Oil Painting Technique #5 - Flat Wash

The Oil Painting Technique of Flat wash is necessary when covering large areas. This can be important when laying the foundation of a painting and also for any expanse you want to depict. Skies, fields or stretches of water, for example.

Washes in any medium are best applied quickly and confidently. Follow this online art lesson carefully.

Mix plenty of paint and add enough thinner to make the paint fluid. Don't attempt this with buttery paint. Use a flat, broad brush, the size of which will be determined by how big an area you are going to cover. Here, I am using a two inch brush.

Apply each stroke in one direction only, ensuring that you overlap strokes slightly.


You are aiming for the effect below. When dry you should have an evenly spread colour.

This does take practice so don't feel discouraged if early attempts don't work out. You will get there. It is well worth persevering with as you will find it important whatever your future subject matter. Keep in mind that each technique you learn now will serve you well when beginning your own oil painting.

See this example where I attempt a seascape.

First I lay in the darkest colours in broad areas of colour with no attempt at detail.

Secondly I add the lighter colours and add a few loose details such as the tiny figures walking along the beach.

The third stage is where I leave flat wash behind and use the techniques of glazing, scumbling and blending. See tutorials on each technique by clicking on the link below.

This is the final effect.

That is all there is to it! Flat wash is a very useful skill but also a very easy one to learn. Use it along with my other methods and you will produce great results. Practice at your own pace and you will be suprised at how quickly you learn it.


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