Basics of Watercolor - Mud 103

Making Mud 103 continues to address the problem of “muddy” watercolors happening on your paintings. In Mud 101, we saw how over mixing our watercolors will result in a dull flat color. Even though we did not mix the colors on our pallets we saw that just moving the water and color on the paper will make “mud”.  In Mud 102, we made mud using 3 colors.  We discussed the term mud.  To me, mud is what has happens when you can no longer see the original color shining through.  The medium of watercolor uses both water and pigments working together to create paint.  Your painting can be exciting (a lot of color shining through) or subdued (colors that are toned down, this can also be called mud).  The key for making a successful watercolor painting is in learning to control how the water and paint interact.  

Most watercolor paintings start out with “washes”.  For that reason I will be doing a sky wash. I will be using these 3 colors we have been working with today.    


  • Arches 140# Watercolor paper-2 pieces 7.5" x 11"
  • DANIEL SMITH Watercolors But (I used Ultra Marine Blue)
  • Daniel Smith Watercolor Red (I Quinacridone Fuchsia )
  • Daniel Smith Watercolor Yellow (I used Hansa Yellow Light)
  • Daisy Sour Cream plastic lid top
  • Size 10 watercolor brush
  • Water - divided into clean and dirty water


  • Wet the left bubble with clean water and add blue, yellow and red pigment at the edges of the circle.
  • Common mistakes happen during this process which makes mud appear
  1. I do not know beforehand how my colors will interact with each other. 
  2. I dabble at trying to make it perfect and in doing that I mix the colors together. 
  3. I see a spot or two that I don’t like and attempt to fix it. 
  4. I keep adding water or color or both in an effort to fix it.  
  • Move on to the next bubble.  
  • Wet the second bubble with clean water and add blue, red, and yellow pigments at the edge of the circle.
  • There are some little side notes in this video.  The first happens at 8:26 time stamp.  When I put a line of color on the paper and I lift the brush I get a bloom.  It always happens!!! 
  • At time 9:56 minutes I mix the colors on my pallet and it makes a nice shade of gray.  I want you to notice the difference in the colors we mix on the pallet as opposed to the colors we get letting the watercolor diffuse and mix on the paper.
  • Now we move on to painting our sunset.  A few gentle rolling hills in the background along with the sun are drawn in so that you can see where I am going with this little painting.
  • Put the yellow in the sun down on paper.  Remember a lot of water and a little paint.
  • Lay in the red being careful to not touch the sun.  This color did not produce an orange when it hits yellow.  
  • Next lay in the sky.  The darker blue will be up at the top of the paper.  Once again, do not let the blue touch the yellow or the red.  Leave a little space.
  • You are controlling this wash.  That little line of dry paper will not let the colors merge.  As the paint dries you can take a damp brush run it along this area.  This will tell the colors it is ok to come together.  If the paint is still too wet that area will rush into each other.  You be the judge of when the time is right to merge the areas.  


  • I think it is important to evaluate our work once we think we are finished.  We are looking at our paintings critically.  Make sure at this time you ask yourself if you achieved your goal.  So my next comments will be addressing this painting.
  • My goal was to paint a simple sunset.  Yes I did that.  
  • Next I ask if I am happy with it.  My answer here is no.  I knew from my bubbles that the red I chose would not make orange yet I used it anyway.  To correct this I will have to use a different red.  No amount of perfecting techniques will fix this problem.  
  • Finally, I want you to find 1 thing you do not like about the painting that you will work to fix on the next one.  Maybe you have to much sky area; or maybe too much hill area; or possibly your colors were too light.  We can fix one thing once we have identified it.  Throwing your painting away is not the answer to an unsuccessful painting.