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How to Fix Mistakes and Remove Errors in a Watercolor Painting


Watercolor painting Image: © 2008 Marion Boddy-Evans. Licensed to About.com, Inc
If you make a mistake in a watercolor painting, you either need to react fast and remove it almost instantaneously, before it's had time to soak into the paper, or wait for the painting to dry completely and then remove it.
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: On-going

Here's How:

  1. Decide whether it really is a mistake or whether it adds an unexpected quality to the painting. Consider letting the painting go in its own direction rather than forcing your preconceived ideas on it.
  2. If you do want to get rid of something, and you've only just put down the paint, try lifting it out with a piece of paper towel, absorbent cloth or sponge. Don't rub or press hard as you'll push the paint into the paper. Rather, tap very gently, using the paper towel's ability to absorb liquid (paint). A dry brush will also work -- wipe it on a cloth to remove the moisture in it, then put the very tip onto the wet paint; the brush hairs will absorb the paint.
  3. If the paint has begun to dry, leave it to dry totally. This may seem a counter-intuitive, but by leaving it to dry the paint will be on the surface of the paper and painting. Then take a clean, slightly damp brush (not one that's very wet) and gently brush on the area you want to remove, working into an adjacent bit of the painting, then use paper towel to lift the paint.
  4. If the paint doesn't come off in one go, don't scrub with the brush on the paper as you're likely to damage it. Rather, leave the watercolor to dry and then repeat the process.
  5. If you think the whole painting is a disaster but don't want to waste the sheet of paper, submerge it in a bowl of clean water to soak out as much paint as possible. Stretch the piece of paper again. It'll probably retain a shadow of your previous painting, so it'll be better suited to a dark or colorful scene than a light, bright one.


  1. Not every painting need be a perfect work you want to frame. Keep your "mistakes" as you may find you later like an effect you created in error.
  2. Some pigments, such as alizarin crimson, will leave a stain.

What You Need

  • Small sponge
  • Bristle brush
  • Tissues
Related Video
Basic Brush Types and Strokes
How to Prime a Canvas
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