4th Grade – Basic Watercolor Techniques

4th Grade – Basic Watercolor Techniques

Description of the Unit –

This is a two-part unit that will be guided by both technique and style, starting with practicing four basic watercolor techniques: 1) dry paint on dry paper; 2) dry paint on wet paper; 3) wet paint on dry paper, and 4) wet paint on wet paper. (For some students this will be review as we practice this in earlier grades as well.) In the second part of this unit students will explore Impressionist painting, particularly the work of Suzanne Valadon (to be posted next week).

Activity statement –

Like all painting mediums, watercolor has its own way of behaving that is sometimes difficult to control. However, it is specifically this fluidity and unpredictability that attracts many artists to it. Introducing students to the most basic of watercolor techniques will help give them a foundation for working in this medium as well as to help them develop approaches to achieve specific effects in their work. These effects lends themselves very well to Impressionist style painting, as artists used the fluidity of light and color to express their ‘impressions’ of what they observed.

Goals – Students should…


  • What the terms “dry on dry”, “dry on wet”, “wet on dry” and “wet on wet” mean.


  • How each of the four basic watercolor techniques works

Be able to:

  • Apply the four watercolor techniques in attempts to achieve certain effects (i.e. rendering the fur of an animal, or a grassy field)

Resources and materials –

  • Watercolor paper
  • Liquid watercolors in various colors
  • Paint brushes in various shapes and thicknesses
  • Palettes
  • Pencils
  • Cups for water
  • Paper towels
  • Sponges
  • Towels
  • Table cloths
  • Post cards of animals and landscapes for reference

Questions –

  • What effect does (a given technique of the 4) produce? Why would you use it?
  • What differences do you notice between each technique?
  • Which technique is the easiest to control? Why?
  • Which technique would you use if you wanted to express the texture of a grassy field?
  • Which technique might you use if you wanted to paint an ocean?

Evaluation – did students…

  • Understand ways in which they could combine the four watercolor techniques to achieve specific effects?
  • Noticeably apply these techniques to their watercolor compositions?


  • Student questions
  • Group discussions
  • Oral responses to essential questions
  • Technique practice sheet
  • Two finished watercolor pieces
  • Elaboration and risk-taking
4th grade – Four Basic Watercolor Techniques


4th grade – This student used a lovely wet-on-wet effect for the frogs
4th grade – This student used some dry-on-dry and wet-on-dry techniques for this image
4th grade – For this deer, this student played with wet-on-wet
4th grade – This student applied a mostly dry-on-dry effect to achieve the fur texture of the red panda
4th grade – A combination of techniques was used for this frog on a leaf

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