logo canson
logo canson

Tutorials and artistic advices

Watercolor: Doing a graduated wash

Twitter icon

Rate this article

To liven up a sky or a background, or add style to major color areas: the graduated wash is THE technique! It lets you modulate a color's intensity by diluting it with more or less water.

What you need to know 

 - A graduated wash can be applied in just a few seconds.

 - The slightest touch up will change the color variations.


Aquarelle - Réaliser un lavis dégradé

1. From dark to light  


  • Apply plain water onto the top of your sheet of paper with a wide paintbrush. Load your paintbrush with an ultramarine wash and paint a wide strip on the top of the sheet of paper: apply it from left to right, without stopping.
  • Dip your paintbrush in the water to dilute the wash some more: apply a new strip, overlapping with the lower edge of the first one, this time from right to left. 
  • Continue down the sheet of paper, diluting the paint some more each time. The final layers of the wash should be very light.



Aquarelle - Du clair au foncé

2. From light to dark


  • Prepare two alizarin crimson washes, one very diluted, the other one stronger.  
  • Load a wash brush with the diluted preparation: apply wide strips from top to bottom, to one third of the way down the paper. 
  • At a third of the way down: Add a stronger strip of wash, overlapping slightly with the previous one. Apply it from left to right, without stopping. 
  • Continue on down to the bottom of the sheet of paper, reloading the paintbrush with the strong wash every three stripe.




Suggested products

Canson® Montval®

See also

Watercolor: Salvaging your mistakes
Rattraper ses erreurs en aquarelle
Contrary to preconceived notions, it is entirely possible to fix watercolor mistakes. Even lost causes can be rescued, using several techniques, some of them kind of radical!