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watercolor batik on rice paper architectural painting France

"French Windows." 12x12" watercolor batik on rice paper. Click on the image to buy prints or original painting.

Watercolor batik is a painting technique that has been floating around for a while. I have painted on fabric before (not batik method strictly speaking), I knew the theory (basically, you use wax/paraffin in place of masking liquid and rice paper in place of regular watercolor paper) and I kept seeing paintings done in this technique here and there. Finally, months after bookmarking a demo by Kathie George on Artists Network, I decided to give it a try.

Materials and gear:

  • Watercolor paints, obviously
  • Some kind of oriental/rice paper. I used something looking like the regular sumi-e rice paper (the one that has no sizing and makes your paint run like crazy)
  • Ink pen (optional). I used Pigma Micron
  • Brushes – your regular watercolor brushes plus something designated specifically for applying paraffin. I used a 1.5″ flat bristle brush from a hardware supply store and a couple of smaller bristle brushes.
  • Electric griddle or some other way to keep the paraffin melted.
  • Paraffin – I used a candle stump
  • Iron
  • Lots of newspapers/tissue paper/any thin absorbent paper that you can use for ironing the paraffin off your painting

The process

1. Make your drawing if you plan on having the lines. If you need to make a sketch first and then trace it onto the rice paper, be my guest. I drew straight on the rice paper – I think the uneven lines are not so horrible and actually add character.

watercolor batik tutorial ink drawing on rice paper

Here, I already decided what my lightest lights are (a term meaning the areas of the artwork that will be the lightest in value. In watercolor, you typically leave them untouched, no paint at all). I masked them out with melted paraffin.

2. Apply first wash of color. You will be working from light to dark, so decide what your next lightest areas are and fill them in. Often those are going to be your yellows, as they tend to be light in value. I also painted the bright colors of the flowers on the windowsills at this stage. I wanted to keep them fresh, so no more layers of paint on top.

demo watercolor batik step by step

3. Apply more paraffin to areas that you want to keep the way they are. Paint middle values.

step-by-step tutorial watercolor batik

4. Same thing. Mask out the areas that you are happy with and move on with another layer of watercolor. Here I am about to add the darks.

ink and watercolor on rice paper batik technique demonstration

5. The image below is almost completely covered with paraffin.

original watercolor batik painting in progress

6. More paraffin, more paint.

french architectural watercolor batik painting in process

7. Once you’re done, cover it all completely with paraffin and crinkle the paper. Apply a wash of color on top. I chose rusty orange to match the color of my ink lines. It will bleed into the cracks and bead on top of paraffin.

batik on rice paper watercolor

This step is optional. If you don’t want the web pattern on top of the painting, feel free to skip it.

8. Newspapers and iron time. Place the painting between several layers of newspaper or tissue paper and keep ironing until all of the paraffin comes off. You will need to change the layers of paper to new ones in the process.

rice paper watercolor batik

This is what it looked like after removing paraffin. I was fine with it for a day but then decided the white spots in the bottom third of the painting were just too distracting. When I tried painting them over, I couldn’t: there was still some paraffin in the paper. One extra ironing removed it and I was able to tone the white spots down.

Here is the finished version:

watercolor batik on rice paper architectural painting France

Detail views:

watercolor batik detail view

watercolor batik on rice paper detail view

batik watercolor painting

And a handy time lapse video: French Windows

Hope you enjoyed it! Questions? Suggestions? Comments?

Originally published at:


Tam O Shanter

Posted by: Paul A Reeves

Tagged in: Tam O Shanter , Scottish , scotland , Robert Burns , Paul Reeves , Painting , artist , art , acrylic

Paul A Reeves



Tam O Shanter - Acrylic on board.

Like most artists, I look back at work that I have done in the past, and reflect on how I am progressing. Most of the paintings I exhibit and put online are those I have created over the last few years, and work that I believe is showing a distinctive development of my style.

This painting I made when I was eighteen years old, and it's one of the few paintings in my collection from those days that I still feel good about showing among my more recent work.

It's very different to the style that I am currently developing. I like the direction my current style is going in, and hopefully it will become recognisable as being mine. But I still see me in this painting. I still see me growing.

I went through very dramatic changes at this period in my life as far as my artistic awakening is concerened. I really felt for the first time like I was becoming an artist.

I love Robert Burns poetry, and I have made several paintings and drawings depicting his work. Tam O Shanter is my favourite Burns poem, and I wanted to capture the most exciting moment in the story when Tam is almost caught by the witch called Nannie. Tam tries to escape over the bridge, or brig over the river Doon, because a witch can't cross over running water. Tam manages to escape, but not before Nannie yanks the tail from his horse Maggie.

Prints of Tam O Shanter and other artwork of mine can be seen and purchased here. Paul Reeves Art

And here. Paul Reeves Art


costa rica girl watercolor portrait

Reference photo is my friend Lorna.  She is originally from Costa Rica and we met during both of our first years in the U.S., at an ESL class. Unfortunately, the painting doesn’t look like her, even after numerous reworkings (if you look close, you can see areas of diluted gesso here and there). I guess I’ll have to paint another one some time and aim for more resemblance!

Speaking of years in the U.S., yesterday was my 7-year move-i-versary (thanks Genevieve for another made-up word I can add to my vocabulary ;) ) It feels so strange.


Originally posted on November 1, 2010 at:





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