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Painting ‘wet on wet’, how do you do that?

Vilaine paintings
Vilaine Sunrise unfinished, 17.03.22

81 x 51 cm (32″ x 20″), oils, available for sale.

Following on my posts of 14 March & 16th, here is the next ‘stage’ in the development of this painting.
Wet on wet, a technique full of little surprises, best suited to oil painting is fun as one is never in complete control.

With the composition sorted, in this photograph you can see me painting ‘wet on wet’.

Wet on wet means that is one oil colour is painted directly onto another before the first is dry or even tacky.

Painting with wet on wet

The basic rule is “fat over thin”.

An artist can make rapid progress with this technique, the great Impressionists in particular used this technique often when painting on location, ‘plien aire’.

Some would say the “down side”, I prefer “the exciting bit” is what an artist mixes on a pallet is not what one gets on the picture surface.

Thus the courage to take risks is an asset.

Yes paintings can be ruined by wet on wet, far more potentially good paintings are spoiled by the painter being to timid.

The principal difficulty with ‘wet on wet’ is that as soon as you overlay the under paint, a  mix takes place in three forms.

One, the colours, the under and over colours, literally physically ‘blend’ together

Two, a chemical reaction takes place; depending on the chemistry of the colours you are using the strength and speed of the chemical reaction is determined. In some cases the result may not be determined with certainty until weeks after, maybe not even then.

Three, an ‘optical’ reaction, often the under colour, particularly if a strong colour will tend to appear under the overlaid surface.


Wet on wet painting takes time and experience to master and even for masters, the technique can produce surprises, happy accidents.

Recognising and knowing when to retain a ‘Happy Accident” is part of the fun, fascination and artistry of painting wet on wet.


This latter reaction can and is further exploited in a technique known as ‘glazing’.

I’ll explain more about ‘glazing’, the when and how of glazing, in a later post with another painting.

Gordon Frickers signature , paintings ©.
Gordon Frickers art signature is on all my more recent paintings ©.