Watercolor Flat Wash

How to produce a watercolor flat wash

I have made a short video demonstration on how to create a watercolor flat wash.

I have gone into quite a bit of detail about what on the surface looks like a very simple subject but beginners often have a lot of trouble with it.

The flat wash is one of the most basic of watercolor brush strokes and deserves every effort to get it right. Some of the key steps to take to make your flat washes successful are:

Mix plenty of watercolor paint and water before you start your wash. It is better to have a little mixed paint left over after you finish a wash than having to try and quickly mix some more halfway through because you have run out. This is one of the most common reasons people end up with unwanted lines in their washes.

Use a fully loaded watercolor brush – one that will drip with held vertically with the point down. You want to paint with a light touch with the watercolor flowing out of the brush rather than pushed out with a lot of pressure.

Tilt the board supporting your watercolor paper so that the paint flows down the page. It is this flowing action that leaves you with a nice clean looking wash. This is similar to what happens on the surface of a beach, when the water washes out it leaves behind a nice clean and firm sandy surface.

Paint quickly so the previous brush strokes done’t have time to dry before you lay down the new one. Each brush stroke should overlap the previous one, causing the watercolor paint that has beaded at the bottom of the previous stroke to flow into the new one.

It is best to create your wash in one go, without fiddling, however if your wash still has a shine on it you can go back in with more paint, but if it has lost its shine leave it alone!

Video of a watercolor flat wash