Free Art For All - Basics of Watercolor - Mud 101

Making Mud 101 addresses the problem of “muddy” watercolors.  I think it is important to understand that my definition for mud may differ from another artist's definition of mud. When I lose the vibrancy of my original colors on the painting which results in a dulled down or flat color, I call this color muted which results in mud. Watercolor artists need to understand how they end up with this result without ever introducing browns or grays to the pallet. 

This series of watercolor tutorials will break down and analyze a few of the ways that we create mud. It is the understanding of how mud happens that will help you in avoiding this outcome while you are working on your future paintings.  This is the first of 3 ways that we will cover how to make mud.  In our tutorial we will never have a brown or gray in our pallet.  It is interesting to see the browns and grays appear which we will discuss in the analysis.  For this video It might be helpful to refresh your memories about The Color Wheel. Click on for further instructions Color Wheel Primary Colors , Color Wheel Secondary Colors .  


  1. Arches 140# Watercolor paper-2 pieces 7.5" x 11" 
  2. DANIEL SMITH Watercolors Cadmium Orange
  3. Daniel Smith Watercolor Pthalo Blue
  4. Daisy Sour Cream plastic lid top
  5. Size 10 watercolor brush
  6. Water - divided into clean and dirty water


  1. In pencil draw 2 circles next to each other.
  2. With the brush, wet the circle with clean water
  3. On one side drop in the orange and on the other side drop blue
  4. Lift the paper to let it run together
  5. Many problems occur with my first bubble and I set out to correct the problems.  I am making mud.  All of the original color is lost and what is left is a dull circle.
  6. Move to the next bubble.  Lay in the colors. The object here is to let the colors mix but to retain the original color.
  7. Now that we have mastered how to keep your colors brilliant and not muddy we will move on to a wash on the other sheet of 7.5" x 11" paper
  8. We are doing a wash you might need to refer to How to Make a Watercolor Wash.  Start with wetting the paper down.  *Switching to a size 12 round brush will make this go much easier.
  9.  Adding water to a wash that is drying will result in "water spots" "blooms" or "cauliflowers".  Practice making these so you know how they occur.  Adding paint to a damp wash will also have a different look.  
  10. Stop what you are doing if you notice the mud happening.  It will only get worse if you try to fix it.

In conclusion we analyze what we did with just 2 colors to make mud.  A simple recap of these problems are:

  1. Too much water.
  2. Over mixing of the colors.
  3. Adding water when it isn't mixing.
  4. Playing when it isn't going right.  Just keep tweaking it thinking it will get better.
  5. Not really knowing what will happen.

Now it is time for you to play and make mud.  Use the colors I have used and then branch out to other colors on your pallet.