Wet-into-wet: A Short Guide to an Essential Watercolor Technique

Today we are taking a look at a very challenging technique – working with a wet brush onto a wet surface.

Applying the method, you can get something striking or spoil a piece of paper.

The Magic of Blurring

Watercolor pigments are soluble, that is their main feature.

The more liquid you add, the more transparent and luminous the colors become, and the better they blend. As diluted paints flow, a natural gradient is created.

The spellbinding process is very hard to control: sometimes you have to make ten little mistakes to achieve the desired effect.

On the other hand, the surprises may be good. Little accidents often provide unexpected opportunities.

The wet-in-wet method is great for painting:

  • backgrounds;
  • translucent shadows;
  • objects that have a soft, fluffy texture (let’s say, a cloud or a Persian cat);
  • abstract images.

There are artists who paint their artworks in the technique from beginning to end.  I like the example:

How to Paint on Damp Paper?

The outcome of wet-in-wet watercolors depends on many factors.

First of all, it’s important to choose the right art supplies. Use expensive cold-pressed paper with 300-400 GSM. The paper absorbs water quickly enough. It shouldn’t be too rough; otherwise, colors will spread poorly.

And don’t try to save money when buying paints. For example, Winsor & Newton, M. Graham & Co, and Sonnet are good watercolors to work with.

I have five more tips for you:

  1. Create a preliminary version of your picture without the expectation of a great result.  You need several minutes to analyze it and pick the necessary colors out.
  2. Start with the boldest strokes, then make layers subtle and pale.
  3. Moisten only the area you’re going to touch with a brush within the next few minutes. If the whole surface is shiny and wet, too many undefined shapes will appear. Imagine, that water is a sort of watercolor. Paint with water.
  4. Carefully wash the sharp edges of smudges (except in the case the effect is appropriate, of course).
  5. Keep calm and give paper time to dry after each stage of work.

Writing the post, I remembered an interesting trick. I’ve read about it somewhere on Maria Stezhko’s blog (http://mariastezhko.blogspot.com/).

The watercolorist speeds up the process of wet-in-wet painting with the aid of… a hairdryer.

Try to use the technique and share your impressions!


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Natalia Usanova
I am a poet and an amateur artist. A few years ago, it seemed to me creating works of art is a much more important occupation than reading books, visiting galleries, or listening to music. Now I don't think so. Let me share with you the masterpieces which have changed my life and can change yours. Follow me on Twitter!

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