Wet on Wet Watercolor Technique

We will now look at the wet on wet watercolor painting technique.

A good exercise to understand the potential of using wet on wet techniques is to mix a milk strength mixture of French Ultramarine and Alizarin Crimson. Then tape a quarter sheet of rough textured watercolor paper to your board. Then with a round brush, about a size 16, and your board titled to about 25 degrees, wet the sheet down one side. Use lots of water so there is a shine on the paper.

Wet on wet watercolor painting technique

Wet on wet watercolor painting technique

Figure 1: Wet on wet watercolor painting technique

Now straight away pick up a brush of the pre-mixed watercolor and paint a wide strip across the top of the wet part of the paper about 2 inches from the top. The watercolor immediately starts to run down the page.

Now as you watch this you will notice a number of things. First, the water above the brush stroke you placed on the wet portion of the paper, flows down and gives you a very light soft (indistinct) edge as it washes the watercolor down from the point it was first placed. Secondly you will notice that the watercolor continues to flow and change shape as you watch it, in this way you are letting the watercolor help you paint your painting. Once it creates the particular shape you are after (i.e. when it has flowed far enough down your watercolor paper) you can lay the board down flat and it will stop flowing. Thirdly you should be able to notice that instead of just a single color appearing on the paper, as you had mixed it, the pigments have separated in parts. The French Ultramarine being more of a particle based watercolor will not flow as far as the Alizarin Crimson, which is more like a dye. So now you will see that the top part of this shape is slightly bluer than the bottom.

This type of soft wet on wet or wet in wet edge is very good for giving the impression of rain, soft sunset clouds, and any other effect requiring indistinct shape transitions.

Now obviously there are a number of factors which affect the result you will create with wet on wet techniques. Firstly how wet you wet the paper, secondly the angle of your board – the steeper the angle the quicker and further the watercolor paint will flow, thirdly how thick a mixture you mix with your paint – the more watery it is the further it will flow but also the lighter will be your result, and fourthly how much paint is on your brush.

From practice and observation you will be able to better predict the general outcome of wet on wet techniques.

Continue to: Controlled Wet on Wet watercolor Technique