Watercolour Washes and Colours

watercolour washes, water ocean, debiriley.com

I find for me, that its always easier to create when I free up and just start off by doing watercolour washes and mixing of colours. It has a  Zen quality to it I like.

leaving white in watercolour
Leaving White in watercolour, debiriley.com

In these following images you can see the sequential processes used to go from playing with washes and colours to …. achieving a final image.

The colours used were cobalt blue and prussian blue;  the browns were raw sienna and burnt umber. This was quite a limited palette, I find limiting the number of colours always helps me to concentrate on getting my shapes and tones right.

A wash is simply applying watercolour onto the paper usually on dry paper.    A graded wash is when you apply the watercolour going from dark to light or light to dark.

The entire image was basically done in washes; however, they each have different tonal values.

wash of cobalt and prussian blue
Wash of cobalt blue +prussian mix

Mixing a blend of cobalt with prussian  starting at the top very light and pale, going down towards the bottom adding more dark prussian for a watercolour wash that has some variation.

form of a Wash
The Form of a Wash

Next is where you deepen the dark in a couple of areas and judiciously leave quite a bit of white areas… for the white of the waves that will emerge, seemingly from out of nowhere.


Creating waves with white space
Creating Waves with White space

Just after the white of the waves come back in with the cobalt  and prussian mix in a mid tone just below the white waves.


All Sides
All Sides

In this  “All Sides”  image I have turned the painting around, upside down and taken a cropped photo.  Just because I wanted to see what it might look like from another perspective.  This is a great technique to use to salvage paintings that you’d otherwise bin.  Sometimes they are brilliant in a vertical and not so good in the horizontal format.

Watercolour washes and playing with colour mixing can reward you with some unexpected creations.

Just by being diligent in leaving lots of white of the paper you can strengthen your overall balance of Tonal Values for your painting immediately.

Limiting your palette to 3-4 harmonious colours goes a long way towards creating a very successful painting!

leaving white in watercolour
Leaving White in watercolour, debiriley.com

Some artists that I referenced and recommend others to look at as well are:

John Yardley,   watercolourist

Edward Seago,  watercolourist  and oil painter

David Taylor, watercolourist

Ron Ranson, watercolourist




Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at society6.com/debiriley and, redbubble.com/people/debijriley/shop

15 thoughts on “Watercolour Washes and Colours

    1. thank you Laura! I hope these came across as … samples, and exercises. There was a general plan of course, but I like letting watercolour choose its final destiny without coercion 🙂

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      1. The weather finally was merciful with Hamburg. We have a blue sky, sun all day long and 25 degrees C. I was bicycling twice, visited a fleamarket in the morning, made some good bargains, cooked something with zuccini and sheep cheese and finished a pair of earrings. I’m happy, this was my day, Debi. Hope yours was as successful as mine, 🙂

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  1. Thank Debi’ ‘want you to know that I like this post, especially since it is only 101 degrees expected here today!


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad the waves cooled you 🙂 boy, I feel for you! Perth has helped me gain a new appreciation for long hot summers, for sure. Hopefully you have some way of cooling down better than ‘evap conditioners’ LOL


    1. much appreciated Andrew, cropping is really quite an enjoyable art activity, I still am learning heaps by doing so with my pieces. 🙂


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