When I decided to learn watercolor years ago, I started with washes and glazing. These techniques may seem very basic and you're right, they are! I feel that practicing and/or learning these techniques at any stage of your painting career will very beneficial to your painting process. Below are demos and exercises. I am also providing free downloadable exercise charts that I used for you to print. All you need to do is click the link provided to load them.
Washes can be painted wet in wet by wetting your paper first or wet on dry by leaving your paper dry and painting directly onto it. I prefer the wet in wet because the paint blends better and paint doesn't streak as easily.
The most basic watercolor technique is the flat wash. It is produced by first wetting the area of paper to be covered by the wash, then mixing enough paint to easily fill the area. You then tilt the paper at an angle and apply the paint to the wet surface one stroke at a time, slightly overlapping each new stroke. Work the wash from the top to the bottom of the wash. Let the wash completely dry before glazing or applying new paint to this area. If it is not completely dry, you will get water spots.
This is a wash that naturally changes in value from dark to light. You start this wash the same as a flat wash. With every new stroke, you will dilute the paint slightly with water. The result is a wash that fades out gradually and evenly.
This wash is created by blending two or more colors so that each color retains its character while also blending with the other colors in the wash. Let’s say that we are painting a sunset. First, wet the area of paper to be covered by the wash. Then apply a blue wash at the top of your paper by applying two or three strokes across your paper. Rinse your brush and add two or three strokes of a red and do the above process again with a yellow wash. Finally tilt your paper at an angle and allow the colors to bleed into each other, creating a variegated wash.
Glazing is applying a wash on top of another completely dry wash. You can continue to layer washes of the same or different colors until you get the density or color you desire. Non-staining transparent paints work best for this technique. Glazing can be very beautiful producing luminous color.
This process takes patience because of the drying time required between layers. Don't cheat and try to lay a new wash down before the previous one is completely dry. You will lift the previous layer and get blotches. For that reason, I paint more than one painting at a time so I can continue painting during the drying process.
I am painting a graded wash for this demo. It works with flat washes and variegated washes also. This technique works well from sunrises and sunsets, but can be used for anything from leaves to apples. Have fun experimenting :)
I like to wet the paper before painting my first wash.
Start this wash by painting pure paint at the top of your paper. I used Transparent Yellow (Winsor Newton) for the first wash. With every new stroke, you will dilute the paint slightly with water.
I allowed the first wash to completely dry. I then painted an other graded wash working from top to bottom of the paper using Quinacridone Magenta.
I allowed the this wash to completely dry. I then painted an other graded wash working from bottom to the top of the paper using Winsor Blue - green shade. You can continue painting washes until you achieve the tone and dimension you desire.
Glazing Chart Demo
Below is a demo of my glazing chart. Choose six colors to work with. or this demo I have chosen Aureolin Yellow, Transparent Yellow, Quinacridone Magenta, Alizarin Crimson, Winsor Blue - green shade and Indanthrene Blue.
Write the color names in the spaces provided from left to right. Again, write the color names on the left hand side of the chart from top to bottom in the same order as before.
Referring to the colors you listed on the left hand side of the chart, paint the boxes across the row as shown above. Fill in the entire strip.
Continue working your way down the chart filling in all the rows. Let it completely dry.
Now that your colors have dried it is time to glaze your second color over the first layer. Referring to the colors you listed on the top of the chart, paint the boxes down the row as shown above. Fill in the entire strip.
Continue working your way across the chart filling in all the rows.
You have now completed your glazing chart.
When looking at your glazed watercolor chart, the light passes through the two washes, reflects of the white sheet of paper and returns back to your eye creating a luminous color mix of the two paints.
Below you can download the chart. Print off as many as you would like and have fun glazing as many colors as you would like.