Watercolor Blending Techniques

Four Basic Techniques to Get You Started

Have you ever wondered how watercolor artists achieve those beautiful, subtle colors that just seem to melt into one another? The key is blending. With just a few basic techniques you (and your children or students!) can blend your watercolors with the best of them.


Blending vs Mixing

Even though these terms sound similar, blending watercolors is not the same as mixing them.

You mix colors together on a pallet before the paint touches the paper. Mixing colors together on a pallet will result in a uniform color once it’s applied to the paper.

You blend by applying colors to the paper so that they run together – typically next to or on top of one another. Blending colors on the paper will result in more of a gradient from one color to the next, like the colors of a sunset.

And of course, two mixed colors can be blended together. This gives you endless possibilities to play with while painting.


Wet-On-Dry Blending

Wet-on-dry blending is when you apply wet paint to dry paper. If you want the color to fade in a particular direction, blot (dry slightly) your brush on a towel and spread the paint in that direction.

With this method, you can paint two fields of color that fade together, or – if you let each layer dry before painting the next – several fields of color lying on top of each other, each with a hard edge.



Wet-On-Wet Blending

Wet-on-wet blending is when you wet an area of the paper before applying wet paint. This technique can make it more difficult to control how the paint spreads, but with a little practice, you can achieve beautiful results. You can even apply two colors to the same wet area at the same time and watch the colors blend together on their own in interesting, natural ways.



Graded Wash

A graded wash is handy when you want to cover a large area in a color that fades out in one direction (like the sky off in the distance, for example). You can use either wet-on-dry or wet-on-wet for a graded wash, but wet-on-wet typically provides smoother results.   



Blend by Lifting

Blending by lifting is just like it sounds – you lift some of the paint off of the paper. You do this by painting an area, then going over the freshly painted area with a dry brush or towel. This creates a lighter area within the field of color. It’s a great way to create clouds, for example.



And that’s it! With these simple techniques and a little practice, you can take your artwork to the next level. Happy painting!


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