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Tutorials and artistic advices

Watercolor: Creating bleeding

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You can also use bleeding to create pretty effects, such as a stormy sky or light reflecting on water.


Aquarelle - exploiter les auréoles

What you need to know 

- So long as the paper is wet all over, there's no risk of bleeding. It occurs when excess water is placed on an otherwise dry section of paper. Result: the color runs, creating a blotch with sharp, very pigmented edges (scalloping), leaving a very light color on the inside.

- The drier the paper, the stronger the scalloping, and the more transparent the inside of the blotch.


1. Overcoming unwanted bleeding


Erasing a blotch: an accidental blotch will be out of place in your composition. Don't give it time to dry! Rinse it first with a wet paintbrush, then by rubbing very gently with a sponge, taking care not to damage the paper.


Working the blotch into the composition: turn the blotch into an aspect of the composition. While unplanned, it can inspire you to rethink your creation!

  • Is there a blotch on your fine sand beach? Use it to create a rock eroded by the elements.


Aquarelle - Provoquer une auréole

2. Making a blotch on purpose


Bleeding, smudges and running allow you to deliberately create effects that would be impossible with normal brush strokes, and are very useful for creating a sky full of clouds, a landscape reflecting on a lake, or an irregular texture. 


Your paper needs to be almost dry. If you applied a first wash, you'll need to wait until it stops being shiny.


Select satin finish paper (with a very fine grain): its smoothness lends itself to bleeding.

On rough grain paper, blow into a straw to help the water spread in the right direction. The straw technique also allows you to control the shape of a blotch or the direction of a drip. 


Some advice: add a few drops of ox bile to your water container to encourage the bleeding to spread.

Suggested products

L'Aquarelle Canson Heritage

See also

Watercolor: Dry brush painting
Peindre à la brosse sèche en aquarelle
Rain, grasses, feathers… the dry brush technique allows you to represent them using fine, feathery strokes!