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

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Step 11: The Graded Wash For Round Objects


The next type of wash is the graded wash. For practice, paint what Steve calls a “tornado” (a.k.a. a “bead”) by picking up a lot of Cobalt Blue Hue. Then, paint a large spot of the color until you can see paint collect at the bottom of the painted area. Wet your brush a little, then bring this “bead” of paint down. Keep repeating this, and you should get the same 3 values as you did when painting the color swatches but with a smooth transition in between each value. For watercolor beginners, you may get “bands” within the wash due to the transitions not being smooth enough, but you’ll get better with practice.

The graded wash is perfect for painting a cloudless sky or a “turning edge” (basically a round surface). It helps to think about shapes in terms of having different plane changes, and whether these changes create a sharp or a rounded edge. The graded wash is used for round edges, while the flat wash is used for sharp ones (like the cabin). Some objects even have a mix of these edges, like an irregularly-shaped rock.

You can practice these techniques further by painting a sphere, curving your brushstrokes to follow the shape you’re painting. Always keep in mind where the light is coming from, and paint the shadows accordingly. This works even when painting a rock, which Steve demonstrates. And at the end, he adds a dark background to both shapes in order to complete the 3D illusion.

That’s it for this crash course on watercolor basics! Be sure to keep practicing these basics, and they’ll eventually become like second nature.