Watercolor Technique: Two-color Wash and Variety Wash

Wash is an application of watercolor diluted with water, which is applied smoothly and evenly over the surface. This is the foundation of watercolor painting. A flat wash is a uniform wash of equal value.

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Two-color wash

Two-color washes are actually two graded washes that meet each other in the middle of the painting surface. This creates the illusion of atmospheric perspective, in which more distant objects become lighter and less conspicuous and is therefore useful in delineating the horizon line in the distance where the sky meets the ground.

In a two-color wash, it is helpful to wet the paper before applying the paint. To do this, tape the paper completely to all four edges with artist tape or glue tape. If you want to completely eliminate any clumping of the paper, you should stretch it out first.

Starting at the top with one of your colors, load your brush, adding more water to lighten the value as you work your way down the page until you reach the middle. , then proceed uniformly along the surface.

Then turn the surface upside down and do the same with the other color.

The two colors, both of a lighter value, should merge subtly when they meet in the middle of the painting surface. If you determine that you want a more distinct line where the two colors meet, you can wash it on a dry surface. As always, it’s helpful to tilt the surface slightly (about 30 degrees) to get a graded wash, taking care that the paint doesn’t drip down where you don’t want it.

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Different types of washing

One type of washing is the washing of two or more colors that, when applied to wet paper, merge while retaining some of their discrete colors. For this, you will want to get your paper again with a sponge or large brush. One technique is to apply color by touching your brush to the paper. This will produce a bloom of color. This will produce another bloom of color that will flow into the first color in some places to form the third color. Another technique is to paint the first color onto the wet paper and then, while still wet, apply strokes of the second color on top of the first. The top color will flow into the first color creating softer edges and a third color in places. You may want to tilt your paper for more control over what happens.

These techniques take some practice but are useful for backgrounds, textures, and other special effects.