel to reveal your finished painting! Once the paint is completely dry, you can peel off the masking fluid. Use your fingers or a clean eraser to do this.

How to paint watercolour pebbles step six

You’ve finished! We hope you’ve enjoyed learning how to paint watercolour pebbles with this easy tutorial. Looking for more painting inspiration? Take a look at our watercolor painting ideas, art journal ideas and fall painting ideas.

How to paint watercolour pebbles
Illustrated by Esther Curtiis