Wet-into-Wet Watercolor Technique
Wet-into-wet watercolor technique for painting clouds that dissolve.

Wet-into-Wet Watercolor Technique

May 28, 2023

One of my favorite views to paint is clouds fading into rain or sunshine. Every day at Lake Michigan, the clouds begin to dissolve at sunset, making spectacular visions in the West. These scenes lend themselves naturally to watercolor blends, but getting the right effect is trickier than one would expect.

My mentor, Debbie Claussen has been teaching wet-into-wet watercolor technique, as an approach to dissolving clouds. Wet-into-wet turns out to be a trial if one is an impatient person like myself. Like meditation, it requires patience. Here’s how it’s done.

Take a piece of thick watercolor paper, like 300 pound, and wet the area for the sky. Then set one’s watch for two minutes and wait. I can barely stand to wait this long, and I find myself mindlessly twitching. However, waiting is essential. Waiting lets the paper be damp but not dripping wet. After two minutes (or so), paint in the body of the cloud, and then, with the thinnest brush, lay the edge, which will bleed on the damp surface and give the illusion of dissolving into the sky. One has to learn the feel of the paper. If the paper is too wet, the bleed will be too wide, and not look like a cloud. If the paper is too dry, the bleed will stop with a hard edge, and also not look like a cloud.

I have not perfected this technique yet, but I love making watercolor bleeds, even when they fail. The chief thrill of watercolor is surrendering to the unexpected way of the water. I have found that adding Winsor & Newton watercolor medium into the pigment before laying on the edge helps smooth the blend. Good luck!