How to do a watercolor wash: 15 steps (with pictures)

How to do a watercolor wash: 15 steps (with pictures)
How to do a watercolor wash: 15 steps (with pictures)

Watercolor painting is a very old medium, discovered in cave paintings from the Paleolithic Age and used to illustrate ancient manuscripts. The watercolor painting technique may seem simple, but you can't really make mistakes. If you want to get started with watercolors, it can be very helpful to learn how to do plain or layered washes.


Paint a Watercolor Wash Step 1

Step 1. Prepare the paper

You have to prepare the paper in a certain way to paint with watercolors.

  • Soak a sheet of watercolor paper in cold water for 2 minutes.
  • Take it out and lay it flat on a drawing board. Smooth it out with a sponge. If the paper is too wet, the wash will not work well.
  • Tie the edges of the sheet to the board with duct tape and allow it to dry.
Paint a Watercolor Wash Step 2

Step 2. Choose a brush

Take a large watercolor brush that can absorb a lot of paint and cover a large area. To do a watercolor wash, you have to cover the entire sheet.

Paint a Watercolor Wash Step 3

Step 3. Choose a background color

Put a large amount of paint of this color on a palette. Add enough water to achieve the desired tone.

Step 4. Draw a square

Draw a large square in light lines with a pencil on the sheet. This will help you learn how to control the application of watercolor to wash a wash.

Step 5. Moisten the paper

Dip the brush in water and run it lightly over the sheet.

Step 6. Apply paint

Dip the brush in the color you prepared. Start at the top of the square you drew and paint a wide strip with a large brushstroke from side to side. Practice making regular shots while staying in the square.

Step 7. Work your way down

Put more paint on your brush and work your way down the square one strip at a time. With watercolors, you can slightly overlap the previous strip. When you get to the bottom, let the paper dry.

Method 1 of 2: Make a monochrome gradient

Step 1. Take paint

Dip your brush into the paint you prepared. A gradient watercolor wash gives a background with several shades of the same color.

Step 2. Paint a strip

Make a big brushstroke at the very top of the sheet, going from side to side. Fill the whole square in this way.

Step 3. Edit the shade

With each brush stroke, add water to lighten the color or paint to darken it. To do watercolor, you need to learn how to get different shades from just one color.

Method 2 of 2: Make a multicolored gradient

Step 1. Moisten the paper

Dip your brush in water and run it lightly over the entire sheet.

Paint a Watercolor Wash Step 12

Step 2. Choose colors

You could use red and orange to paint a sunset with a watercolor wash.

Step 3. Apply the paint

Dip the brush in one color paint and slide it across the paper from side to side. Apply the other color without cleaning the brush to achieve a smooth transition from one color to another.

Step 4. Make a pattern

Move different amounts of pigment or water onto the wet paper with your paintbrush to create a pattern.

Paint a Watercolor Wash Step 15

Step 5. You are done

You now know how to make a beautiful watercolor wash.


  • When painting with watercolors, try using different types of brushes to achieve different textures.
  • Try out different watercolor papers to get different tones and textures.

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