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WET-ON-WET watercolor technique

Tue Feb 13, 2018, 2:25 AM by jane-beata:iconjane-beata:

Traditional Art Basics Week

This week's chapter of my new journal series "Becoming Watercolorist" was written as a special edition - it is part of the Traditional Art Basics Week at projecteducate I think I've fainted. In the previous three chapters, you had a chance to read something about WASHESBASIC WATERCOLOR TEXTURES and PALETTES. The fourth chapter is all about a rather feared and often avoided watercolor technique, WET-ON-WET. Love 

Watercolor painting is mostly done in two ways - applying wet paint onto a dry surface or a pre-wetted surface. Each way has a different impact and result. The main difference is in the shape and character of a painted mark - painting on a dry surface results in marks with sharp edges, whilst painting "wet-on-wet" gives always feathered edges, suggesting blur. 

The wet-on-wet technique is most useful during the inicial phase of your painting process. Pre-wet your watercolor paper with clean water, using a large brush or a spray bottle. Grab a small amount of light color and start painting. When your brush touches the wet paper, the paint will spread immediately in all directions.  Apply it with care and let it dry. Depending on what your artistic intention is, zou can lay your paper flat on the table while working, or you can let the wet paint drip by tilting your paper in any direction.

Results produced by the wet-on-wet technique are somewhat unpredictable. You can get used to it with practice, and also learn how to have better control over time. If you are able to give up on the idea of having everything in your painting 100% under control, the outcome might even pleasantly surprise you. There is something magical about the way the paint and water flow into one another. This is the reason to give it a chance and be patient with it. Sweating a little... 

Wet On Wet Preview by jane-beata


  • Chose the right kind of paper. This affects how the water flows: Using rough or cold-pressed paper gives you better control over the flow. On hot-pressed, the smoothest kind of paper, water runs into all directions uncontrollably. 

  • Chose the right timing. You can regulate just how far the paint runs after you lay it on the watery surface. On a completely wet surface with lots of water, it runs far and everywhere. Let the paper dry just for a bit (the surface still needs to be wet though) and your paint will create soft edge but won't run that far. This needs a bit of practice, but you will get there. :) (Smile)

  • Have a tissue or a paper towel at hand. It will help you correct any mistakes or unsuitable marks. Correct them while the picture is still wet, because once dried, it is very difficult to get pigment off your paper. 

Watercolor Texture #1 by cgarofani


As an example on how to use the wet-on-wet technique, I did a quick painting of a kitten. I started by pre-wetting the basic shape of a kitten, adding just a bit of brown pigment into the first water layer to be able to see where I placed it. Then I painted stripes into the watery layer, adding more and more pigment and trying to control the shape of every stripe at least a bit. Using a large brush helps a lot; I use hake brushes for this type of painting. Choose the size depending on the size of a painting you are working on - they usually come in small, medium and large. 

The details of the kitten's face, such as eyes, nose, mouth, and whiskers, needed to be painted "wet on dry" because of their strictly defined shapes. The only exception is the iris of an eye: Whilst its shape is strictly defined, the inside needs to be done wet-on-wet by placing different tones and colors into the wet area. I used mountain blue with a bit of Payne's gray and added raw sienna into the top area to create more depth.

Macicka Wet On Wet 1 U by jane-beata

DEVIANTART FEATURES (featuring WET-ON-WET technique) I am a dummy! 

Automne by BlueCaroline
Watercolor by tylime
Ema by kalinatoneva
Klematisy 2 by modliszqa Two Worlds, One Ocean by kelogsloops

Add a Comment:
GeaAusten Featured By Owner May 12, 2018  Professional General Artist
I need this are very altruistic xx
jane-beata Featured By Owner May 12, 2018  Professional Traditional Artist
Not at all - by commenting and liking my work you are helping me to get noticed :) But other than that, I enjoy doing it :heart:
Seriiko Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2018
Oh I forgot to comment on this one! 
Wet on wet is fun, the cat was hard to try to make though :)
Salface Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Salface Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
RiEile Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2018
Very nice tutorial! The only thing I have to add is that not all the pigments behave the same in wet on wet. With some it just does not work at all. This cobalt violet… was the worst pigment I have encountered ever! It just does not flow, it has a 'gummy' texture, and does not mix well with anything.
Other than that it is worth paying attention whether your pigments are granulating or not. If you use cold press or rough paper, it might be a minor issue, but with smoother papers you do not want granulation to ruin your even wash or, conversely, you do not want to miss all the amazing effects granulation can create.
Aya-Lunar Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2018   Traditional Artist
Nice one, this helpful and interesting to see!
GeorgeXVII Featured By Owner Feb 13, 2018  Professional Traditional Artist
Beautiful tutorial jane-beata :clap: thanks !
you're very talented and have a great technique ! :heart:
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