Advanced Washes for Watercolor Landscapes

Watercolor painting, with its fluid nature and translucent hues, offers artists a unique and captivating way to capture the essence of landscapes. For those seeking to elevate their watercolor skills, mastering the art of advanced wash techniques is paramount.

In this comprehensive tutorial, we will delve into unconventional methods that harness the medium’s spontaneity, resulting in stunning and unpredictable accidents that can be skillfully incorporated into your artwork. At the heart of this tutorial is a captivating video where I share my personal techniques and tips for creating an unconventional first wash.

This initial step allows the medium to do what it does best: create exciting and unforeseen accidents that can later be manipulated to craft a loose and distinctive watercolor landscape painting.

Embracing the Unpredictability of Watercolor: The First Wash

In this tutorial, I encourage artists to let go of rigid control and embrace the unpredictable nature of watercolor. The first wash is where the magic happens; it is a dance between water, pigment, and paper that gives rise to fascinating textures and color blends.

By allowing the medium to flow freely, artists can create a foundation that captures the essence of the landscape’s mood and atmosphere. This foundation serves as a canvas upon which the subsequent layers will unfold.

In the accompanying video above, I guide you through this process, demonstrating how to encourage the watercolor to form exciting patterns and unexpected shapes. By relinquishing control, we invite delightful surprises onto our paper—accidents that will later be transformed into integral elements of our final composition.

Want more watercolor landscape painting ideas?

Advanced Wash Ideas for Watercolor Landscapes: The Power of Unpredictability Feature Image
Maine Docks, 11 x 15″

Harnessing the Power of Unplanned Accidents: The Second Wash

After the initial wash has dried, it’s time to harness the unpredictable accidents that have emerged. These accidental textures often resemble natural elements like rocks, clouds, or waves, which can be ingeniously incorporated into your landscape. By carefully observing the patterns, artists can guide the painting’s direction, transforming unplanned splotches into picturesque features.

In the video tutorial, I demonstrate various techniques to manipulate and enhance these accidental textures, seamlessly integrating them into the landscape. From refining the shape of a fish shack to adding intricate details to lobster boats, every stroke is strategically placed to amplify the painting’s depth and realism. This transformative process not only showcases your artistic adaptability but also elevates the entire composition, making it unique and visually striking.

The Result: A Captivating Watercolor Landscape with a Fish Shack, Dock, and Harbor with Lobster Boats

The culmination of these techniques yields a loose and captivating watercolor landscape, complete with a charming fish shack, a bustling dock, and a harbor dotted with lively lobster boats. The painting exudes an aura of authenticity, capturing the rustic charm of a seaside village. The spontaneous textures and vibrant hues bring the entire scene to life, evoking a sense of nostalgia and serenity.

Suggested Material Checklist

Materials can make or break the outcome of a watercolor study. Watch the video that covers the best watercolor materials if you need more specifics about color choices, brush sizes and such. Basically, it’s exactly what I use and recommend for all levels.

Watercolor Paints: Opt for artist-grade watercolor paints in a range of colors. Choose a basic palette that includes six primary colors (one cool and warm hue for each one including red, blue, and yellow) along with earth tones for a versatile collection.

If you aren’t aware of the six primary palette, then check out our in-depth article on how to mix watercolors for beginners. It has the exact hues I use for every painting. And, if I make changes, I always update the article so you know the exact hues that get the best results.

Brushes: Invest in a set of good-quality watercolor brushes with different shapes and sizes. Round brushes are excellent for detailed work, while flat brushes are great for larger washes. I’d recommend one medium and one large pointed round. Then get a large mop brush that will handle those initial washed that are applied in the very beginning.

You only need three brushes to do most of the heavy lifting! However, I do recommend having a dagger and possibly and Motler on hand as well. Check out the article I wrote on how to choose the best watercolor brushes if you have questions on the exact brands, sizes and such.

Paper: I highly recommend selecting watercolor paper specifically designed for this medium. Look for papers labeled “cold-pressed” or “hot-pressed” to suit your preferred texture. Experiment with different weights and brands to find the one that suits your style. Most beginners choose 140 lb. cold press to start their journey. Hot press tends to be a little slick and most used for highly detailed work and portraits.

Avoid cheap, wood pulp papers as they don’t react properly to washes and other techniques. These cheaper papers tend to break down quickly and don’t age well either, basically yellowing over time. Be sure to read the how to choose the best watercolor paper article when you have time.

If you aren’t aware of the six primary palette, then check out our in-depth article on how to mix watercolors for beginners. It has the exact hues I use for every painting. And, if I make changes, I always update the article so you know the exact hues that get the best results.

Palette: A palette is essential for mixing and diluting your watercolors. Choose a palette with wells to hold different colors and a large mixing area. Small palettes tend to get dirty too quick and I found it difficult to have enough free space to mix enough colors without having to stop everything to clean up. The Masterson Pro palette works great and available at Amazon and Blick Art.

Water Containers: Have at least two containers for water—one for rinsing your brushes and another for clean water. Make sure the containers aren’t too small, and I would recommend plastic over glass. I’ve had plenty of studio accidents and cleaning up shattered glass isn’t ideal when in a creative mode.

Masking Tape and Drawing Board: Masking tape helps secure your paper to a drawing board, keeping it flat and preventing it from warping. The tape is optional and depends if you prefer the clean edges. In the beginning you will most likely focus on sketches and studies, so maybe pass until you determine later on if you need it.

A smooth, firm board is a must! I recommend Gator foam board as it’s very sturdy, smooth and durable. Fairly inexpensive and light weight to boot. That covers materials, let’s move on to skills you need to start watercolor painting.

You can see all suggested watercolor materials I use and hight recommend for all levels in the article below.

Incorporating these materials into your watercolor practice will enhance your ability to experiment with different techniques and expand your artistic horizons.

Conclusion: Embrace the Unexpected, Embrace Your Creativity

Mastering advanced wash techniques in watercolor painting opens doors to endless creative possibilities. By embracing the unpredictable accidents and allowing the medium to guide your hand, you can create landscapes that are not only visually captivating but also deeply personal. The juxtaposition of planned elements and spontaneous textures adds depth and intrigue to your artwork, captivating viewers and inviting them into the enchanting world you’ve crafted on paper.

So, gather your materials, watch the ad-free video tutorial, and embark on a journey of artistic exploration. Embrace the unexpected, and let your creativity flow like watercolor on paper, creating landscapes that resonate with beauty, emotion, and a touch of the unpredictable. Happy painting!