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Watercolor-Paint Planter

In a technique often used to decorate cakes, give your container garden a swirl of bright color and pattern with these painted pots.

watercolor pink painted planter on mantel

Photography: Ashley Poskin

Source: Martha Stewart

Introduction

This idea comes from our friend Ashley Poskin. "After using the 'watercolor' process on my daughter's birthday cake this year, I thought I'd see how well the process would transfer over to paint—it is, after all, named after a painting technique," she explains. The cake decorating technique starts with a frosted cake with multiple colors piped onto the sides in artistic placement; it's placed atop a turntable and a bench scraper is used to gently marbleize all of the colors together, smoothing out the frosting into a beautiful blend.

 

For this tutorial, we sourced a cement planter that would resemble a stacked layer cake once painted in white. Choose a quality primer that is thick and won't drip, plus gel medium and a cake scraper. Once mixed into the craft paint, the gel medium takes on a consistency similar to frosting, which allows the process to work. If you don't use the gel medium you can still achieve similar results, however your paint will be more prone to drips and you won't get the same delicious texture.

materials

  • Planter (Pictured: Fox & Fern Plant Pot, in Matte White, 8", $35, amazon.com.)

  • Gel medium (Pictured: Liquitex Professional Gloss Super Heavy Gel Medium, 8 oz., $10.24, dickblick.com.)

  • Bench scraper

  • Craft paint

  • White primer (Pictured: Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 White Water-Based Interior/Exterior Primer and Sealer, 1 qt., $10.27, homedepot.com.)

  • Palette knife

  • Paintbrush (Pictured: Wooster Shortcut Angle Sash Paintbrush, 2", acehardware.com.)

  • Turntable (optional)

steps

  1. Apply a layer of white primer to the planter; set it aside to dry. (Tip: Make sure to give the planter a solid coat, but don't put the paint on so thick that it will drip.)

    watercolor paint planter white primer solid coat
  2. While the base coat dries, prepare your paint colors. (Note: This technique works best when using similar colors that blend nicely once they start to streak together.) For a small planter or dish, mix about 1 tablespoon of gel medium in with each color of paint. For the 8-inch planter pictured here, mix in about 1⁄4 cup of gel medium with each color paint; set aside.

    purple pink orange watercolor paints planter
  3. Paint the planter with a second layer of primer.

    watercolor paint planter additional primer layer
  4. While primer is still wet, use a palette knife to apply the paint mixture. Start with one color, smearing globs randomly all around the planter.

    watercolor pink paint applied to primed planter
  5. After you've finished one color, move on to the next, applying globs randomly all around the planter; repeat with all paint colors.

    pink orange watercolor paint blobs applied to planter
  6. Using one hand, hold the bench scraper at an angle, gently pressing it up against the side of the planter and holding the position. Place your free hand down inside the planter, press down so that the planter is firmly against the turntable, and rotate your wrist so that the planter turns towards you. The act of spinning the planter and holding the cake scraper in place will start to blend the colors together, giving it the desired "watercolor" effect. 

    spreading watercolor paints over planter with cake scraper
  7. The more frequently you pick up your scraper, the more textured marks you'll leave on your planter. Skip over areas to expose the base coat of the planter. The beauty of this technique is that it's an experiment that produces a one-of-a-kind look.

    pink watercolor paints texture spread planter

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