Gradient (“Ombre”) Watercolor Washes

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hi Everyone,

I recently discovered an easy technique to create beautiful gradient watercolor washes using only two tools; a Koi Coloring Brush and a water-brush. The swan below was drawn with a Pigma Micron 01 on Strathmore 400 Series drawing paper; the two washes were done on Canson 90lb watercolor paper. 

For those of you who are interested in creating designs by hand, and then modifying them digitally (which is how I do much of my finished design work), I’ll explain how I combined the gradient washes and line drawing to make the ‘Ombre Swan’ design below.

I scanned the drawing and washes, and then in PhotoShop I put each wash on a layer underneath the drawing. I ‘knocked out’ the white background covering the sea & sky, which allowed the top wash (the blue one) to show through in the sky section. Then I erased the blue wash from where it covered the sea, which allowed the orange wash on the layer below to show. This gave me an orange sea, blue sky and white swan.

Using PhotoShop’s ‘hue & saturation’ tool I changed the orange gradient wash to a different shade of blue/green for each wave. Lastly I changed the opacity of the white swan so just a bit of the gradient wash comes through. I left the edges of the washes so you can see them.

If you’d like to watch me create a gradient wash, check out the 5 minute video Sakura posted called ‘Easy Ombre; A Gradient Tutorial by Joanne Fink’. You can find it by clicking the ‘Watch Joanne’s Videos’ on the top left corner of the Zenspirations website, or you can go to YouTube: Please share the video.

Creating a gradient wash is SO easy and SO much fun– let me know if you agree by leaving a comment– or even better, please send me photos of what you create. I look forward to seeing a rainbow of inspiration in my in-box ([email protected])!

Hope you have a wonderful– and colorful– weekend. For those in America who are celebrating Memorial Day, please consider making a card of appreciation and sending to someone who either has served, or is currently serving, our country. Hugs and hand-made cards are great ways to show gratitude.

Stay Zenspired,


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