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Watercolor Washes: Best Practices for A(n almost) Perfect Wash

Before you start your wash, you have a few choices to make regarding your watercolor paintings. Watercolor paper choice, watercolor paint choice, and watercolor brush choice. Each of these things impacts the look of your final work, so make your choices according to the vision you have for each specific piece.

Even Tone Wash
A perfectly even watercolor wash isn't as hard as it may seem, as long as you practice these important, but simple, techniques.

The biggest tip for an even toned watercolor wash is to not allow brush strokes to dry before you lay the next stripe of color or it will create a hard edge between where you stopped and it dried, and where you restarted. Working on a 30-degree angle work surface will help the natural tendency of the paint to flow downówork with this tendency to eliminate hard edges in your wash. Start at the top of the paper with a loaded brush, and work smoothly and quickly from one side to the other with a long, horizontal brush stroke. Reload your brush and make another brush stroke beneath the first, overlapping the "river" of water color that tends to collect at the bottom of a paint brush stroke. Work quickly, continuing this down the page, until you reach the end. Use a paper towel or some other dry cloth to lift the excess paint from the base of your wash.

Graded Tone Wash
A graded wash, or a wash that lightens from dark to light, is created in a very similar way to the even toned wash. The biggest difference, and the way you create the grading, is to load the brush with water between strokes, rather than with paint. This will lift the excess paint from the last stroke and carry it down the page, extending the color down the paper. Remember to keep those strokes smooth and unbroken from side to side across the paper.