Watercolour Backgrounds


Module Four's collage projects will be about underwater gardens with sea anemones, coral, sponges, and plants as inspiration. The colours of tropical seas with the variety of sealife will be the focus of the collages - today's project is about creating watery backdrops for the collages.


To prepare for Module Four's collage assignment, we will be making backgrounds in watercolour paint on watercolour sheets. There is a focus on layering and creating depth for this project, using watercolour and matte medium as a resist technique is the first step.



To prepare underwater inspired backgrounds for the weekend collage assignment we'll be using blue, green and purple watercolour paint, matte medium, a comb, fan and stencil brush as well as a balloon for printing round shapes on the paper.

Matte medium and Pthalo green are used as well to seal one of the samples shown. I used the large Arches aquarelle blocks to paint on. A flat container and strong kitchen towel are used as well.

Start off by mixing watercolour paint in a flat container, a saucer will work as well. The paint need to be watery but concentrated in colour. I used mixtures of blues and greens to create a teal colour for the first two samples shown, and blue and purple for the last one.

First sheet demonstrated

Painterly marks are created by using a stencil brush to create dried brush mark patterns on the watercolour sheet. I also use a comb brush, fan brush and balloon to create a variety of marks and patterns. Once dried I applied matte medium with a fan brush and a balloon (not inflated fully) to create a variety of round shapes and brush marks all over the sheet. You can also paint on the white unpainted paper in order to retain white sections when masking out areas. If painting with the translucent matte medium is tricky for you, you can mix a tiny amount of blue, green, brown or purple to create a bit of contrast and show up the painted areas.

Allow to dry completely, use a hairdryer to speed it up if you like. Wet the entire page with a large fan brush, then once that is done you can wipe off the exposed areas to reveal the masked sections where the matte medium created a protective layer.

Second sheet

I repeated the process but had more solid teal areas in the second painting and used only a balloon and my fingers to create masked areas. The round shapes can be varied in size and concentration to create a dramatic effect.

Make sure the paper is dry between each process to avoid smudges.

Third sheet

Purple round shapes applied in concentrated areas with a balloon, shapes are overlapping each other. More round shapes are added in colour varieties, with darker blues stamped upon the first purple ones. New colours can be added. I used a Cobalt blue as well. Areas in between have been painted with a comb brush to create a different texture. Once dried I covered the sheet with a mixture of matte medium and Pthalo green. This seals the watercolour marks, and prepares if for the next collage layers.

The other sheets can also be covered with a very thin layer of matte medium to create an even base for the deli sheets to be stuck onto.


In order to create a dramatic and interesting underwater collage we start with a textured watercolour background to add depth and variety without using the deli collage methods. This is both to add another element (watercolour) and to reduce the layers of paper collage so we can concentrate on the foreground for the next steps.

© 2020 Esté MacLeod

© 2020 Explore Colour