Can You Use Watercolor Tubes Without Adding Water?

Watercolors give creators the ability to add layers of color without over-saturating the pigment., and this may tempt artists to use them directly from the tubes. These paints are designed to be mixed with water, but can you use watercolor tubes without adding water? 

You can use watercolor tubes without adding water. The tubed color is highly concentrated and as bright as it will ever be. However, the paint is designed to be thinned, and using it without water uses it up quickly. Thick, undiluted colors are also harder to mix.

This article looks at how best to paint with watercolor tubes, the best means for mixing them, and how to apply them.

Can You Use Watercolor Tubes Without Adding Water?

Watercolor paints come in two styles: a solid slab in a pan and a flexible paste in a tubeOpens in a new tab.. The tubed paints have concentrated colors and provide smoother, easier coverage. Watercolor tubes hold more paint than slabs, making them more economical for larger amounts of coverage.

Using watercolors directly from the tube makes painting more difficult. Since the substance is thicker and more concentrated, you’ll need to mix the colors before you apply them. This takes a lot away from the flexibility of watercolors. Mixing the colors with water creates a more workable painting medium. 

Additionally, you’ll need to use considerably more paint than if you diluted it. As you can imagine, this will lead to much higher expenses.

However, using watercolor tubes without water also has its advantages. The main one is that the colors are much more vibrant, and you get to see exactly how they’ll look from the beginning. It’s also easier to prevent the paint from mixing with other colors.

Buying Watercolor Tubes

Before you can paint, with or without water, you must purchase the right paint for you and your project. Tubed watercolors come in three sizes:

  • 0.17 ounces or 5 milliliters
  • 0.5 ounces or 15 milliliters
  • 0.68 ounces or 20 milliliters

Watercolor tubes come in every primary color. The paint is available in two styles: staining and non-staining. Artists can lift the non-staining variety if they make a mistake, while the staining variety is permanent. 

You’ll normally find watercolor tubes at three levelsOpens in a new tab. of quality:

  • Student
  • Academic
  • Artist-grade

Student and academic-grade paints are cheaper than artist-gradeOpens in a new tab. ones, but they are more opaque and can look a bit like acrylic paint. Academic and student-grade paints may serve your project just fine, especially if you want to try new colors.

How to Use Watercolor Tubes Without Adding Water

Set Up Your Pallet

You’ll need a surface to hold your paints. A flat pallet will work well—however, a mixing pallet has depressions to hold your watercolors. These divots keep your paints from cross-contaminating and ruining your colors.

Whether you choose to use the paint directly from the tube or add a bit of water to dilute it, the watercolors will spread and potentially create blends you don’t want.

If you don’t have a pallet, don’t panic. Any flat surface will suffice. Just make sure it has ample room to separate each shade.

Open your paint cautiously. Artists often apply pressure to a tube without intending to, resulting in the watercolor exploding out of the top when the cap is removed. 

Squeeze a small blob of each color you plan to use in an individual spot on your pallet. Lift the paint tube straight up. This will prevent spreading and prevent the paint from collecting on the outside of the tube. 

When mixed with water, a dime-sized blob of paint is sufficient. If you choose to use only the watercolor, you’ll need a much larger quantity, so plan accordingly.

Try to anticipate every color you’ll need. Including each shade you need on your pallet ensures you won’t need to search for more tubes in the middle of your project.

Get Your Water Cups

Whether you dilute your colors or use the paint directly from the tube, you’ll need water for rinsing.

If you’re using the watercolors directly from the tube, prepare only one water glass. Use a container with a broad opening and enough room to swirl your brush. Avoid precious or valuable dinnerware.

Painters thinning their watercolor need two water glasses: one to hold the liquid for diluting their paint and the other for rinsing. 

Mix the Colors

Keep several brushes on hand—at least enough for each color. Even though you will be rinsing your brushes and mixing colors, it’s essential not to let pigments blend by accident. 

Mixing colors directly from the paint tube is relatively simple. Just follow these steps:

  1. Dip your paintbrush into the water. Shake off the excess.
  2. Press the brush down on the pallet next to your paint, creating a little pool of water.
  3. Dip your brush in the water again, shaking off the excess.
  4. Brush the bristles over the paint, capturing a small amount of the paint. 
  5. Start with a small amount of paint. You can add more, but you can’t remove it.
  6. Repeat the process until you’ve achieved the desired shade.

You can use this method to create custom colors as well. Watercolors come in primary colors, and painters mix them to create different shades and hues. To do that, simply follow the steps above but add other hues into that same pool of color. 

Be sure to use either a new or a thoroughly rinsed brush before mixing a new color. The slightest lingering pigment will alter the shade you’re mixing.

Apply the Paint

You’ve mixed your colors. Now you’re ready to create! Watercolors apply best in thin layers, so use light coats to build up the colors and shades you need.

Watercolors are most effective on paper designed specifically for the paints. Watercolor papers Opens in a new tab.absorb the paint’s moisture without wrinkling or buckling. Look for a paper with a weight of at least 140.

Final Words

Watercolor tubes are a valuable and effective tool for artists. These highly concentrated colors provide smooth and brilliant coverage for large areas. While you don’t need to add water to the paints, they are designed to be diluted. Follow the correct steps to make the best watercolor art.

makoccinoOpens in a new tab.
Was this article helpful?


Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

Recent Posts