Watercolor resist art is a classic (and surprising) art technique that you can set up in a couple of minutes with basic art supplies.
It’s a weekday afternoon and your kids have been alternating between jumping on the bed and pillow fights; you want to channel their energy into something er, a little less destructive and dangerous perhaps? But who has time to prep anything?
Dinner needs to be on the table in an hour and your nerves are shot….until you remember this easy and magical little resist art project that is perfect for everyone in your family…and what’s that? It does’t require any prep time? SCORE!
Watercolor resist is a classic art technique with a “magical” step. Adults and children alike utter oohs and ahh when they start painting because the resist technique is fun to watch.
What is resist art?
In resist art, an artist creates an image or design on a paper/canvas first using a non-soluble material. After the first image is created, a layer of watercolor is applied over the paper/canvas. Areas drawn or created with the non-soluble material do not absorb the color, they RESIST it. As watercolor paints are applied, the first design appears as a negative image.
How does resist art work? AKA the science behind resist art:
Resist art works because some materials are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water. When you create art with a hydrophobic material and then brush a layer of water based paint over it, the water will roll off the first material until it finds a surface that can absorb it. In resist art, beads of watercolor paints will roll off the surface of the first material until they meet a surface that will absorb them, like paper or canvas.
If you want to explore different combinations of materials for resist art you will need to pair two art materials that repel each other.
What materials can use used for resist art?
There are so many versions of resist art featuring different combinations of materials. Here is a list of some of the most common (and not so common) combinations for resist art:
- Oil pastels + watercolor paints(see instructions below)
- Crayon + watercolors
- Painter’s tape + watercolors
- Glue + watercolors
- Black glue + watercolors (creates a stained glass effect)
- Rubber cement + watercolors
- Wax paper + watercolors
- Air dry clay + tempera paint
- Rubber bands + watercolors
In today’s project we are going to apply oil pastel to paper and then paint on top of the design with watercolor. Because oil and water don’t mix, areas covered in oil pastel will not absorb the paint, but will “resist” it.
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Here’s a step-by-step tutorial featuring watercolor resist art. Grab your materials, put this video on for the kids, and they can follow along in real time!
How to do watercolor resist art
The best part about this classic art project is that it is no-prep! All you need to do is grab some paper, pastels and watercolors and call the kids over. If you aren’t using water brushes you will need to fill a cup with water and grab few brushes as well.
Pro tip #1:
An enticing way to introduce this project to kids is to focus on the hidden pictures aspect of resist art. Let them know this is an easy way to write “secret” message to their friends; my daughter and her best friend had a blast with this!
- Cray Pas Oil Pastels
- Watercolors This travel set and water brush are our favorites
- Colored Paper
- Step One Have your child draw a picture or message with white oil pastel on a sheet of white cardstock (any paper will do but thicker paper will absorb the watercolors better)
- Step Two Paint over the oil pastels with watercolors. Your design will be revealed!
- Step Three…oh wait…there is no step there- that’s how easy and awesome this art project is….
Watercolor Resist Variations
- Try this technique with colored paper! Draw on colored paper with an oil pastel that matches the paper color. We tried red, yellow, green and orange.
- Draw with any color of pastel on paper. You can skip the hidden pictures aspect and simply have fun with the resist art combination of oil pastels and watercolor. My daughter was so excited to use all the colors of oil pastels that she reminded me this project could be done with any pastel color on any color of paper.
- Experiment with light watercolors on dark paper. We tried white and yellow watercolors on top of red paper for a cool effect. Check out all our experiments below:
Pro Tip #2:
My friend, artist Janet Takahashi, taught me a little technique with watercolors that you should all know! After swishing the wet brush around in a color, brush it onto a plastic palette before heading to your paper. You can add more paint to the tip of your brush by dabbing it on the palette color. This helps remove the excess water from the brush so your paper doesn’t get too soggy. You can also mix custom colors on the palette with this technique. Check out Janet’s amazing watercolors here.
Are you ready to try watercolor resist?
The next time your kids are bouncing off the walls and you want to refocus all that energy into something creative with out any work whatsoever on your part….bookmark watercolor resist on Pinterest, write yourself a note and stick it on your pantry door, put a reminder on your phone for THAT day of the week (you know the one where you are always exhausted…) whatever method works and you’ve got yourself a fun art project that is ready to go!