Variegated Wash in Watercolor Painting

Watercolor Academy

Variegated Wash in Watercolor Painting

Article by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor

Whewn you need to fuse several colors in one place without mixing them together, the variegated wash technique becomes very handy.

Variegated Wash in Watercolor Painting - Article by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor
3-color painting by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor

It can be done on a dry or wet paper surface. First, you need to plan what colors will be introduced into the wash and prepare the mixes in saucers.

The variegated wash on dry paper starts from the top. The board needs to be tilted, so the paint will flow downward within the brushstroke. Apply the first color with a fully loaded brush and continue as if you are doing a plain wash to paint the target area. When you come to the place where the different color is required, squeeze the brush and load it with the other color. Apply that new color next to the previous one so it overlaps at the border. The paint will flow and mix with the first color directly on the paper. Continue the wash until you need to introduce another color. This way, you can add as many colors as needed, gradually filling the whole area that is intended for that wash.

Variegated Wash in Watercolor Painting - Article by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor
Plein air sketch by Vladimir London, Watercolor Academy tutor

The same method can be used on a wet paper surface. You can moisten the area for the wash with a flat soft brush or with an atomizer, using clean water. Do the variegated wash as described above. When painting on a wet surface, load less water onto the brush to avoid the paint running down uncontrollably. The moist surface will help the paint flow and make the transitions between colors more gradual.

Variegated washes can have gradations of colors in horizontal stripes or on the same level. When a new color is introduced into the wash on the same level, instead of running a brushstroke from edge to edge, the bush can be squeezed, and the new color added to continue that horizontal brushstroke.

Many interesting effects can be achieved with variegated washes. Soft fusions of tint into tint remove the strong borders between colors, giving the appearance of aerial perspective. This is where the skills and experience of an artist play an important role in planning, applying and controlling hues, saturations and values.

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