Three Things to Know When Lifting Water Colour


From gently sponging out a small area of water colour to the more extreme method of washing colours under a dripping tap, there are several ways to go about lifting water colour washes. Lifting is not just the watercolourist’s answer to an eraser; it’s a widely-used technique for portraying smoky atmospheres, cloudy skies, and other such effects.

To achieve the best results when lifting and staining water colour, take note of the following three key factors – they could transform your next creative endeavour!

1. Choose the Right Paper

We develop all of our products with a specific use in mind, and our range of papers are no exception. When lifting water colour, always be sure to choose from our Water Colour Paper range to maximise the quality of your technique. Our selection of Water Colour Paper is 100% acid-free, has been developed to increase the longevity of your work and will make your colours appear more vibrant – effects which may not be as achievable with paper not fit for purpose.  


2. Use Mediums for Assistance

One of our favourite aids for the lifting process is the Lifting Preparation medium. Prepping your paper with it, you’ll be able to lift off dry colour washes, including staining colours. No need for a wet brush or rag, which would put the surrounding areas of colour at risk. Remember: once you’ve applied Lifting Preparation directly to your paper, allow it to fully dry before painting.  

If you’re trying to reduce the degree of staining in your work, try Gum Arabic, which controls the spread of wet water colour. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to slow the drying process and boost gloss and transparency as well, allowing you to accomplish your desired effect.

3. Choose Colours Which are Prime for Lifting

Non-staining water colours are likely to settle on the paper after the water has evaporated rather than being immediately absorbed into the surface. Once dried, these colours can be lifted off to reveal the white paper beneath them. 

If you’re uncertain about the colouring of your artwork or are new to water colour, start with non-staining colours. They’ll give you more room for testing. Then, gradually, you can introduce the staining colours to your composition. 

View our collection of non-staining colours from our Professional Water Colour range in the graphic below.

Whether you are looking to colour correct or simply create a particular visual finish with the help of lifting, experiment keeping our suggestions in mind. 

Now that you’ve learned about lifting water colour, read our piece on granulation in water colour to learn about the factors which contribute to the effect.