Palette Blending

by Dina Kowal

Create watercolor effects with marker ink by using a blending palette.


  • Water soluble brush markers, or dye based inks (Zig Clean Color Real Brush Markers used here)
  • Nonporous surface for a palette, such as a ceramic tile, craft sheet, styrofoam plate, acetate, or CD case (PVC sheet used here)
  • Water
  • Paint brush
  • Watercolor paper (Fabriano Studio Hot Press 90#/200gsm paper used here)
  • Stamp image (Tulips in Hobnail Pitcher Digital Stamp Set by Power Poppy used here)
  • Waterproof ink (sample image printed with Canon Pixma printer)
  • Other supplies as needed to complete the project (Micron liner pen, Basic Grey papers, adhesive, Impression Obsession stamps: 13478 It Is Well, 13485 Quietness and Confidence)


  1. Step 1

    Prepare a palette, using a nonporous surface, such as a ceramic tile, acetate, craft mat, acrylic or glass block, or Styrofoam plate.

    To fill the palette, scribble swatches of ink with water soluble markers.

    These techniques will also work with inks: add drops of dye reinker, or tap or swipe a dye based inkpad onto the palette.

  2. Step 2

    Practice on watercolor paper to become familiar with how the ink blends with a wet brush. Try using varying amounts of water to dilute or spread the ink.

  3. For a paler color, add more water, pulling color away from the original swatch on the palette to mix.

  4. Step 3

    For more intense color, remove excess water from the brush and use a higher concentration of undiluted ink.

  5. Note that some colors may change or separate into their component colors with the addition of water. This is common with some dye inks.

  6. Step 4

    Practice adding darker color into a lighter area while the first layer of color is still damp. This "wet into wet" technique allows the water to move and blend the colors together. Add the color in brush strokes, or use the tip of the brush to dot in color.

  7. As the area dries, the colors will remain more intense and stay more in place.

  8. Step 5

    For wet-into-wet blending, use diluted ink to cover an area of the image. While the area is still damp, brush or dot in more concentrated color to shade.

  9. Continue to add shading. As the area dries more, the color added in will stay darker and blend out less.

  10. Step 6

    For layered coloring ('glazing'), begin with a diluted layer of color, covering a whole area. More than one area can be colored at once, as long as they are not touching. Heat set the area or allow it to air dry.

  11. Shade with a slightly darker color, and heat set the layer or allow it to air dry. Continue to add layers of color in this way until you have the look you want.

  12. Step 7

    To create intermediate or custom colors, mix color swatches on your palette.

  13. Step 8

    For a more intense color blend, use a lighter or contrasting colored marker to pick up a darker color from the palette.

  14. Color from side to side, blending out the color, until the original marker color returns.

  15. Step 9

    To blend the marker out from a lighter wash to its original color, dip the tip in water.

  16. Color from side to side, blending out the water, until the original marker color returns.

  17. Step 10

    Stamp or print an outline image on smooth watercolor paper.

  18. Step 11

    Choose a technique above and apply it to the image. Remember to color in isolated areas that do not touch one another. Begin with a light base coat of color, adding a little water to dilute the ink.

  19. Step 12

    Use more concentrated color for shading. The more wet the area, the more the additional color will blend out.

  20. Add finer details after the first layers have dried completely so that the color does not bleed. Use a fine brush or the lightest color marker.

  21. Step 13

    Repeat the process in each area of the image. Wait until an area is completely dry to paint a section directly next to it.

  22. Step 14

    To ground the image, mix colors on the palette to create a coordinating neutral color.

  23. Create a horizontal shadow at the base of the image to give the image the illusion of weight and depth.

  24. Step 15

    Use the painted panel to complete a card or other project.


Your Turn

You've seen the tutorial, now you try it! We've got a section of the gallery set aside for Palette Blending. Try this technique, then upload your artwork to the gallery. Show us your creations!

***Please note - Internet Explorer/Edge is not a supported browser, and will not allow you to see the videos. Please use Chrome, Firefox or Safari to view our tutorial videos.

Questions and Comments

We'd love to get your feedback or questions. Leave your comment below.

Perfect timing! I just had my LSS order more of these markers! I only had a set of 12 but am getting a set of 36 soon!
muscrat  |  Tue Aug 23, 2016 at 7:51 PM
Wow Dina...awesome tutorial! I just recently got my Zig Clean Color Real Brush markers and now I know what to do with them. Lol. Thank you so much!
Janet Saieva  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 4:26 AM
Thanks so much for this tutorial. I love these markers, but have struggled with using them to get the results I want. Great information.
Randa  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 4:30 AM
What stamp did you use for this is beautiful ...I would love to have one...Thanks for the wonderful video
Marie Speck  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 5:10 AM
Thank you, Marie! All the supplies I used are listed at the top of the tutorial.
dina  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 5:12 AM
Thanks for these helpful hints, you are so blessed being able to paint like you do, it lovely for you to be able to share talent with us.
Margaret Jenks  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 5:49 AM
Thank you for this wonderful tutorial. I love Watercolors.
Angela Reed  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 6:05 AM
Thanks Dina! Good one! We are so fortunate to have you! smile

What brush are you using?

Do you work with those markers direct-you mentioned you like them for having a true brush tip....
wavejumper  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 6:14 AM
Excellent Video Dina!
Susanne Gleason  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 6:40 AM
Hi, I have a question about the printer ink. I have a Pixma printer but am not finding the ink to be waterproof. I like to make digital sketches of my photographs and color them with various pencils and pens, but I have to always spray them with a fixative first which then makes the paper less friendly to the color. Any help would be appreciated! Thank you.
Carole Huxel  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 7:49 AM
Thanks so much for this great tutorial. I too seem to have trouble blending directly and this looks like it will really help the process.
Mary  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 8:02 AM
Thanks, Dina. I have the Zigs and struggle with the blending so your video will really help me to learn all those blending techniques. Love your finished cards!
Susan Bridgman  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 9:17 AM
The brush is a DaVinci Nova - one of my favorite lines. smile

I do use the markers directly. The brush tips are great for getting into small areas, so they're better for detailed images.

The printer I have is a Canon MX532 -the ink is Canon PG-240XXL. Sometimes it does move a tiny bit - it may depend on the paper.
dina  |  Wed Aug 24, 2016 at 9:43 AM
Hi there. Fantastic tutorial. I went straight to this site to buy the digital stamp, but I'm finding that I have stocks of watercolour paper and NONE of them go through my printer. Can you please tell me what gsm watercolour cardstock you used? Mine are all 280gsm and they ALL get stuck in my printer!!!!!!! Thanks for any help you can give me.
Lorraine  |  Thu Aug 25, 2016 at 6:02 AM
Lorraine, it's 90# or 200gsm.
dina  |  Thu Aug 25, 2016 at 6:47 AM
This video inspires me to return to watercoloring by using my marker collections. I practice doing washes as stripes on the paper. When those dry, I can stamp a sentiment or clear image. I haven't tried your style or image printing, but this may help to remove a creative crafting rut, going away from 3 dimensional items to 2 dimensional images. Thanks for sharing your gift, Dina.
Diane  |  Thu Aug 25, 2016 at 7:47 AM
Great technique video. Love the dimension you gave the flowers and the vase.
Maria Binish  |  Thu Aug 25, 2016 at 9:09 AM
Thanks for posting this. I had always wondered how to get more use out of my markers! I also like the idea of using part of the water colored image to create more that one card or use with more that one project. I just love SCS!!!
Diane  |  Thu Aug 25, 2016 at 2:26 PM
Dina, thank you so much for a fabulous video and step-out photos for this tutorial! I love that you used the new Zig Clean Brush Markers! And I have ordered some of the Fabriano hot-press watercolor paper! Hugs!
Cheryl Scrivens  |  Sun Aug 28, 2016 at 4:15 PM

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