Watercolor Imprints

by Dina Kowal

Lay stencils and stamps into wet ink to create beautiful patterned backgrounds.


  • Watercolor paper (Fabriano Studio Hot Press 140# watercolor paper used here)
  • Water-reactive medium (Distress Oxide inks used here – watercolor paints or markers, Distress or dye inks can also be used)
  • Mister bottle
  • Stencils (istencils Feathered Damask Stencil used here)
  • Bold background stamps (Impression Obsession Cover-a-Card Lotus used here)
  • Acrylic blocks, etc. to weight down edges of stencil
  • Flat-backed objects such as buttons, small containers, sequins, cutting dies, etc.(cabochon, buttons, sequins, small container and lid, Quickutz nesting heart dies used here)
  • Other supplies as needed to complete the project (Simon Says Stamp Handwritten Sentiments clear set, Art Gone Wild/Catherine Scanlon Peonies stamp, black glossy cardstock, white detail embossing powder, craft sheet, MISTI)


  1. Step 1

    Apply ink or watercolor directly to a watercolor panel.

  2. Mist with water to activate the ink.

    If the panel begins to curl, mist the back side to allow it to relax the other way.

  3. Step 2

    While the ink is still wet, lay a stencil over the panel.

  4. Weigh down the stencil at the edges of the panel to hold it down into the wet ink. (If there is not much excess moisture in the open areas of the stencil, you can place a large block directly onto the stencil to weigh it down, but don't allow the block to lay into ink that is raised above the stencil.)

    Allow the ink to dry completely before removing the stencil.

  5. Step 3

    Remove the stencil carefully. Heat set any areas that are not completely dry.

  6. TIP:
    You can use the ink left on the stencil to create a print as well. Mist and lay onto another watercolor panel to create a print (See the Stencil Monoprints tutorial for more complete instructions). The sample here was actually created by repeating the process above on a new panel.

  7. Step 4

    Use the panel(s) to complete a card or other project.

  8. Step 5

    Experiment with other mediums to discover different effects. Watercolor paints can create an interesting granulated background.

  9. Step 6

    You can also use a background stamp to create a similar effect. Apply ink directly to a watercolor panel and mist to activate.

  10. Step 7

    While the ink is still wet, lay a background stamp over the panel.

    This works best with bolder or more solid patterns.

    Weigh the stamp down with a book until the ink has dried.

  11. Step 8

    Remove the stamp carefully. Heat set any areas that are not completely dry.

  12. Step 9

    For a bonus background, mist the stamp.

  13. Use the residual ink to create a print.

  14. Step 10

    Use the panel(s) to complete a card or other project.

  15. Step 11

    Use the technique to add texture to a single area of a watercolored image. First, paint the area with a color wash.

  16. Lay a stamp or stencil over the painted area, and allow the panel to dry as above.

  17. Step 12

    Remove the stamp or stencil carefully. Heat set any areas that are not completely dry. Continue painting in other areas.

  18. Step 13

    Use the panel to complete a card or other project.



  1. Try the same concept with other flat-backed or flat-bottomed objects. Ink and mist a panel, and lay the pieces into the activated ink.

  2. Steel cutting dies create wonderful results as well!

Your Turn

You've seen the tutorial, now you try it! We've got a section of the gallery set aside for Watercolor Imprints. 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.

Thank you for these awesome ideas. I can't wait to try your techniques!
Lou  |  Wed May 31, 2017 at 2:15 PM
How pretty Dina. I do just have 1 stencil, so I am glad you can try this tecnique with many different objects (I adore the buttons!). How long does it roughly take to dry? More like one hour or more like overnight?
Nessie  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 3:37 AM
Ooh! I love the buttons! I must give this a try!
Jennifer Lewis  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 3:41 AM
Oh WOW!! Dina, what an amazing, fantastic technique to do with stencils, I love it when we can stretch our supplies and this is one of the best!!!
Love all the designs you showed us, thank you so much for sharing this awesome video.
Maria Rodriguez.
Maria A. Rodriguez  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 4:07 AM
Nessie, I usually waited about 1/2 an hour. It can vary depending on how wet your panel is.
dina  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 4:39 AM
Dina, I so enjoy your tutorials. Clear and creative!
Can you tell me roughly how long I will have to wait before removing the stencil? Also, what are granulated watercolours? Are they sold with that title, or do I have to create them somehow?
Thank you.
S. Morgan  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 6:12 AM
Wow! Idea overload!! Thanks for the great tutorial. Loved how you created the stencilled background for the to-be watercoloured flowers.
Leanne Cyr  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 6:17 AM
Cool technique! Can't wait to try it! Thank you!
Sharon Madson  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 6:31 AM
I love your tutorials! They are always clear and so inspiring, and I never fail to learn something. I can't wait to try these techniques - the backgrounds are beautiful!
claudia zimmerman  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 6:34 AM
Thank you for this SUPER tutorial Dina. I am just crazy about the Distress Oxides. What great techniques you shared. Oh now---the drying time! LOL
Prissequito  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 7:18 AM
You can lift a corner of the stencil to check for dryness if you're unsure - I usually waited about 1/2 an hour before checking. If there are still visibly wet areas in the stencil openings, the paint will run into dry areas if you lift. If the paper is mostly dry but still a little damp, it may be ok to lift and heat set.

Some artist watercolor paints have solids suspended in them that settle as the paint dries and create a grainy texture. There are certain pigments that will do this naturally... it may be mentioned in the manufacturer's description.
dina  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 8:02 AM
Hi Dina I have not tried any of these techniques but they all sound fun. I will try them. Thanks so much for sharing.
Anne Lewis  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 8:17 AM
Oh my, Dina, you have outdone yourself this time. All of these turned out so beautifully and are so easy to do. I can't wait to go play!
Jean Chaney  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 8:41 AM
Amazing!! I never thought how the color would pool around a stencil or stamp!! I am in love with the look and am excited to try it smile Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing <3
Wendy Falk  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 8:45 AM
You are just so naturally talented. I love your work! Thanks for sharing. I'm going to give this a try since it isn't an absolute art and appears that anything you get should be workable.
Tami Black  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 9:14 AM
Absolutely outstanding: fabulous effects, easy to do, and practically no mess! One question: what brand of "granulating watercolors" do you use? I had no idea you could get self-developing texture from watercolor . . .
Sue Speck  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 9:14 AM
Can't wait to play! Thanks.
Chris  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 9:16 AM
Definitely got to try this! I saw Jennifer McGuire lay rubber stamps over a wet Distress Ink background, but she removed the stamp after a few minutes. What you got is more interesting, I think, letting the entire thing dry before lifting. With the steel die inks, did you encounter any problems with rust?
Diana Britt  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 10:34 AM
Fantastic results!! Love it!
Julie Heyer  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 11:23 AM
Sue, I generally use QoR watercolors and that's probably what I used here, but I also have some Daniel Smith paints that have beautiful granulating qualities.

Diana, no rust issues!
dina  |  Wed Jul 19, 2017 at 11:50 AM

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