how to create colourful gradients
Bao Pham uses the wet-into-wet approach to create a serene yet colour-rich image
Last winter, because it was too cold to paint outdoors and I couldn’t use oil paint indoors, I started using gouache. I fell in love right away and it quickly became my main medium. I love its opacity and minimal preparation time. I have a small studio space, so I have been focusing on smaller works, and gouache offers the compact versatility that I need. Also, I work with minimal shapes and its rich colours help me add visual interest and create effective moods.
Gouache is best described as opaque watercolour. It can be reactivated with water, although it is a bit difficult to blend after the paint has dried. However, since it’s not permanent, storage and cleanup are a breeze. One unpredictable thing about it is that dark colours will appear lighter when dry and light colours appear darker when dry. This makes it hard to judge the value of a colour as you work, but that can be sorted out by premixing and testing colours beforehand. Gouache is not only easy to use and set up, it also has a beautiful matte finish, while the colours stay rich and vibrant when dry.
In this workshop, I will focus on using wet into wet techniques with gouache and watercolour. Wet into wet is simply painting while the surface is still saturated with water. I first learned this technique with watercolour and I’ve found it’s very effective with gouache as well. It enables me to create smooth transitions between colours and values. It’s best used in a single pass, considering that adding subsequent layers will reactivate the paint underneath and can cause muddiness.
I prefer using watercolour for soft and delicate details, with gouache for more vibrant and bold colours. I highly recommend doing colour studies first before working wet into wet. It will cut down your guesswork and let you focus on the manipulation of the paint.
Here, I’ll cover the various ways I work with washes, starting with breaking up sections of the painting to keep large areas more manageable. I’ll also show you how to transition from one colour to the next to create a smooth gradient, and how to blend colours without lifting paint that has been laid down.