How to avoid muddy watercolors

So you need to know how to avoid muddy watercolors? Well first off, what is muddiness?

It’s one of those you’ll know it when you see it issues. Muddiness looks like, well, mud all over your watercolor painting. Once your watercolor painting becomes muddy, it’s time to throw it out.

“Seriously Roman?”

Yes, seriously.

A lot of things can cause muddiness. Unfortunately, there are too many to list. But at least I can give you the main reasons so you can learn how to avoid muddy watercolors.

Change your water often

I have two jars – one for the first rinse and one for the final rinse. When changing between colors, make sure you use both jars. Then, when the first jar has too much paint, change it.

Not changing your water often enough can contribute to muddiness.

Paint either totally dry or wet to wet

This is counterintuitive in a way. But if you want to avoid muddy watercolors, it’s something you need to learn to do.

Either paint wet on wet or wet on completely dry. Don’t half ass this.

What I mean is you either need to paint wet on wet or you have to wait until the paper is completely dry before you continue. When the paper is in that in between state is when you’re going to have the problems.

Using cheap paper

It’s funny. Awhile back, I wrote about several reasons not to use cheap watercolor paper. And you know what? I mentioned all these reasons, but forgot to include muddiness.

Yes, you’re way more likely to have muddiness problems with cheap paper than with quality paper. But keep reading. Cheap paper is only one culprit.

Reds, greens, and browns

It’s these three colors you have to be careful with. It’s actually quite funny. Mixing some of nature’s most natural colors give you the best chance to get a muddy watercolor painting.

Well, call me Captain Obvious then. Obvious, but often forgotten.

Cheap paints without enough pigment

In my post about budgeting watercolors, I mention some of the downsides to using cheap paints. To make a profit, they got to cut corners somewhere, so they’ll often use less pigment.

Not enough pigment and you’ll end up with too much smear and not enough paint. Well, take one guess what that leads to.

So like I’ve said, this is by no means a complete list. However, these are your main reasons. Not changing your water often enough, painting with the wrong amount of wetness, cheap paper, natural colors, and cheap paints.

Oh, and before I forget, I better give you the sixth. Not knowing when to quit. Sometimes, artists keep on piling on more paint and that will muddy the painting. Sometimes, you need to just call it done. Don’t totally overdo it.

Categorized as Watercolor

By Roman

Pinup Artist. Composer. Writer.

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