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3 Ways To Fix Those Painting Booboos

Denise has been studying and teaching art and painting for 40+ years. She has won numerous prestigious awards for her art and design.

Tea Roses Watercolor Painting

My fixed Tea Roses.

My fixed Tea Roses.

No One’s Perfect

Every now and then and artist creates something that didn’t come out just as imagined. This doesn’t mean that it’s a disaster or a mistake. We don’t make mistakes…. Only happy accidents. But even with happy accidents, there are occasions when I hate how a picture came out. What then? Do I throw it away and start over? Sometimes. But first I see if there is a way to fix the mistake or area that didn’t come out as planned.

Oils vs Watercolor

This is where most artists say they like acrylics or oils best. You don’t have to discard a painting altogether to fix areas with oils and acrylics. Just paint over them. You cannot do that with watercolor. The very nature of watercolor is to keep its transparency. So if an area got too dark, there are some ways to pull the color back up but only to a point. Some of the paint will have seeped deep into the paper and will never come off.

Watercolor vs Oil or Acrylic

Method #1: Work slowly

In the case of my Tea Roses, I noticed that the background was so busy that it took away from the focal point of the roses. I was disappointed. I thought the darkness would bring out the color but it didn’t. Now what? Slowly I used a stiff brush and water to loosen the color and dab it with absorbent paper towels. I worked in small areas at a time, moving along the perimeter and working my way inward. This took some time but the results were much more favorable than throwing the painting out and starting over.

Method #2: Collage

I created a painting of a lady’s hands from a photo and unfortunately painted the railing and background just as they appeared in the photo. This is one of those cases where I should have taken artistic license and changed the photo to enhance the subject. The railing looked bad and created an unpleasant tangent with her fingers. Painting over the dark area was not an option. Light watercolors will not cover dark ones. I tried pulling up the color and that helped only a little. The tangent created was still evident. What now?

I went to the art store and found some lovely textured rice paper. Buying a variety, I returned home, tore the paper and glued it to the offending areas of the painting using a thin mixture of white glue and water. After the rice paper dried, I repainted some of the areas that had been covered and left the rest whitish.

No Longer Just Watercolor

Now, this is not a pure watercolor since the paper has been added so when I entered it in an art show, I had to use the category of mixed media/collage. However, this painting received an award. The collage made a disastrous painting successful.

"A Walk In The Woods With Tiffany"

This same technique was used to save a portrait I did of my niece. Working from a photo again, I painted a portrait of my niece with a window and climbing roses behind her. The background again was so busy that it took away from the charming girl. I tried washing the roses away as before but the outlines were still there. So once again, I got some rice paper and glued it all around the girl. When it dried I drew a border and painted some shadows lightly with watercolor over the rice paper. Then I added some objects from my Nature Journal. I call it “A Walk In The Woods With Tiffany”. Once again, I won an award for this painting.

Nature Journal

I think every artist should keep a Nature Journal drawing and painting little things of interest where ever they turn up. This can be a reference later as in this painting with the natural objects around Tiffany.

Mixed Media Book

Method #3: Mixed media

When you have created a painting, even if you don’t like all of it, there are usually parts that came out very well. And watercolor paper is good heavy paper, not cheap. I have created many a craft project using watercolor paintings that were only partly successful because of composition or color choices. I have several patterns that utilize watercolor paper and make great gifts.

Boxes, Bags, and Fans

You can create boxes with your paper. See the included pattern and feel free to copy and download it for your use. I have also created a book of boxesto be used with watercolor paper available on Lulu called Boxes, Boxes, Boxes by Denise McGill.

You can create fans, which come in very handy at family reunions. These are invariably held in parks during the summer months and therefore make great gifts. I have written a few articles on making fans and include patterns here.

Make gift bags for all occasions using good watercolor paper. Paper bags from your own paintings look really clever and make a hit any time of year.

Scroll to Continue

Also, cut portions of your watercolor paintings to use for homemade cards. Very memorable.

My Skillshare Watercolor Class

Another Mixed Media Approach

Create a mixed media project using oil paints and acrylic medium. This is a fun project for the artist who has never mixed these different mediums. Take a watercolor painting and cover it lightly with acrylic matte medium. Do not press hard or stir the medium on the watercolor much as you can pull up the paint below without meaning to. When the medium is dry it can now be covered with a thin oil antiquing. Use burnt umber and Liquin medium. The Liquin will cause the oil paint to dry quickly. Paint the thin layer all over the painting and allow it to almost dry. After about 10 to 15 minutes use a paper towel to lift some of the paint back up to give an antiqued effect. You can add another layer after this one dries completely, to give a darker perimeter or darken areas you aren’t happiest with. It makes a very interesting painting effect and spruces up an otherwise dull painting.

Fixed up Comments

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on May 27, 2021:

Not every painting can turn out as a masterpiece. But I hate throwing away perfectly good "decorated" paper so I came up with other things to do with it. Thus the creation of the Boxes Book. Thanks for commenting.



Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 28, 2021:

I'm so very happy you liked this and could get some ideas and helps from it. Thanks for commenting.



Nelvia from Atlanta on July 25, 2020:

Very much enjoyed your work and the article. Good ideas and saves.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on June 08, 2015:


How super kind of you. I really appreciate patrons of the arts... where would we be without them. I'm glad you think my tips are worthy to be passed on to your loved ones.



Heidi Reina from USA on June 08, 2015:

I love your work. The Tiffany Portrait particularly spoke to me. I'm not an artist myself, but my mother and daughter both are, and I'm passing your tips on to them. Really great work!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 19, 2015:

Yes, bradmasterOCcal, it's about light. As you know, there are all the colors of the spectrum in light. If the lights are on (daylight) you should be able to see all the colors, even if you only "perceive" the apple is red, it still has blues and purples in the shadows as well as flecks of green and yellow. All the colors are there. Notice too that brown and black are absent in the rainbow... because brown is a mixture of all the colors and black is the total absence of light. So neither of those should be present in your clouds.

Glad to be of help.



Brad on March 19, 2015:


I had no ideal it was that many colors.

I guess I can practice on paper first.

Thanks so much.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on March 19, 2015:


Yes, actually the trick is to paint them like they are solid and not vaporous as we mentally know them to be. You want to use color (grey, blue, peach, tan and yellow) as well as white to give it dimension and form. Decide which direction the light is coming from and have only that side white. The rest needs to have degrees of value from light to dark. The best bet is to get a photo reference to use for inspiration. Look through the internet of check out a cloudy day and take a photo that you really like. Then plan the colors ahead of time. When working on a ceiling you have to have the colors premixed to be able to work fast and soft over your head. Oh and go ahead and use your sponge but use it in layers. You may need to go over the sponged areas while they are still wet with a dry 4-inch brush to soften any edges. Clouds don't look right with hard edges.



Brad on March 19, 2015:

Hi PaintDrips

I painted my ceiling with an odd shaped sponge to try an make clouds. No one likes them.

Do you know the secret to making clouds?


Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on February 06, 2015:

Aww, Flourish Anyway, you make me blush. Thank you.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 06, 2015:

Beautiful work and helpful for talented artists like yourself. Gosh I wish I had that level of talent. Nicely done.

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 30, 2015:

Thank you LadyFiddler and heidithorne. I appreciate your visit and your vote.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on January 30, 2015:

Okay, now I really want to make this whole painting thing a thing to do in this New Year. Just beautiful. Voted up, useful, awesome and beautiful!

Joanna Chandler from On Planet Earth on January 30, 2015:

Very exquisite your paintings are lovely and fascinating , i enjoyed the hub and the paintings very much. You deserve an award, the flowers looked so beautiful.

Keep up the good work.

Sharing, voted up, awesome, beautiful, useful and interesting :)

Thank U for sharing this with us!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 30, 2015:

Marcy, thanks so much for the vote. I hope I can be of help when you delve into watercolors. They aren't as threatening as people make them out to be.

Marcy Goodfleisch from Planet Earth on January 30, 2015:

Denise (PaintDrips) - you are such a talented artist! I have long wanted to try watercolors, but know so little about the techniques. So your information about how to fix mistakes is very helpful (I am sure I will need it!).

Voted up & up, and shared!

Denise McGill (author) from Fresno CA on January 21, 2015:

Thank you. I really appreciate your confidence in me.

missirupp on January 21, 2015:

Well, I'm off to buy a journal. I need to make notes like we talked about with the cartoons. Your paintings are magnificent. My sister just started painting with acrylics and she is surprising herself (and me) with her talents. I'll forward any hubs to her of yours that might be helpful.

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