Watercolour technique: Wet-on-Wet

Easily create washes and backgrounds. You’ll be fascinated by it!
Learn more below

According to Nos petits doigts blogger Chloé, the wet-on-wet watercolour technique may be the most difficult to master, but its surprising results are well worth the effort. It’s the perfect way to easily create washes and backgrounds. You’ll be fascinated by it!

MATERIALS:

  • Paintbrushes
  • Watercolour paper
  • Watercolours
  • Masking fluid or gum
  • A cloth

INSTRUCTIONS:

How to master the wet-on-wet watercolour technique

Step 1: Prepare your paper.

The wet-on-wet technique puts paper to the test as it has a tendency to warp. It’s also tricky because the paint reacts to the water abstractly and doesn’t necessarily go where you want it to. For an abstract piece, leave the paper as is (without securing it) like in our example. For a figurative piece, use a sheet of paper that is a bit larger than the chosen size, wet both sides, staple the edges around a plank of wood and let dry.

Step 2: Prep the drawing and contours.

For a well-defined drawing with blank spaces or to create a background, delineate zones that should remain white using masking fluid or gum. Let dry.

Step 3: Prep your colours.

Prepare your palette before beginning to paint to avoid having the water (Step 4) dry out before the paint is applied. Once your palette is ready, you can start painting wet-on-wet.

Step 4: Wet the surface and apply colours.

The larger the surface, the larger your paintbrush should be and vice-versa. Wet the zone to be worked on and apply the colour of your choice with the same paintbrush. To create a single-coloured wash, apply the colour where it should be the most intense then stretch it out by diluting it with water. To create a multi-coloured wash, start with the palest colour and work up to the darkest. Blend the colours with a clean paintbrush and clear water.

Step 5: Let dry and layer colours.

Allow your painting to dry in the open air or speed up drying time with a hair dryer. For more intense colours, you can repeat Step 4 (reapply the colours) once the paper is dry. Allow the paper to dry after a second application of colour or dry with a hair dryer.

Step 6: Correct imperfections.

If cauliflower-shaped stains appear during or after drying, you can use the following technique to remove them with a fine clean paintbrush. Wet the brush and gently pass it over the contours of unwanted stains using delicate back and forth movements. Work perpendicularly along the shapes’ predominant lines. The stain will blend into the colour bit by bit. Be careful not to be too insistent or you will remove all the pigments. For example, the last photo shows large stains in the petals on the right. They have disappeared in the first photo.

Now that you’re all set to master the wet-on-wet technique, don’t forget: practise makes perfect!

TIPS

Your paper is too warped? Wet the backside and dry it with a hair dryer.