The one unique characteristic watercolour has over other media is its wet-into-wet effects. Because this is so unique, it should be exploited whenever possible. You only have to wet a piece of watercolour paper thoroughly, drop spots of delicious colour onto it then sit back and watch them mingle together to see how exciting this can be when producing a painting.

In this article I illustrate examples of the wet-into-wet technique and how by using this method, paintings can be produced very quickly and comparatively easily. You have to paint quickly before the paper dries out. There is an element of risk, of course, because the results are unpredictable but that makes this method all the more exciting.

As an experiment, try wetting some paper and, with a brush, paint a mid-tone blue mark, then pick up a bright yellow and add that to the blue, then just watch the resulting green appear.

Experiment in the same way with all the primary colours.

Unpredictable results

I am a great fan of the wet-into- wet technique. I find it much more interesting than the wet-onto-dry method. Although somewhat unpredictable, with practice and the use of a lot of watercolour paper, the results should get better and better as you learn from past mistakes.

Look at the beautiful watercolour paintings by JMW Turner. Turner always worked on wet paper and would often throw paper and board into a large tub of water he kept in his studio for that purpose. He often worked on two, three and sometimes four paintings at the same time, perhaps to save paint and time.

Another useful method is to put your developing painting under a running tap and scrub the surface all over, which should leave beautiful delicate glazes of colour. They can be worked over again or left to dry first. The only way to progress with your painting is to practise and experiment.

It is good practice to copy paintings that you like in the hope you can find out how they were done. But remember the resulting painting should not be sold because it is not your original idea, and you may be breaking the copyright law.

I hope you have fun with your wet-into-wet painting.

The Field Pond

The field pond

The Field Pond, watercolour, 11x15in. (28x38cm)

I used Bockingford 250lb Rough paper for all these paintings. I like its whiteness and the way colour can be washed off easily. It stays damp longer than other papers when wet because of its thickness.


1 Using a large soft brush, I washed water over most of the surface except where I wanted white paper to represent the pond’s surface. I used a tissue to dry the surface slightly between the gate and the distant trees.

2 Wasting no time, the distant trees were completed using ultramarine and a little permanent rose.

3 The mid-distant bushes and trees went in next, before the sky had completely dried. Most of the greens are made from Indian yellow and ultramarine blue.

4 The foreground trees were splattered on using cobalt blue and Winsor yellow. For the darker areas, I used a mix of cadmium red and ultramarine blue.

5 I wiped out the tree trunk with a tissue. This produced a light tone against dark.

6 The greens in the foreground are a mixture of cobalt blue and Winsor yellow, with cadmium red splattered on.

7 A stiff house painter’s brush was used to drag colour down for the reflections on the pond.

8 Finally, using a small brush, the gate and fence posts were added, plus a few branches in the trees.

Quiet Afternoon

Quiet Afternoon

Quiet Afternoon, watercolour, 11x15in. (28x38cm)

This painting was inspired by an interesting group of trees on a field boundary. The method used to produce it was again very much wet into wet.


1 I started by wetting the Bockingford paper all over with a garden spray bottle filled with clean water. Once this was done, no time could be lost.

2 The sky comprises French ultramarine blue. Then a mixture of the same blue with a small amount of burnt sienna was washed on for the soft cloud effects.

3 Ultramarine blue and a small amount of permanent rose were used for the distant background.

4 I dried the paper under the area where the trees and hedge were to go with a tissue. This stops the colours running down below this edge. Various mixtures of green including Winsor blue and burnt sienna, and ultramarine and Indian yellow were added quickly to produce the tree shapes.

5 A dab with a tissue in the smaller trees dried the area so that I could paint a few thin lines for branches.

6 The whole operation so far had taken no more than two to three minutes. By now the foreground area had dried, so with Indian yellow and burnt sienna I layered the marks to suggest a track to help take the eye into the painting. Just before the hedge area had dried completely, I took a sharp craft knife and scratched out a few posts in the hedge.

The whole painting took no more than 15 minutes to complete. It had to be painted quickly to catch the wet paper.

Winter Woods

I have always enjoyed painting in and around woods. Winter Woods was inspired by a walk through a wood, thinking about how to capture its atmosphere and textures.

Winter woods

Winter Woods, watercolour, 11x15in (28x38cm)

Wet paper seemed to be the obvious method to use. I prefer to buy the thickest paper available to save having to stretch the paper on a board.


Three colours were used: cobalt blue, cadmium red and Winsor yellow. I also had some salt to hand and a few tissues. I generally use large brushes for as long as possible. This painting was produced using mostly a 1in. house painter’s brush. I used a No. 16 round brush for the tree trunks.

1 Having soaked the paper’s surface, I immediately flooded the colours in a random fashion, sometimes painting them on, other times splattering with the stiff bristle brush.

2 I wanted a darker area on the right side and a light area on the left. I used the tissue to lift off colour on the left and to dry some foreground areas.

3 When I thought the surface was not too wet or too dry, I took a pinch or two of table salt to produce some interesting textures.

4 Before the surface had dried, I folded a tissue to wipe off colour to produce the lighter tree trunks. Time for a rest, to let it all dry out, and to have a cup of tea.

5 On my return, a few simple washes to produce the trees and the painting was finished.


This article was taken from the March 2008 issue of Leisure Painter