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Basic Watercolor Technique: The Variegated Wash

graded wash

What is a variegated wash?

A variegated wash is similar to the graded wash watercolor technique. The difference is this time you are using two or more colors on your paper. This is very effective for suggesting a landscape that you can use as a background for your painting.

How do you create a variegated wash?

Select a well saturated blue, such as cobalt blue, for your first variegated wash and a color to match the ground, such as raw siena, for your second variegated wash.

Fill your brush with the first variegated wash color, and starting in the upper left corner draw your brush across the paper to the upper right corner.

Next, wash your brush and fill it with the second variegated wash color. Make sure to go over the damp edge of the previous wash, so that the boundary between the two washes blend together. This creates a soft edge between the colors.

Clean off any marks on the edges to prevent bleeding.


Where the blue and siena colors overlap, you will notice you get a different color as they blend together. You can use this overlapping area to suggest trees or other vegetation.

Practice creating variegated washes with different colors. You can use this variegated wash technique for painting flowers, buildings, animals, and other subjects where you have overlapping colors.

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