Improve your watercolor paintings by learning how to paint a graduated wash. Graduated washes are an easy way to display light from the sun or moon in a painting. Sometimes called a graded wash, it is using any color that starts dark and gradually lightens. Graduated wash is a wonderful way to show distance in a sky. Look at the sky today when you are out and about and you will notice how the sky graduates from dark to light. If you include the sun in your watercolor painting it can show the intensity of the light closest to the sun and gradually getting darker as you move away from the light source. Another way to improve watercolor paintings is to use a graduated wash for a beam of light from the sun or moon. In the demonstration painting below I used a graduated wash for a moonlight scene on the water.

demonstration for how to improve watercolor paintings with this moonlight painting by PJ Cook


Improve Watercolor Paintings

Using just two colors I demonstrated in one of my watercolor classes how to use a graduated wash in the painting above. In this watercolor I painted a wash from left to right in the sky, then I reversed it coming from the right side of the painting. I started with a dark wash of ultramarine blue and cad red on the left side of the paper and I gradually added water to the brush as I moved toward the moon. Then I turned the paper around and repeated the same wash coming from the right side of the paper.

closeup of how to paint watercolor demonstration by PJ Cook

In the closeup above the sky is lighter closest to the moon and then gradually darkens as you move away from the light source. Click on the image above to view larger. This is one way to improve watercolor paintings. Take the time to master the graduated wash and I guarantee you will find many ways to use this wash throughout your next painting.

In the next watercolor tip I will be featuring in my studio blog will be lifting paint. I used the lifting technique in the moonlight watercolor above and I only used 2 colors! By the way the lighthouse in this painting is Race Rock Light in Long Island Sound. For more history on this lighthouse follow this link for Race Rock Lighthouse. When I was out on the sound recently I went around the lighthouse and watched the lobster fisherman pulling pots. I was able to take many photos that I used for reference in the painting above. Check back for more tips on how to paint watercolor. Thanks

Links: For photos of  Race Rock Lighthouse