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6 Ways to Blend Watercolors Like A Pro


While they are beginner-friendly, water colors can also be very tricky to nail down. Most professional watercolor artist have once thing in common: They have great control over their blending techniques.

However, there isn’t only one way to get to this level, since everyone eventually develops their own approach to blending.

As you get started, keep in mind that you can combine techniques. Most watercolor pieces are achieved by a wide combination of techniques. For example, you might use a wet on wet wash for your under-paint layer of color. Then, you might build up the painting using wet on dry glazing.

The ideal is to experiment and practice. You might lose control of your paint in one place and gain control of your fine details elsewhere. Eventually you'll find a blending style that works best for you.

Here are a few indispensable blending techniques to get you started:

wet on water

1. Painting Wet on Wet

Wet watercolor on wet paper is one of the most iconic watercolor techniques. It makes amazing and colorful washes across your paper. It also allows two colors to blend seamlessly. However, wet on wet can be difficult to control when it comes to more detailed work.

To use the wet on wet technique, paint clean water onto the paper in the shape where you will blend your colors. For large washes, this can mean brushing water over the whole paper. Or, apply it in a shape or particular place on the paper.

Remember, that you don’t need large pools of water to achieve this effect. Some people work with damp, while others like their paper to be more drenched. If your paper is too wet, though, it can become an unmanageable bog.

Then, use a brush dipped in wet watercolors. Lightly spread the color into the wet area of the paper. You will see that it begins to blend and diffuse the color. If the wash that you’re achieving is too patchy, use the brush to spread and even out the colors.

To achieve a gradient effect, apply the color to only one side or one part of the wet space, and allow it to spread itself. To blend two colors into each other in a gradient, add the different colors to either end of the wet space.

2. Painting Wet on Dry

Wet watercolor on dry paper allows you more control over your paint strokes. This can be great for layering paint layers to build up color, tone, shading, and a sense of dimensionality.

One of the major benefits of wet on dry is the shorter drying time, which allows you more opportunities for layering in a short amount of time.

To do this, use a diluted watercolor paint on a brush, and apply it to the dry surface of your paper. From this point, you can use further blending techniques to clean and clarify your edges while building your image using glazing techniques.

You can also blend colors into each other when working wet on dry, by applying another wet color right next to or on top of an area of paint that hasn’t dried yet.

3. Clean Up Your Edges

To avoid feathered, bleeding, or the overly hard edges that occur when too much pigment dries in one area, you will need a paper towel or absorbent cloth when you paint. This technique might become almost reflexive when it comes to painting finer detail work.

To practice, lay down a fairly wet and pigmented paint stroke. Dip your brush in clean water, then immediately use your cloth to dry it. You don’t have to wring it out, just make it so that it’s only damp. Run the damp brush on the edge that you want to control.

This will keep both the color from bleeding out of control, while also avoiding a hard edge from the dried paint. Additionally, this method can help you to clear away a dividing line when blending two colors side by side.

4. Use a Double-Edged Brush for Novelty

In some cases, particularly when paint flowers, it can come in hand to load two different unblended colors onto your paintbrush.

For this technique, you will need a flat brush or a quill brush. This technique won't work with a basic round brush.

Then, load one side of the brush with one color, and the other side of the brush with another color.

When painting, orient the stroke so that the watercolors blend in the way you’d like them to. For example, you can lay down the colors side by side. Or by moving and tilting the stroke a little bit, you can force them to blend into each other.

5. Mixing Watercolors in the Palette

blending chart

There is one school of thought on watercolor that you should never use a pure color in your painting, and instead should always blend the color with a nearby color to add some dimension to your painting. This is actually at odds with another school of thought that you should use straight colors for their vibrancy and do the majority of your blending on the paper.

We think that these two methods don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Sometimes you need that vibrant pure color. Other times, you really want to customize your painting with different shades and tones. When you’re really looking for the perfect shade, your best bet is to mix the color in a palette.

You’ll need a palette for this. Many watercolor tins come with attached palettes, but you can use anything from a plastic paint palette to a white ceramic plate. Most watercolor palettes have raised edges to keep the liquid mixes from leaking.

Keep in mind that the watercolor paint in your palette is reusable, and you simply need to add more water to reactivate it.

To blend watercolors on your palette, dab a wet color onto the palette. Then, dab in another color, or even a few more. Drag some colors together in the palette to start mixing and blending them. Then, tweak your blends by adding more and different colors until you have the one you want.

6. Glazing

galaxy watercolor

Once a layer of watercolor has dried, the glazing technique means adding more layers to create color variation and a sense of dimension.

You should wait until your previous layer has dried completely. Then, paint another layer on top.

Be careful of using your paintbrush to scrub as your paint. This could result in overworking the paper or reactivating the lower layers of paint, creating an unattractive mix.

Most glazing is done with very transparent watercolor layers.

 

The way that you blend your watercolors will influence everything, from the tone of your work to the way that you represent your subject matter. Fortunately, blending practice can be really fun, so get out your watercolor scratch paper and start experimenting.


2 comments


  • Taylor Hansen

    I’m glad you talked about blending colors with wet colors on top of paint that isn’t dried. My sister is wanting to do more watercolor painting with me as a double date. I’ll have to brush up on my painting skills while remembering these helpful tips. https://birgitoconnor.com/online-courses


  • KImberly S

    Thanks for this awesome information. I love watercolor but very new and not familiar with how it all works. These tips are helpful


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