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Back To Watercolor Basics: A Crash Course On Watercolor For Beginners

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Step 10: Painting A Cabin With The Flat Wash

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In the third and final part of this watercolor basics course, Steve shows how to use the most common technique in watercolor painting: the wash. He demonstrates 2 main types, the first being the flat wash.

To practice, sketch a 3D cabin with a shadow along with a chimney, doors, windows, and background trees. Then, apply the principle of value learned previously, using the same Cobalt Blue Hue but with the 3 different tones. Light comes from behind the trees, so the shadowed side of the cabin and its shadow will be covered by a flat wash of mid-tone blue. Don’t forget the roof, door, and windows. This will form your first layer of a flat wash, and you’ll need to let it dry before continuing. This is to prevent paint from bleeding into one another, which should be avoided unless it’s done intentionally.

Check if the layer’s dry by touching the paint with the back of your fingers. If the area is still slightly cool, it means the paint isn’t completely dry yet. This is why you should use the back of your fingers as this will prevent fingerprints from forming. And be patient; watercolor painting is about water control. While waiting, Steve recommends working on a different section of your painting (if applicable), or planning your next step.

For the next layer, use the darkest version of Cobalt Blue Hue for the trees in the background. You can also darken the inside of the windows to add more depth. With this layer, this simple exercise is complete – by using as few as 3 different values (white, mid-tone, and dark), you can create the illusion of dimension and perspective.

Flat washes offer a clean and even coverage, so are perfect for painting objects with a flat surface. Just remember to leave the wash alone after painting it to avoid disrupting the evenness of the wash. Again, you can tilt the paper to a corner and drain any excess paint with the tip of a “thirsty brush”.