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Watercolor Basics: Types of Washes

Updated: Jul 27, 2023

Watercolor is a favorite medium to start painting with because it is very versatile and clean. Well.. clean-ish. For starters no paint fumes so you don't need to be in an open air space or have the windows open at all times. Watercolor is also the least toxic type of paint to work with, and white is water. Meaning, you don't really have to spend on a tube of white watercolor paint because by adding more water, you lighten your colors. See! Lots of advantages!

So today we will talk about the different types of watercolor washes. These are the basic techniques artists use to add different effects when painting a picture. While there are a ton of watercolor techniques out there, some involving more complicated materials–

we decided to show what you can do using only your colors and water. Don't get us wrong! Just because they are basic doesn't mean they're boring or dull. Some of these techniques have a myriad of uses. Let's get started!

Types of Watercolor Washes

  1. Wet on Wet - this is when you paint a layer of water over your paper then add a layer of color after. This technique is often used when you are painting the sky or a big space.

  2. Solid Dry Wash - this is when you add color without adding a water layer base on your paper. This technique is used when you are filling in objects or specific elements in your picture.

  3. Gradient Wash - this technique gives an ombre effect on your picture. You create this by adding intense color in an area where you want the color to be most apparent. After that, you add water to the edge so the color travels little by little to the direction you want it to fade out. We usually use this for perspective pictures or seascape horizons. Sometimes it's also used in fashion design like an ombre effect dress.

  4. Wet Blooms - A bloom is what happens when water drops into an area of solid color while the area is still wet. This can be used if you're trying to create a pattern. Maybe you want to create an abstract wallpaper of the interior of a room for example. This technique can be quite useful with enough imagination.

  5. Color gradient - Color Gradient is done when you want 2 colors to mix in the middle. This is done by pushing colors painted on the edges until they come together and mix at a center point. Try painting a sunset using this technique.

  6. Colored Bloom - Just like the wet bloom, the colored bloom is done by ading colored drops to wet solid colored surface. Often used when you paint flowers and the stigma and petal colors are close together.

  7. Water on wet paint - This is like a bloom but more deliberate and in a larger area. On wet paint we add a layer of water to push the paint in the direction we want. often used to fix mistakes. Yes! Watercolor is fixable.

  8. Salt on watercolor - Yes adding salt on wet watercolor paint absorbs color where it lands and as it dries. Some watercolor artists use this technique for underwater images.

There you have it 8 watercolor techniques to for you to try out on your next project! Be sure to sign up for Our series of watercolor classes right here on MegapixelsArt! We have watercolor classes for kids and teens! If you subscribe, we will also send you a free art lesson so you could get started!

Have a great day!

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