Painting on laser engraved plywood

watercolour painting laser engraved plywood ©KarenSmith
watercolour painting laser engraved plywood ©KarenSmith

Watercolour painting on laser engraved plywood

Laser engraving a design onto wood such as plywood, creates a wonderfully crisp image, but more importantly if you want to to add colour, it provides a ready made indented work surface, which helps to contain liquid paint colours to each separate element.

Essentially its colouring in, on wood.

Types of paint

Water based paints work well on wood as they absorb easily and dry quickly.
The translucent nature of watercolour paints produce subtle colour results where the grain of the wood can still be seen.

Acrylic paints will give a more opaque finish, and this can be useful for bold designs or text based designs where more impact is required.

watercolour painting laser engraved plywood ©KarenSmith
watercolours paints & watercolour pens


In this example I’ve used watercolour paints, mixing paint colours from pans of paint, the brand I use is Winsor & Newton, but any good quality paint will do, the important thing here is to use paints with good pigment strength – this results in  bright colours..

To apply the paint to the wooden surface I prefer to use a water brush pen for this type of work, (Pentel Aquash) as the brush fibres tend to be quite firm, ideal for keeping inside the lines!

Brush pens have screw on barrels that are filled with water, and squeezing the barrel can deliver water straight to the surface of the work.

watercolour painting laser engraved plywood ©KarenSmith
watercolour painting laser engraved plywood


The engraved lines on the plywood will create small indented llines in the surface of the wood, this provides a great ‘edge’ to paint up to with your waterclour paint.

For fine detailed touches, such as the berries on this holly design I also use watercolour marker pens with fine brush tips – (Kuretake Zig pens).

Karen’s top tips:

Don’t dilute the paint with too much water, this will result in the paint bleeding along the grain of the wood and across the outlines.
Use single colours (not mixes) if possible, this will keep colours bright, use layers to create intensity – these holly leaves have about 3-4 layers of sap green paint on them.

watercolour painting laser engraved plywood ©KarenSmith
Kuretake brush pen
Follow karen:
Karen Smith Freelance Designer. I’m a Melbourne based designer, with over 20 years experience specialising in design. I enjoy working in a variety of mediums, including pen & ink, acrylics, watercolours, ceramics, wood and also textiles.
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