Can Watercolors Be Used on Wood – How Do You Seal Them?

some methods for using watercolors on wood

Watercolors are natural for those who are just starting out in the painting. You commonly see watercolors used by children in pre-school and kindergarten to express their creative side. 

They are also used by those who are young at heart when taking up painting. 

However, while watercolors are easy to use and have many advantages, it is more difficult to get the results that you want without practice. 

And while paper or canvas is the natural format for painting with watercolors, they can be used on different types of surfaces. 

One of the most common questions is whether watercolors can be used on wood. 

Are Watercolors Suitable for Wood?

The answer is that you can use watercolors on most surfaces, and that includes wood. 

What makes wood a desirable surface for your watercolors is the texture and grains that provide another dimension to your painting. 

Depending on the shape and pattern of the grains, you will have a beautiful surface to express your creative side when painting with watercolors. 

Plus, a wood surface will help your watercolor efforts stand out from those who use traditional canvas or paper. 

This means that if you desire to have the results enhanced, wood is a wonderful surface on which to paint using watercolors. 

But one issue with wood is that you cannot just grab a piece that is sitting nearby and start painting. 

This is because, without the proper preparation, the wood surface may not provide you with the results that you want. 

Preparation is a Key When Using Watercolors on Wood

One thing to remember is that thinner watercolors may have absorption issues when applied to the wood. You will need to keep this in mind before you begin. 

But with the proper preparation, you can get the results that are desired.

Plus, with the right prevention methods in place, you can view the results for a long time to come. 


When you find the right piece of wood, the first step is to inspect it for any contamination.

Wood that has been compromised by mold, for example, should either be thoroughly cleaned or discarded. 

If the wood is free of mold, you can wipe it down with a cloth to get rid of all the loose particles. 


Unless you obtain a prepared piece of wood that comes from an art retailer, you will need to sand the surface to get the best results. 

Start with some fine grit sandpaper in the 360 to 600 range. The fine sandpaper will help provide the texture needed for the watercolors to stick. 

Plus, it will also ensure that the wood surface is not too coarse. 

It is best to sand outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. This way, the fine dust that is created will not affect your lungs. 

You may want to wear a mask or even a respirator when sanding if you are susceptible to the dust that is created. 

Remove the Dust:

Once you have completed the sanding, get rid of the dust and wood shavings that were created. If you didn’t create much in the way of dust, you could blow them off. 

However, for more extensive amounts, you should try using a compressed air tank or even vacuum the dust and shavings from the surface. 

Wipe clean once all the dust has been removed, and now you are ready to start the painting process. 

how to apply watercolors on wood?

Painting with Watercolors on Wood Surface

When you are ready to paint, you will need to prime the wood before painting. This is to prevent it from absorbing too much of the watercolors. 

Apply the Primer:

Unless the watercolor paints are made from a substance other than gum Arabic, you will need to prime the wood before you add the paint. 

The two most common primers are gesso and watercolor ground. Each has its attributes which makes them good candidates for use as a primer. 

Gesso is the most used, and you can paint on most surfaces once the gesso is applied and dries. 

The downside of gesso is that it will cover up the grain and texture of the wood unless you use a very light coat. 

The watercolor ground is better for priming wood because it will allow the grain and texture to come through. 

There are a few different colors to choose from, but one of the best is iridescent gold. This color is semi-transparent, which allows the details of the wood to show through. 

Start the Painting:

Once the primer has been applied and it dries, you are now ready to paint. You can use the watercolors at your disposal to paint what you desire. 

After all, painting is an expression of your creativity. So, use the colors and techniques that you want in creating the art that is desired. 

Once you have finished your masterpiece, you will want to preserve the results. This means sealing in the paint with the right type of varnish. 

The Sealing Process: 

A good varnish to use is Krylon, as it provides ample protection and will dry in less than 15 minutes under normal circumstances.

But more importantly, this type of varnish will not turn yellow over time.

Given the relatively fragile nature of watercolors, this is the varnish that you want to use to preserve your efforts. 

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