is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

How to Use Watercolor Paint in Tubes

how to use watercolor paint in tubes

Using regular watercolor paint is not easy for beginners, but sooner or later, you can get the hang of it. Then you move on to more unique tools, such as watercolor paint in tubes. How to use watercolor paint in tubes is not as straightforward as regular watercolor paint. So here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use watercolor paint in tubes.

What is are Watercolor Paint in Tubes?

There are several forms in which paint comes, and in tubes is one of them. Watercolor paint in tubes looks like small toothpaste, but the content is, of course, watercolor paint.

I think that watercolor in tubes is a more convenient and more portable form of carrying watercolor paint. And based on experience, each watercolor artist prefers what state in which their watercolor should come. Some prefer tubes, while others like to stick with the traditional pan or tray.

If you want to try out watercolor paint in tubes but don’t know how, here’s the guide for you.

How to Use Watercolor Paint in Tubes

how to use tube watercolor paints

There are probably a lot of methods on how to use watercolor paint in tubes. But I only use one method, and it works efficiently for me.

Using paint right out of the tube is the most straightforward method of using watercolor paint, which comes in a tube. This method is the most effective because the paint is moist and ready for use immediately. I do not need to activate the pigments in the paint with water.

Additionally, using paint right out of the tube gives me a high concentration of pigment. The colors are as vibrant as they can be. Another benefit of using fresh paint from tubes is the paint is clean and untainted. With other methods, there is the risk that the pigments in the paint are mixed with other pigments. I want my paint to be as clean and fresh as possible.

Step 1: Mixing Surface

The first step to using watercolor paint right out of the tube is getting an impermeable surface where you can mix watercolor paint. Mixing palettes, a butcher tray, or even a simple dinner plate works. As long as the surface is impermeable, it will work. If not, the paint will likely stick to the surface.

Though you can use any impervious surface as a mixing surface, I strongly suggest using a mixing palette. Why? A mixing palette has two parts: paint wells and a mixing area. The paint wells are small depressions on the side of the palette. You can squeeze your fresh paint into these wells. The mixing site is for mixing paint puddles. Using a mixing palette decreases the risk of color contamination.

Pro tip: it is best to use a white mixing surface. It is easier to the shades and tints of the colors you are mixing on a highly white surface.

Step 2: Opening the Tubes

There is a tendency of a gush of paint with new tubes when you take off the cap. Most newbie watercolor artists don’t seem to notice that they put a little pressure on the tube when taking off its lid. The little squeeze on the tube causes the gush of paint when you remove the cap. Be mindful of how you open the tube; make sure you don’t put pressure on the tube. Another solution is opening the tube on top of your mixing surface. This way, any gush of paint is saved because it will just drop on your mixing surface.

The problem with old watercolor paint tubes is that they can get dry. The cap becomes challenging to remove. Warming up the cap works for me. I just leave the tube upside down in a warm glass of water. Another solution is putting some glycerin or honey on the cap. These substances help keep the paint soft.

Another problem with old tubes is that the dried paint comes out as flakes once the tube is opened. Make sure that no flakes drop on your paper or mixing surface as they can cause color contamination.

Step 3: Squeezing Colors

The next step is squeezing small dots of paint onto the mixing surface. I like to squeeze tiny flecks of paint on the edges of my mixing surface. I make sure that the beads are far away from each other to avoid any color contamination. Unlike watercolor trays, the colors are separated by hedges. You don’t have those hedges in a flat mixing surface.

Step 4: Preparing the Mixing Area

I like to keep my mixing area away from my small dots of paint. This way, I keep the colors pure.

I load my paintbrush with water and then dab it against a separate space on my mixing surface to create a mixing area. I make a small puddle of water where I can mix colors.

Step 5: Mixing Colors

Here’s the exciting part. To mix colors, moisten your brush first. Then gently dab it on a dot of paint on the edge of your mixing surface. It is essential to start very small to make sure you don’t get too much pigment. It’s easier to add pigment than to remove it.

After picking up some pigment with the brush, mix it into the small puddle of water. If you want to add another color, rinse your brush or get a brand new one. With the clean brush, create another mixing puddle and add a new color to it. The two primed colors are now ready for mixing.

Pro tip: Most watercolor beginners find the constant rinsing and cleansing of the brush tedious. But not cleaning your brush results in color contamination. Any new paint you pick up with the brush gets contaminated with the color of the previous paint. To maintain the integrity and accuracy of the colors on your painting, you have to clean the brush every time you change the color you are using.

The Benefit of Using a Mixing Palette

I like mixing palettes because I don’t always have to clean the paint off them after a painting session. And even if the paint dries out, I can always reactivate them before using them again.

To reactivate dried paint on the wells of a mixing palette, I just drop a bit of water on the dot of paint. Then it is ready for use again.

There is perhaps more than one method on how to use watercolor paint in tubes. But the technique I discussed here is straightforward and efficient.


There is perhaps more than one method on how to use watercolor paint in tubes. But the technique I discussed here is straightforward and efficient.

Leave a Comment