Shaded Wash Technique

© 2003 Margot A. Clark, Inc.

This technique resembles sepia-toned pen and ink with a watercolor wash but is all done with a liner brush, an angel shader and acrylic paint.

This technique has no added highlighting (the background color coming through the glazed color makes it’s own highlight) so it is very important to keep the applied glazing colors very thin as they interact, one layer over another throughout the design. I call them “dirty water colors” since they are about the consistency of your dirty painting water! All the shading layers are painted first, creating the depth and dimension, with the color being the last thing added. Each layer of shading covers less than the previous layer and is darker in value.

I feel the Masterson Sta-Wet Palette is essential to this style of painting as you can thin the color as you load, work the color into the bristles of the brush and see exactly what the color will be on the painting. You can always add another layer of thin color but once you get a heavy layer of color on your painting the whole painting loses the soft, watercolor look. All shading, base colors and tints are done with floated, “see through” color. Walk the brush out on the palette until you see the color become transparent before you go to your piece. What you see on the palette is what you will get on your piece! This is why the Sta-Wet Palette is essential to this technique as it allows you to get the transparent, soft color easily.

Helpful Hints – Things to Remember:

Transfer all elements of the design lightly as dark graphite lines will show through the thinned painted outline and become a permanent part of your painting!

Be very neat when transferring the pattern to your surface as you will outline what you transfer – right or wrong!

Use a kneaded eraser to erase unwanted graphite lines. Any other, plastic type, eraser will leave a slight film behind which will interfere with the rest of your painting layers.

Light source is generally at the upper right hand corner of the design and remains constant.

Keep the color thin! Have I mentioned that already?

Each layer of shading covers less area than the previous layer and is darker in value.

Apply color to all elements of the design before adding a second layer of color. If you get one area too dark, you will have to then darken the whole painting. You will be surprised how much color is applied with this “dirty water color” technique.

To shade large areas, first dampen with clean water and the 1” wash/glaze brush.

Keep a damp, crumpled, paper towel handy and if any of your floats have a hard edge or are a bit too dark, just tamp/pounce off the area with the paper towel.

Note: I use this method of floating color in all my various painting techniques from flowers to Santas to candy canes! Shading should be considered the “absence of light” and highlighting the “presence of light” rather than the addition of color.

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