Gradated Wash in Watercolor Painting
Article by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor
Gradated wash goes from darker values at the top to lighter ones at the bottom or vice versa, from light to dark.
Painting by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor
A gradated wash is very similar to the plain wash method described above. However, for this technique you need half the paint pre-mixed in a saucer.
Start the wash from the top by applying a horizontal brushstroke with a fully-loaded brush. Make another line just below with the full brush, overlapping the previous brushstroke, so the paint can flow from one line to another. Now dip the brush into your water bucket and add a full-brush-load of water into the mix in the saucer. Mix it quickly, load the brush and apply another line beneath the previous one, making sure that there are no gaps left between the lines. From now on, repeat the previous step, adding more water into the mix for every new line. This way, the tonal value will become gradually lighter the further down the paper you go. The aim is to finish the wash with almost clear water.
Painting by Ilya Ibryaev, Watercolor Academy tutor
To deepen the gradated wash, you can do several layers. The previous layer must be dry before applying the next one.
In this method, the gradated wash goes from darker values at the top to lighter ones at the bottom. If you need the reverse gradation (from light to dark) there are two ways to achieve it.
The first way is easy – just rotate the artwork 180 degrees and do as described above.
The second way is more advanced. If you prefer to keep the artwork the right way up, then a reverse gradation can be accomplished by starting from the first stroke with clean water. Then, add a bit of paint into the water on your palette or in your saucer and apply second stroke. For every new line, more paint is added, making the gradation darker in value and brighter in saturation as you progress with the wash.
Sketch by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor
This method requires a well-calculated feel for how much paint needs to be added for every new stroke. Otherwise the gradation can appear uneven, with visible horizontal lines.
To achieve a smooth gradation, you can do the following. Pre-mix the paint tint in a separate saucer and have clear water in another saucer. For every new stoke add a brush-load of the paint-mix from the first saucer into the second one and mix quickly. By adding the same amount of the paint-mix each time you will control the smoothness of the wash.
The same rule applies here: do not touch wet areas. You have to continue down with the new brushstrokes. Any mistakes can be fixed later by overlaying with more washes or by washing out and painting over.
Gradated washes can also be performed in a "saw wash" manner.
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