Why is my watercolor grainy? Find Out All the Responsible Factors

Do you know why is watercolor grainy in your painting? There are various reasons for that. Sometimes people think that the grainy look of the watercolor is terrible, but in fact, a grainy look doesn’t always inappropriate for any watercolor painting. Many artists specially choose watercolors, which has a grainy look to create the exciting texture of their artwork. However, it depends upon the subject of the painting as well. For example, if you are going to use it on a glass surface, it may not look more realistic. The smooth and transparent pigments look better on the glass surface.


Many people always ask the question, why their painting looks grainy? People need to make sure that the grainy look is also good, depending upon their work and need. Sometimes the pigment is naturally granulating, which leads your painting to a grainy effect. It also depends upon the paper quality. The rough papers are more granulating as compared to artists’ grade papers.

Grainy appearance of the watercolor

In this article, you will find that how the pigment and watercolor play a role in the grainy or the smooth appearance of the painting after knowing that you will have more control over the appearance of the watercolors. Sometimes there can be other causes of the grainy appearance then granulating. Below, you will find everything about the granular appearance of the watercolors.

Granulating pigment create a grainy appearance

Different watercolors can have various pigments depending upon their sources. Depending upon sources, the pigments can be divided into two types, the organic and inorganic pigments. When we talk about the inorganic pigments, these tend to granulate, when they are dry. Moreover, these types of pigments can create a mottled or grainy watercolor appearance.

When we talk about organic pigments, these are known as modern pigments. These pigments are more transparent as compared to inorganic pigments. Moreover, these pigments give a smooth appearance on drying.

Watercolor brands

There are different brands of watercolors in the market. Many brands are available, which give the speckled watercolor look, so you can easily find out the brands which are responsible for this. The most common brands are Daniel Smith, Holbein, m graham watercolors, and gold-Qor watercolors. Many brands also identify that either the pigments are granulating or not, because many artists are in need of granulating pigments, depending upon their work.

When we talk about the gold, they use the calcined natural iron oxide, which is listed as the granulating pigment. Moreover, it will be best if you make sure that some student grade watercolor pigments have granulating characteristics. You can also refer to the commonly used watercolors listed above.

Causes of pigments granulating

Different types of the pigments clump together, and pigments settle into the texture of the paper. Moreover, many pigments flocculate, when they clump together. This effect can also appear in the smooth paper. The granulating show’s when pigments settle down into the texture of the paper. Two essential things can play a role in the grainy watercolor effect. The first one is the use of a lot of water, and the second thing is the angle of the paper during use.

Role of paper in a grainy watercolor effect

The texture of the paper also plays a role in the grainy watercolor effect. So, whenever your watercolor looks grainy, first check the paper quality as well. The bumpy texture of the paper plays a role in the granular appearance of the watercolors.

Sometimes people take photographs of their image in the specific lighting, and the paper looks a little grainy in the lighting. If you think this happens only in the pictures, you need to believe that this can be due to lighting. Moreover, you can also do an experiment with different types of paper for water coloring in this case.

Watercolors paper are usually available in three types, cold press, hot press, and rough. The hot-pressed papers are smoothest among all the classes. Cold press paper has a little subtle texture as compared to soft press.  Moreover, the types of paper can also vary among the different brands. So, make sure to try the various papers for water coloring.

Pilling can be the cause of fuzzy watercolor painting

Sometimes artists overwork the paper, and it starts disintegrating. It is due to brushing the same areas again and again. Sometimes it can also be responsible for the grainy watercolor look of the painting. The less expensive papers are more prone to this issue. The costly paper can also lead to this issue, but they have more limits as compared to less costly papers.

Paintbrushes also play a role in this issue. The firmer and stiff bristles can be responsible for the disturbance of the paper fiber. So, make sure to specially made brushes for water coloring.

Avoid grainy washes by following these tips

Can I use watercolor pencils without water?

Watercolor pencils are a versatile medium and can be used as regular colored pencils without the water. You can get the same type of look with the watercolor pencils as well. You can follow the below steps.

  • Firstly, use watercolor pencils over the paper without water like regular colored pencils.
  • After that, you can use the wet brush over the color to give it a painting-like look.

Make sure about the quantity of the water; it’s affected by the brightness and the texture of watercolor.


From all the above discussion, we can conclude that the appearance of the watercolor depends upon different factors. These factors mainly depend upon the watercolor brand, paper quality, brushes, and the water quantity as well. One known mixed appearance is the grainy watercolor appearance, which is sometimes considered as good and sometimes bad. This appearance mainly depends upon the pigment source of the watercolor. Some high quality brands also mention it in the description section of their packaging, so you can easily buy it according to your need.

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