3 Tips So You Don't Wipe Out on Smooth Washes

19 Aug 2012

I am rolling my eyes with embarrassment when I tell you that when I first saw watercolor paintings with wide expanses of color I assumed that these were applied and then wiped out and smoothed over after they were laid down. I had no idea that there were watercolor painting techniques that you could use to get that effect with the stroke of the brush (and a lot of practice). Mea culpa--I'm a novice!

Kind of Blue by Amy Arntson, watercolor painting, 32 x 32.
Kind of Blue by Amy Arntson, watercolor painting, 32 x 32.

But after I found that out, I did my watercolor art research and found several great tips for laying washes that are soft, diffuse, and flowing:

No stinginess. I'm always trying to hoard paint and that is a big mistake. To lay a wash, you've got to do it in one go, and to be on the safe side you should mix more pigment than you think you will need.

Spinner by Mary Whyte, watercolor painting, 2007.
Spinner by Mary Whyte, watercolor painting, 2007.

Go off-kilter. Angling your watercolor painting surface forces a wash to flow downward and there won't be any drips. If you want to stop or reverse the direction that the paint flows, hold the surface so that you can quickly reverse the angle.

Don't turn back. This is the hardest one for me! You can't fix a wash by going back into it. In fact, usually it becomes more of a mess. Because of this, I keep scratch paper nearby to do a few practice strokes before I lay down the wash that I hope will be "the one."

If you want to see more incredible washes--plus luscious color and light effects--expert watercolor artist Mary Whyte's DVD, Watercolor Portraits of the South, is just the thing. It'll be sent right to your door or you can get the video as an HD digital download. Either way—enjoy!


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