Free Art For All - Basics of Watercolor - Mud with Neighboring Colors


This video will explore both the subjects of Mud and Neighboring Colors on the color wheel.  If you are still not quite sure about the color wheel feel free to check out some of the videos we have done concerning colors. When practicing mud we learned that it was very easy to make mud when we used complimentary colors or even secondary colors which held a compliment in it.  This video will use 3 colors that touch each other on the color wheel (neighboring or analogous colors).  Remember when we make the bubbles we are not trying to create a piece of art.  We are learning how the pigments we choose relate to one another.  We learn the strength and weakness of the pigments.  Learning the characteristics of the pigments will help us when we paint a picture.  The colors I chose had been out on my pallet to complete an assigned painting for Jean Haines Online Watercolor School.  For the past week I had been thinking about waterlilies.  Before I knew it that is all I could see in the wash I did.  We will end the video with a fast forward through my painting on my wash with a purpose.


  • Arches 140# Watercolor paper-2 pieces 7.5" x 11"
  • DANIEL SMITH Watercolors  (I used Ultra Manganese Blue, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Cascade Green) but feel free to use any blue, yellow, green combination
  • Daisy Sour Cream plastic lid top (anything you have to trace a uniform circle)
  • Size 10 watercolor brush
  • Water - divided into clean and dirty water


  • We start with 2 bubbles drawn on the watercolor paper.  
  • We wet the first bubble with water and drop in our paints on 3 different edges of the circle.  We let that color move around (fuse together).  This method is called a Wet In Wet wash.
  • Move on to the next bubble.  Since I knew I was not making mud on the wet in wet wash I switched to applying the color to a dry bubble and using water to diffuse the edges.  The technique is making a Graded Wash. You need to use enough water to get the colors in this bubble to merge together.  
  • Set this aside and let it dry naturally
  • We have talked a lot about watercolor washes.  In a basic wash there is no reason we have chosen certain spots to put the colors.  Our goal was to let the colors decide where they were going and just to have fun with it.  Now we will do a Wash With A Purpose. We purposefully place the pigments on the paper with a desire to create a very loose background for our main subject.  
  • Use your second sheet of watercolor paper
  • Put a water area in the bottom 2/3 of the paper and a sky in the top 1/3 of the paper
  • I want to keep some of the white space of the paper so I do NOT cover the entire page with 1 color.
  • I know I will put a Water Lilly on the page and using clean water, I will lift out some of the pigment.
  • Let this dry NATURALLY

While this is drying we will talk about the instruction of Let It Dry Naturally.  You will need a hairdryer and a power source for this next step.

  • Your original bubbles should now be dry.  Using the area between the bubbles draw another circle.
  • I put the same colors we used before in the empty bubble using a Graded Wash technique.
  • Immediately, get your hair dryer and point it at the paper just painted.  Dry your colors.

Analyzing our work

  • Were you able to make mud.  You might want to get out one of the other mud bubbles to compare.  But my answer is no.  Our mud bubble on the left never became so unidentifiable that we could not find our original colors.  
  • The bubble on the right retained more of the original color and still did not make mud.  This was very easy to let the colors blend and control them a little more than the first bubble.  This method would work in our wash with a purpose.  
  • Using the hair dryer
  • The watercolor paper dried within 5 minutes
  •  I didn't get blossoms or blooms.  This is an interesting fact.  Did I cause that?  This is something we need to learn
  • When I look at the spots of merging colors the hair dryer bubble merge stops with very little color variation and mixing.
  • When I look at the naturally drying bubbles they have "legs" of color and spots (granulation marks).  


We are learning more and more about watercolors and how far to push the limits of what we are doing.  I encourage you to join some watercolor groups and look at watercolor paintings.  What type of watercolors excite you.  What are you comfortable doing.  We will look at all of these things in future watercolor videos. We have included a time lapsed video of Sandy doing her assignment for Jean Haines Online Watercolor School