Drawing Techniques

Basic Watercolour Techniques. How to Create a Graded Wash.

Learn the watercolour graded wash – a fundamental watercolour technique. The watercolour graded wash is a fundamental watercolour technique. In watercolour painting there are three wash techniques, the flat wash, variegated wash and graded wash. Out of the three, flat wash and graded is the most common. It is important especially for beginners to learn how to create graded wash since this technique can be mastered through time with constant practice. Watercolour wash is practice by watercolorist because it creates a beautiful atmosphere on the painting. It serves as a background to your painting before starting the actual paint.

Here are the basic things to do in order to create a graded wash.

First of all, you must prepare all the materials needed like paints, paper, brushes, water, etc. Once all materials are ready, start your graded wash by drawing a large square in the center of the paper. This will be the portion for your graded wash. After that, think of the shade that you want to use, for graded shape start with darker color. Make sure to mix it properly in the palette. Then on the other palette make a mixture of a lighter shade of color. These two shades will be your graded wash. 

To start with, you need a flat wash brush for graded wash. The flat wash brush is use because it creates uniform strokes. Begin painting your graded wash on the top left side and do it neatly across the right side.  Once you’ve done with the darker shade, do the lighter shade. Brush the lighter shade just over the bottom part of the darker shade, it means overlapping the bottom part of the first shade with the next shade. This will form the graded wash, it creates a layer effect. Then you will have a two different shades working smoothly together. Continue this process all over again after the lighter shade and this time the shade becomes a little lighter than the previous shade. Just do it naturally and smoothly. It is also good to try different colours and try to experiment.

The good thing about graded wash is that it will enhance your color mixing skills. You will be able to do and try different strokes as you go along with it. It may take a little effort than flat wash but the result is satisfying. 

There are times when your strokes break up, if this happens get more paint onto the brush and right away repeat the stroke. Or you can first dampen the paper before applying the wash so it will flow evenly and won’t break up. Another technique to make your graded wash livelier is to make transitions of color to make a multi-colour effect.  Graded wash need much paint so it is better to prepare too much so that you will not run out of paint to the point that you will need to stop to do mixing again. The area where you stop will dry up and will then create a hard edge which is not good. At times mistakes on brushing happen, don’t try to correct those mistakes because it will only result to a bigger mistake, and just let it be.


Follow these steps on how to create watercolour graded wash and you will surely produce a beautiful painting. Through constant practice you will be able to master this technique.