3 Major Differences Between Chinese and Western Watercolor Paintings

  1. Minimal

Chinese watercolor paintings tend to be very minimalistic in their color choices and use of blank space.

Chinese watercolor paintings will just use a few colors. A typical painting will only have about five colors. Not only that, certain objects in Chinese watercolor paintings will usually be the same color. Instead of mixing colors together, Chinese painters tend to use more or less water to change the shade of the color instead of mixing colors together. Take a look at this painting to see what I mean.


Did you notice something else about the painting? There is a lot of blank space in the painting. In Chinese, it is called 留白, remaining white. Recently a Hong Kong pop artist sang a song with the same name, but I don’t think it is very minimal, do you?

  1. Traditional

Chinese paintings are traditional because the typical subjects of a Chinese painting are limited and the types of brush strokes used are limited.

Do you like painting detailed portraits? Surrealistic scenes? Things from your imagination? I do too! But Chinese paintings are usually of birds, flowers, mountains, and other natural things. I love that Chinese painters see the beauty in realism, but sometimes I like to add some imagination!

One thing that is very different is the role of brush strokes. Chinese painting uses similar brush strokes to writing Chinese characters. That means Chinese painters usually won’t move their brush freely over the paper. Instead they will use brush strokes that come from the seven brush strokes in Chinese calligraphy. That means that some critics may say that a Chinese painting is “wrong”!


  1. Words (字)

China has a long history of poetry, and many painters throughout history were also poets. So, a common practice was to write a poem and then bring it to life in a painting. Look at this painting. The words mean, “The sun sets behind the mountain, the day ends, the Yellow River flows into the sea. If you wish to see further, you must go to the highest tower.“


You can have a look at my paintings here. Though I love Chinese watercolor paintings. I don’t paint in a traditional style. But do you think any of these Chinese techniques have influenced my style?


One thought on “3 Major Differences Between Chinese and Western Watercolor Paintings

  1. Pingback: 3 Chinese Artists You Should Know | flowerq fine art

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