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Art how to paint on Watercolor painting - Technique - washes.

Updated on March 11, 2013


© frangipanni 2013. All rights reserved.

A wash is the most used technique in watercolour, from creating skies, to water and anything else you can imagine. Read on for a few simple explanations, how to do's and examples using washes.


Flat Wash – damp paper

First wet the paper. The paint is applied to a sloping surface in slightly overlapping horizontal bands from the top down. Once complete, the wash should be left to dry and even itself out without working back into it.

1. Wet the paper and allow it to dry until the shine has almost gone. Check it from the side.

2. Charge your brush with paint, and starting in the upper left corner touch your brush to the paper and gently pull a straight line of paint to the upper right corner.

3. Refill your brush and start the next stroke at the bottom of the first stroke, overlapping the bead of paint formed at the bottom of the first stroke.

4. At the end, carefully pick up the bead of paint that runs across the bottom using your brush or tissue.

5. Allow it to dry on a slight slant.


Graded Watercolor Wash – damp paper

This requires the pigment to be diluted with more water for each horizontal stroke. The result is a wash that fades out gradually and evenly.

1. Step 1, 2 and 4 as above

2. Step 3, pick up a little more water and start each new stroke overlapping bead.


Two Tone Wash

1. With the 1st color create a graded wash from top to bottom.

2. Allow it to dry.

3. Turn the paper upside down and repeat with the 2nd color. Allow to dry.


Grade the first wash with one color to about half way, then pick up the bead with a second color and grade it to the end.

Glazed Wash(Layering Colour)

Glazing is a similar watercolor technique to a wash, but uses a thin, transparent pigment applied over dry existing washes. Its purpose is to adjust the color and tone of the underlying wash. Transparent pigments such as Rose Madder (or Permanent Rose), Cobalt Blue etc are ideal for glazing as they are stains and can be applied layer after layer to achieve the desired effect. Be sure each layer is thoroughly dry before applying the next.

Granulating paints, such as yellow ochre, Ultramarine Blue should be layered last as they lift easily.

Rules for glazing

· Work from lightest to darkest and opaque to transparent. Opaque pigments do not glaze well. Also, try to use staining pigments for the first layers.

  • · Use very little pressure and a soft brush so underlying layers of paint are not disturbed.
  • · Each layer of color should dry thoroughly before glazing the next layer over it.


1. Paint 2 separate shapes with your cool red (staining colors) and allow them to dry.

2. Wash lightly over the top of half the first shape with the same color again. VALUE is the lightness or darkness of a color.

3. Wash lightly over the top of the 2nd shape with a different color.

Practice and play and you will soon start to master and enjoy using the wash techniques in your paintings.

Some great online art supply directories are: (I am in no way affiliated with or receive any type of payment from these companies)

Check out my other hubs on painting and art.

Paint with watercolor, budding artist tips. Art answers to a few random questions.

How to paint and draw - perspective.

Paint in watercolor - REGAINING and RETAINING WHITES. How to paint edges with watercolor - Art beginners tips and techniques.

Art -Presentation, Framing and Finishing to a gallery accepted standard.


How to paint and draw using a Two-point perspective.

Paint watercolor tips. Art how to

Art How to paint En Plein Air (painting outdoors)

Watercolour paper and tips on painting moving water.

Art how to on Watercolor painting - Technique - washes.

Paint How to mix colors

Painting and drawing General mistakes, problems and how to fix them.

D I Y Framing - an easy how to on framing to save you $$$.

Art how to paint - make tints, shades, tones and colors.

Some other great hubs to read on watercolor are

Baby Steps to Beginning Watercolor Painting

Frank Clarke Watercolor Brushes

How to Make Beautiful, Personalized, Watercolor Christmas Greeting Cards

How to Mix Skin Tones in Transparent Watercolor

If you enjoyed my hub please check out my other hubs, comment, share and email the link to friends and checkout the items printed in blue for my recommendations and links.


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    • Frangipanni profile image

      Frangipanni 4 years ago

      Just don't give up. Keep the enjoyment. Thanks for the nice feedback. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Frangipanni profile image

      Frangipanni 4 years ago

      Thanks for the nice feedback. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Frangipanni profile image

      Frangipanni 4 years ago

      Thankyou again. There is more to come on watercolor etc

    • Frangipanni profile image

      Frangipanni 4 years ago

      Thanks for the nice feedback. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

      I really love your series of articles on watercolor painting! This on one applying different kinds of backgrounds is so important for anyone attempting watercolor, and you've done a great job explaining how to do a flat wash, graded wash and two color background. Voted up and useful! Shared with followers!

    • cabmgmnt profile image

      Corey 4 years ago from Northfield, MA

      Well written and very useful. I have painted in watercolor but prefer acrylics. Watercolor definitly has specifics ways to be handled and you nailed this treatment of washes. Thanks for sharing! Voted up!

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Excellent article, Frangianni! I know how those washes are difficult! It always make me nervous especially when I work on a piece of wood!

      Excellent advices...and nice pictures!

      Voted up and useful!

    • Dbro profile image

      Dbro 4 years ago from Texas, USA

      Excellent Hub, Frangianni! Your instructions on how to apply washes in watercolor are very clear and easy to understand. As an experienced watercolorist, I still have trouble applying large even washes! The temptation to go back in and "fix" an area is quite powerful, but if you give in to the temptation it can be disastrous! Thanks for this very instructive article. I will try to follow your advice!