Project 2 – Exercise 1: Tonally graded wash

In this exercise I will learn how to make steadily graded washes.

My supports:
– commercial available special oil, acrylic paper
– paper sized with hide glue

My paints:
– Oil: Royal Talens Van Gogh (ultramarine, violet, cadmium red medium, and alizarin crimson)
– Acrylic: Royal Talens Amsterdam Standard series (ultramarine, cyan primaire, naphthol red, and alizarin crimson)

– water for acrylic
– white spirit for oil, and later turp

To warm up I made a few oil washes on smooth unsized paper. By that I can see the following challenges to manage:

  • Visible brushstrokes, especially on the low end
  • Transition from dense to diluted
  • Managing the low end with fading into white
Stefan513593 - project 2 - Ex1 - a

Stefan513593 – project 2 – Ex1 – a

I decided to work on various supports, starting with sized paper. I had good experience with the simple sizing process from project one.

Stefan513593 - project 2 - Ex1 - b

Stefan513593 – project 2 – Ex1 – b

For the next test I used the close to above cooler in the color wheel: violet as close to ultramarine and alizarin crimson as close to cadmium red med.

Stefan513593 - project 2 - Ex1 - c

Stefan513593 – project 2 – Ex1 – c

The last part of this exercise was make a double coloured wet-in-wet graded wash, with one color on the top and the other at the bottom with both merging at mid tone in the middle.

Stefan513593 - project 2 - Ex1 - d

Stefan513593 – project 2 – Ex1 – d

Difficulties I experienced (Oil):

  • To find the right quantity, mix oil/white spirit/turp
  • All used oil colors are transparent colors. Violet semi-transparent, Hard to obtain a solid color pad
  • Sized paper, taped prior sizing on board, warned => uneven surface
  • Blending transition area wet-in-wet is challenging => risk of lifting already applier color
  • Finding a good gradation => needs more practice
  • Managing my workplace (especially with oil and lot of turp)

Difficulties I experienced (Acrylic)

  • All used oil colors are transparent colors. Naphthol red semi-transparent, Hard to obtain a solid color pad
  • Manage visible brush strokes
  • Finding a good gradation => needs more practice
  • Wet-in-wet: Making a good overlay
  • Flatness of paper


  • To manage the low end with fading into white was a challenge. I had to use a clean brush with nearly using turp only.
  • Visible brushstrokes on very diluted washes a challenge. To overcome this I worked also back wet-in-wet to make the transitions smoother.
  • Especially on very translucent pigments (alizarin crimson) it is difficult to obtain a well saturated area. To work with my brush over the same area makes it rather lighter than darker.
  • Overall more challenges than I initially thought.
  • Cadmium red is against alizarin crimson rather dominant. I understand it as the impact of the opaque pigment cadmium red against the transparent pigment alizarin crimson.
  • Violet and ultramarine, both transparent pigments, works quite nicely together.
  • Oil colors do have a more luminous and saturated color perception, what I really like
  • I have the feeling that especially in light washes in acrylic it the quality of paint matters (see my experience with oil pastel as well – P1 Ex3)
  • I think I need more practice to make washes. Towards the end I felt more comfortable and I was bolder in my approach.

Next time:

  • I got the feeling that turp would work better than white spirit for highly diluted oil paint. The smell is stronger though. I will use this that for the next exercise.
  • Rather instead of using a flat paper palette to use a container where I can pure more turp inside without having the mess.
  • Deeper understanding of transparent and opaque pigments and their relation to each other.

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