I’m currently challenging myself to do 100 abstract watercolor paintings in 100 days. Challenge being the operative word here, guys.

Usually my watercoloring is an accent, a background, an embellishment. But for 100 days I’m letting it stand on it’s own.

The thing I love about watercolor – abstract watercolor in particular – is that it’s fairly easy to get a beautiful result. The watercolor medium is incredibly generous to work with and with just a few techniques and tips we can all be abstract watercolor masters. Yep.

Today I am sharing my 5 best tips for getting greats results with your abstract watercolor painting. My tips are super practical with no magic involved so everyone can do it. Let’s dive in.

1. Pick a small format

Boundaries, you guys. Humans work best within boundaries so do limit your canvas size.


  • It takes away a lot of that blank page fear.
  • It uses less paper so you can paint more for less $$.
  • It’s just easier to manage while you paint.


  • Uhm?

These little 4×4 inch books that I make and use for my paintings are the BEST. They’re simply sheets of my favorite affordable watercolor paper by Canson, cut/torn to size, folded and stapled together.

2. Prompts

So where do you even begin? The answer is: Prompts. It may seem counter-intuitive to use specific themes as a starting point for an abstract painting but trust me, it’s probably the most helpful tip of them all.

Do not try to accurately depict the prompted sentiment.

Do use prompts as a mental starting place – a spark that fills your head with shapes, color and motion that you can then translate into a painting. Close your eyes and visualize the prompt. Interpret it and paint your version of that story.

I have found that prompts works best if I just go through them from top to bottom without judgement, without selecting faves or debating. And I’ve found that mulling over them or researching them isn’t a good idea either. Just go for it.

Here are ten brand-new prompts just for you. Enjoy!

Save them on your phone so you have them nearby next time you sit down to paint.

3. Distract your mind

Lots of people, including yours truly, are chronic over-thinkers. Over-thinking is a sure way to poop on your painting party so put on a favorite album or a rerun of a tv series so that your meddling mind has something to do while the rest of you paint. The brain loves solving problems  – but the brain is a hammer and you don’t need a hammer for painting.

4. Less is more

In speaking and writing, fewer more accurate words will make your point clearer. That rule goes for lots of art forms too, and in abstract watercoloring particularly less is always more.

Painting with a few confident strokes will make your piece look effortless. Too much layering and fiddling will make your piece look busy and muddy.

I’m not saying this is easy. Confident strokes and confident addition of color take practice. So practice.

If you need a more tangible way to avoid overworking your art you can set a timer for two minutes. Another great boundary.

5. Use random elements

Sometimes the best way to achieve an organic, dream-like result is to add random elements. Basically what I’m asking you to do is to work in some random splatters, smudges, etc.

Roll the entire head of your brush sideways over the page while it’s loaded up with color and water. This is a great way to get a painting started.

Flick your loaded brush over the page to add specks of color. This is a great finishing touch – especially if you feel like your painting looks a bit too deliberate and too restrained.

Those are my five tips for better abstract watercoloring.

I’m still knee deep in my own abstract watercolor experiment which you can follow at #100daysofabstractwatercolor and even catch live paint sessions on the Paper Nerd Facebook page. Go check it out.

Remember, this is just my personal preferred way to go about painting abstract watercolor. Maybe my tips can help you get started and you can invent your own favorite methods. Good luck with your watercoloring and have fun!

xo Nina