Watercoloring with Dye Inks

by Dina Kowal

Use dye ink pads for watercolor techniques.


  • Dye inkpads or reinkers (ColorBox® Premium Dye ink pads used here)
  • Nonporous surface for a palette, such as a ceramic tile, craft sheet, styrofoam plate, acetate, or CD case (ceramic tile used here)
  • Water
  • Paint brush
  • Heat tool
  • Watercolor paper (Fabriano Studio Hot Press 90#/200gsm paper used here)
  • Stamp image (used here: Stampers Anonymous Peonies, Impression Obsession WP835 Peony Set )
  • Waterproof ink (ColorBox® Black Mixed Media ink kit used here)
  • Stamp positioner (MISTI used here)
  • Other supplies as needed to complete the project (used here: square dies, foam tape, ball stylus, Scor-Pal®, water mister, WRMK heart dies, Impression Obsession DIE 384 Miss You, discontinued sentiment stamp (dkdesigns), swiss dot organza ribbon, black pigment ink, clear embossing powder, CL634 Valentine Brush Words)


  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, tap or swipe dye-based inkpads onto the surface.

  2. Step 2

    Practice on watercolor paper to become familiar with how the ink blends with a wet brush. Use varying amounts of water to dilute or spread the ink. For more intense color, remove excess water from the brush and use a higher concentration of undiluted ink.

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

  4. Step 3

    Practice adding darker color into a lighter area while the first layer of color is still damp for the wet-into-wet blending method. As the area dries, newly added colors will remain more intense and stay more in place.

    A dotting motion works well for adding color.

  5. Step 4

    Practice the glazing method. Apply a layer of diluted color and let it dry, or use a heat tool to speed the process.

  6. Layer the same or a darker concentration of ink over the area where you want shading. Repeat as needed until you are pleased with the effect.

    Picking up ink on just the tip of the brush allows the water in the bristles to create a smooth blend.

  7. Step 5

    Stamp an outline image on smooth watercolor paper.

  8. Step 6

    For the wet-into-wet technique, begin painting the image one small section at a time. Color in isolated areas that do not touch one another to prevent bleeding. Begin with a light base coat of color, adding a little water to dilute the ink.

  9. As the color dries, but while some dampness still remains, use more concentrated color for shading. The more wet the area, the more the additional color will blend out.

  10. Step 7

    For the darkest shading, wait until the area is almost dry. Add finer details after the first layers have dried completely so that the color does not bleed.

    As a general rule, shaded sections are areas that are hidden behind something, areas that are lower on the image, and areas that appear farther away or are curving away.

  11. Step 8

    Mix inks to create new colors on your palette. Here the bright pink and the blue inks were mixed to create an intermediate purple.

  12. Step 9

    You can vary your technique if it suits the image and your style. For this flower, the base color was applied all at once.

  13. After heat setting, more layers of color were added.

  14. Step 10

    Repeat the process in each area of the image.

  15. Paint non-contiguous areas to prevent color bleeding – wait until an area is completely dry to paint a section directly next to it.

  16. Step 11

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

    Consult a color wheel; mix opposite colors together to create browns. In the sample, deep red and green alone would have created brown. Blue was added, producing a blue-grey.

  17. Create a horizontal shadow at the base of the image.

  18. Step 12

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

  19. Step 13

    Bonus panel – use the remaining ink on your palette to create a background using the Wrinkle-Free Distress technique. Mist the palette with water to refresh the ink as needed.

  20. Dry the panel between prints to create more depth in the background. Mist the background with water and use a paper towel to lift ink away.

  21. Step 14

    Layer or splatter more ink as desired.

  22. Step 15

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

  23. Step 16

    For another method, stamp an outline image with the dye ink. Using a stamp positioner, work with one ink color at a time, masking off unwanted areas with tape.

    Remember to remove the masks before stamping!

  24. Use a wet brush to blend out the color.

  25. Step 17

    Stamp as many times as is needed to outline each area of the stamp or scene. Blend as before.

  26. Step 18

    Allow the panel to dry, then add shading and other details as desired.

  27. Step 19

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


View uncut painting process at 3x speed here. Please note: video does not have sound.
Sample 1 - 0:00; Sample 2 - 7:40; Sample 3 - 9:10

Your Turn

You've seen the tutorial, now you try it! We've got a section of the gallery set aside for Watercoloring with Dye Inks. 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.

Oh My Gosh. These are so beautiful. You make it seem so easy!! Thank you for taking the time to make all the video tutorials you do. They are so very appreciated!!!!
Sue  |  Wed Apr 25, 2018 at 6:39 AM
So pretty!
Julie Heyer  |  Wed Apr 25, 2018 at 6:52 AM
Great tutorial. Thank you so much.
Lori McGarrity  |  Wed Apr 25, 2018 at 7:29 AM
You have truly inspired me. Thank you for this awesome video!
Sarah Saulsbery  |  Wed Apr 25, 2018 at 7:38 AM
Gorgeous! I’ll have to give it a try. My daughter uses an old CD or DVD for a palette. Stores in its case.
Seattle Lou  |  Wed Apr 25, 2018 at 8:40 AM
Your tutorial was clear and very helpful. Thanks!
Susie  |  Wed Apr 25, 2018 at 9:19 AM
Dina, thanks for another GREAT video tutorial and step-outs! I love the results of your watercoloring, and I always appreciate listening to you as you explain what you do and why! Thanks and hugs! xoxo
Cheryl Scrivens  |  Wed Apr 25, 2018 at 11:45 AM
Exquisite color; I'd probably make a photocopy and share with others. Oh and to watch a Leftie--you made my day.
TexasJane  |  Wed Apr 25, 2018 at 2:29 PM
wow! woW! WOW!
Susy Côté  |  Thu Apr 26, 2018 at 5:47 AM
Exquisitely done, Dina! Thank you for the very helpful and well-done video :*
Rosy Newlun  |  Fri Apr 27, 2018 at 1:27 AM
Exquisite!!! Thank you for sharing your wonderful talent.
Susie Williams  |  Fri Apr 27, 2018 at 2:09 AM
I absolutely love both the image and the technique. Thank you so much for sharing them!
Egret  |  Sat May 5, 2018 at 7:21 AM
Wow, great tutorial, beautiful card! Thank you for the inspiration!
Michele in IL  |  Tue May 8, 2018 at 6:01 PM
Gorgeous color..have never thought of trying the Colorbox Premium inks. Thanks for the great tutorials!
Cookiebaker  |  Wed Jan 2, 2019 at 4:43 AM
Beautiful card and terrific video. Thank you.
GrandmaBigBear  |  Thu Jan 3, 2019 at 10:03 AM

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