How to make a splash with watercolour

So you're thinking about adding some colourful artwork to your Instagram images? Well you've come to the right place! We've teamed up with artist Shani of @rarepearstudio to bring you the the low down on working watercolour backdrops into your photos. First, let's take a look at a few of the ways Shani has used her painting to create eye-catching photos and flatlays.

How to get started with watercolour paints

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  • A set of basic watercolour paints
  • Brushes - Small and large, for various details
  • Water spray bottle - To create large washy backgrounds
  • Old toothbrushes - Great everyday items that will help create textural elements
  • Watercolour paper - Designed to cope with the water and to help spread the paint
  • Tissues - To blot your paintbrushes when you mix colours together
  • White plastic disposable plates - To mix your paints together for extra tones


Find a comfortable place and position to sit, preferably surrounded by lots of inspiration, and make sure there's enough natural light. Set down your watercolours and a shallow bowl of water (I always have a few jars of water because it's crucial to use clean water for each tone). It's important that you begin with light colours first, so plan to go from light to adding the darker colours at the end. Start mixing your colours together on the plastic plates, until you have all the tones you want to use in your painting.

Start Painting

  • Using a test piece of watercolour paper, try each of the colours as they can often look very different in the dry form to when they are wet and on the paper.
  • Familiarise yourself with how the water changes them. It's handy to keep referring to this paper as your artwork progresses.
  • Dip your paintbrush into the water and then into a colour. Begin to paint lines, shapes and swirls. Notice the different finishes you are creating - is it smooth or rough, light or dark, blotchy or fine? Take note how much water or pigment/paint you add to your brush each time.
  • Experiment with two basic watercolour techniques - wet on wet, or wet on dry. Wet on wet is when you wet your paper first, with a spray, brush or sponge. Doing this with water opens up the fibres of the watercolour paper making them swell, allowing for the paint to spread and create wonderful textures. Wet on dry is when you add paint to paper that is dry. Wet on dry gives you more control and allows you to add detail to your work.
  • Have FUN!!! Remember that watercolour is a very unpredictable medium, so you can never be sure how it will turn out. This is can be frustrating if you are someone who likes lots of control, but if you can cut loose and enjoy the journey, it's also a huge creative joy!!


Talking watercolours with Shani of Rare Pear Studios 

What made you think of using your art as the foundations of your challenge entries?

Shani Nottingham

Shani Nottingham

I began creating artworks specifically for Instagram when I was doing challenges, and was thinking about how I could differentiate my photos from others. There seemed to be a lot of ‘sameness’ so I thought a lot about what I could I bring that would be a little bit different, how to be more me, more authentic!

It took me a while. I was way too influenced by others, until something so simple and so incredibly obvious occurred to me - It was a lightbulb moment! I realised that the whole reason I came to Instagram was to support my art business, so naturally I began to use this as the basis for my images. I looked through my folio to source art that would help to tell a ‘story’ and that would lend itself to the challenges. Once found I used the colours and mediums in the art to inspire my choice of props, and if there was no art on hand that would work, I painted a new one.

Another reason why I decided to create these images was my blog! I write about creating art (and everything in my crazy world!) so I began to use the images to support my blog and to show the process of making and creating, therefore helping to tell my story.

How do you create your images?

It depends on the purpose of the image - Is it for a creative challenge or just for myself?

If it's for a challenge, I will think about the theme and try to come up with a concept around what I'm feeling or the look I'm wanting to portray, and then begin to build up layers and props until I get it right, it's often a matter of trial and error. Every prop choice is considered, I never just throw stuff in. I also try to keep it very honest to my ethos and use the tissues, waterglass, brushes or pencils to create the art and then try to keep a colour theme going. I then look at the composition to ensure there is a good flow and balance in the image.

If it's just for me I allow myself more creative freedom. This might mean I use a wash as the background and be brave in my colour choices to give the image some POP! This has become my signature style and something my followers expect from me.

Top tip - I always take more images than needed and play around with the composition, take stuff away, add stuff, edit images in between, until I see something that I think is just right.

To view more of Shani's beautiful work check out @rarepearstudio

We hope you're now ready to tackle your very own watercolour inspired image and we hope to see some in this week's new challenge. Good luck creatives!

Reb @rebelchallenger

BLOG: www.rarepearstudio.blogspot