Wet on Wet technique explained

I frequently get asked how to approach a background in a painting to get that smooth wash of colour and a seamless blend of colour without having harsh transitions and bloom effects in the painting.

Sunset in Watercolour

The best way to paint a background like this is using a wet on wet technique. But it seems to be a bit of a mystery to some. Really, it is nothing scary and it’s definitely not magic, but it does look “magical” when done right.

So, firstly, what is wet on wet (or wet in wet)? – simply, it is a wash of paint onto a wet paper. That’s all it is! But it’s not so easy, is it?

The only trick to it is controlling how wet your surface is to achieve the effect you want.

Basically, if you want a smooth wash of colour, the whole area of the painting needs to be wet and this is where practice comes in. Paper needs to be evenly wet with water so that it is kind of glistening, definitely not pooling water. The area has to be evenly wet, so that some parts of the area don’t dry out before you have completed the whole paint layer.

Once the paper starts drying, your colour application becomes more and more defined. This is great for starting to add detail, but no good if you still want smooth colour transitions. So you need to work quick.

Another way is to apply a light wash of colour evenly, covering the area instead of just water and repeat the above process layering more and more colour on top while the paper underneath is still wet.

But what to do if you didn’t get it all done before the paper dried?

Just lightly wet the area again with clean brush and clean water and repeat the process!

Some things are easier to show than to write about, so check out this video below for a demonstration and an explanation of how I use wet on wet technique throughout this painting in a few different ways.


PS. If you want to see how i painted this sunset in the example video – a full step by step course is available on SKILLSHARE. Get 2 months FREE Premium membership when you sign up using my link (and you can cancel any time!) https://skl.sh/2yWAcA5

Wet on Wet technique demystified

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