Free Art For All - Basics of Watercolor - Mud 102

Making Mud 102 continues to address the problem of “muddy” watercolors happening on your paintings. I think it is important to understand that my definition for mud may differ from another artist's definition of mud. For me "mud" is when I lose the vibrancy of my original colors on the painting which results in a dulled down or flat color.  I call this new muted color - mud. Watercolor artists need to understand how they end up with this result without ever introducing browns or grays into their pallet. In the Mud 101 tutorial we made mud using 2 complimentary colors from the color wheel, orange and pthalo blue.  Over mixing those colors caused mud to appear.  Using too much water will also made mud happen.  

In this lesson we will use a yellow, a purple, and a green.  The yellow and the purple are complimentary and will have to be controlled to avoid a muddy outcome.  The point will be to let the colors mix without us manipulating them.  

  • Arches 140# Watercolor paper-2 pieces 7.5" x 11"
  • DANIEL SMITH Watercolors Seagreen (just pick a green)
  • Daniel Smith Watercolor Carbazole Violet (just pick a purple or violet)
  • Daniel Smith Watercolor Cadmium Yellow Deep (any yellow will do)
  • Daisy Sour Cream plastic lid top
  • Size 10 watercolor brush
  • Water - divided into clean and dirty water


  • In pencil draw 2 circles next to each other.
  • With the brush, wet the circle with clean water.  We are working on a wash with "Wet. in Wet" technique.
  • On one third off the bubble drop in the Green, the other third drop yellow and the last third drop purple
  • Lift the paper to let it run together, being careful to not over mix the colors (there comes a time this step where you will only make it worse.  Quit before you get to that point and move to the next bubble.  What will happen is that all of the original color is lost and what is left is a dull circle.
  • Move to the next bubble. Lay in the colors. The object here is to let the colors mix but to retain some of their original color. You might want to try different round brush sizes to see how it changes the results.
  • We should feel more comfortable about placing purples next to yellows now so that it will not over mix to make mud.
  • Using your second sheet of 7.5" x 11" paper we will make a larger wash using these. 3 colors.
  • 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.
  • Stop what you are doing if you notice the mud happening. It will only get worse if you try to fix it.
  •  Put the wash we did away when it is dry.  We will come back to this wash in a future video.  
  • Now it is your turn to pick 3 colors of your choice to do some more washes. Do NOT throw these washes away.  Lebel the colors that you used so that you can refer to them.

In conclusion

We analyze how easy it was to make mud out of 3 colors. A simple recap of these problems are:

  1. Too much water.
  2. Over mixing of the colors.
  3. Adding water when it isn't flowing.
  4. Playing by adding different or more colors when it isn't going right. Just keep tweaking it thinking it will get better.
  5. Not really knowing what will happen.  Put the wash we did away when it is dry.  We will come back to this wash in a future video.