Do you hate cleaning up the mess from your kids’ watercolor art projects? Then you have got to try this watercolor painting method using Crayola markers and a water brush. There is virtually no mess! Aaahh-mazing!
I love that my kids want to paint with watercolors, especially because I dabble in watercolor art myself. But the mess! There have been so many times that I have said “not today” to their requests just because I didn’t want to have to clean up the guaranteed water spills.
But those days are over.
I have found THE best way for mess free watercolor painting with NO OPEN WATER CONTAINERS. (Sorry for the all caps, but I am so excited about this!) No more spills and the easiest cleanup possible.
And you don’t even have to buy watercolors. (Huh?)
Nope, you don’t! Forget buying all those watercolor pots. Just use the Ultra-Washable Crayola Markers that you probably already have stashed in your craft box. Ready to see?
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Here’s What You’ll Need for Mess-Free Watercolor Painting with the Kids
- Ultra-Washable Crayola Markers
- Watercolor paper (I like this Strathmore Paint Pad, but any kind will do)
- These Aquash water brushes: single pack or multi-sized pack
- A smooth ceramic plate (or glossy surface) . This will be your watercolor palette. You could also use a plastic Ziploc bag.
- Rag or paper towel for cleaning the water brush
I snagged my Aquash water brush pens from Michael’s with a coupon. But you can also get them on Amazon here with my affiliate link. Joann’s Craft Store and Hobby Lobby both sell them as well.
These brushes really are the secret weapon. They have synthetic bristles with an empty barrel that you fill up with water. They are so durable and so fantastically easy to clean. And the best part: No open water containers because all the water you will use is tucked away inside the brush itself.
When these brushes team up with the ultra washability of the Crayola markers, it won’t really matter one bit if some color ends up the table . . . or on clothes . . . or even the wall.
I love these brushes and use them regularly for my own brush calligraphy practice. They are great quality and still perform amazingly well even after all the time they’ve spent in the hands of eager (and rough) little boys.
So here’s how we do it:
How to paint with crayola markers and a water brush
fill the aquash brush with water
You will simply unscrew the bottom portion of the brush where the bristles are and fill the empty chamber up with water. Screw the head back on and you’re good to go.
(Sorry I didn’t get a picture of this.)
lay your crayola marker “paint” down onto the plate
This part is pretty fun. Choose the colors that you will be using, and then scribble nice little patches of them onto the plate, like this:
These will be your watercolors, and your plate is now the palette. I like to use a white plate because it makes it easier to see the colors, but use what you’ve got. You can even use the plastic from a Ziploc bag or something similar if you don’t have a plate. Basically, as long as the color from the markers will sit on top of the surface and not soak in, then you can use it as a palette.
Note: I’m no scientist, but the Crayola markers DO say that they are non-toxic. Even so, when you’re done, be sure to wash your plate really good after marking on them with the markers. (The color literally just slides off with water). If you can’t stand the thought of eating food from the plates again, then don’t. 😉 Your call.
activate the water brush by giving it a gentle squeeze
When you squeeze the water brush, the water from the barrel will slowly start to drip onto the bristles. Once you’ve got a small amount of water on the bristles, it’s watercolor magic time!
Use your brush to pick up paint from your palette and start painting. The more you squeeze the brush, the more water you will get. Want brighter colors? Don’t use so much water. If you want the colors to blend together more on the paper, use a bit more water.
Use your brush to mix colors together on your palette to come up with new combinations. I love to just start with the three primary colors (red, blue, and yellow), and mix my entire palette from those.
Experiment and see what you can come up with!
clean the paint off your water brush by giving it a few squeezes
This is my favorite part of this whole process: When you’re ready to clean your brush in order to pick up a new color, just hold the brush over a rag and squeeze out a few drops until the paint literally falls off the bristles. It’s really amazing how cleanly and effortlessly the paint is removed.
Also, your palette can also be cleaned very easily. If you start to get too much color or water on your palette, just wipe it clean with a paper towel or rag. Or give it a quick rinse under the faucet. The marker “paint” really does just slide off the plate.
And that’s it! No cups to spill. No huge messes to clean up. And the Crayola Markers wipe off just about anything.
try new watercolor techniques
Your kiddos might enjoy experimenting with a few different watercolor techniques, like these:
Blow through a straw to create strands.
I’ve seen people draw a jellyfish shape around the dried watercolor, and it was so cute.
This would also make a cute little string of shining Christmas lights if it’s the holiday season.
Let the colors bleed into one another
Draw various shapes around your paper, such as circles, and let the boundary of each shape very slightly touch the shape next to it. The colors will bleed between shapes, and it makes a beautiful, interesting effect.
Also, try tossing some salt grains (large sea salt grains work the best) onto the wet paint just before it dries! It produces beautiful “blooms” in the finished piece.
turn a coloring sheet into a watercolor canvas and paint on it
Sometimes kiddos need a little help deciding what to paint, so I like to take printable coloring sheets and print them off onto watercolor paper.
It’s a fun way to experiment with colors, blends, and textures without the pressure of creating from scratch.
I really like using this kids’ watercolor paper because it’s a little thinner than traditional watercolor paper, which also makes it a little cheaper. 😉 And because it’s thinner, it runs much easier through my printer.
I cut the watercolor paper down to 8.5 x 11 inches with a paper cutter, and it runs perfectly through the printer.
I hope you enjoy painting with this technique as much as we do. Be sure to sign up for our email newsletter to get instant access to FREE printables (including coloring pages)!
So, are you ready to get started?