Posts in watercolor tutorial
Watercolor Tutorial Lesson Eight: Floral Wreaths

It's time to combine a few of the techniques I've been teaching you over the last few weeks to create a piece with a Valentine's Day theme. Well, it can be any theme you want really, but since Valentine's Day is coming up, I thought I'd have you create something handmade to give to your partner on that special day. :)

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Step 1: Draw a circle and rough sketch of the flowers.

Draw lightly and loosely. Feel free to trace around a bowl or plate to make a perfect circle. Place a uneven number of flowers on opposing sides. 5 flowers is enough, but you could make the whole wreath flowers if you want!

Step 2: Paint the flowers first.

Remember when I showed you how to paint roses? Choose a color like pink, mauve, maroon, or purple for the flowers to make a nice contrast to the green leaves (which we'll add later). I chose a darker purple for this tutorial, but I actually like the lighter, more transparent colors better. Just experiment like me to find out which colors suit you best.

Step 3: Add a few buds.

To even out the color around the wreath, add a few small buds here and there. Remember to keep it simple. Your brush strokes should be light and easy. Try to paint the buds in two quick movements downward. Leave a white space for a highlight and space them apart unevenly.

Step 4: Lay in the leaves.

Remember when we talked about painting leaves? You may need to practice the different parts of this wreath on a separate sheet of paper while you build the wreath. 

Start with a blue for the bottom leaves, then slowly add more and more green. Keep all the leaves pointing in the same direction to add movement. Vary the size of the leaves and add a stem or a few stems twisting together as you work your way around. 

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Remember that rose leaves have points around the edges. Feel free to add this feature to each leaf with a few simple and small strokes of green.

As you work your way around, adding leaves and details as you go, lighten the green and add more yellow so that each leaf is a slightly different shade of green. This color variation will make it look like the sun is shining on your wreath and illuminating the leaves on top while the ones on the bottom are shadowed.

Here's a tip I always learn the hard way: Don't overdo it! See the wreath I painted in the center versus the ones on either side of it in the photo above? The one in the center is light and airy, not overdone. The other two were practice pieces that I don't like nearly as much. They're too busy!

Try a wreath with only leaves and maybe one with only flowers. As usual, experiment and have fun!

Step 5: Add text.

Add the name of your child and his/her birthdate or the names of you and your significant other to make this a cute Valentine's Day gift. I scanned my wreath and added the name digitally, but I'd encourage you to make it all by hand. Here's my tutorial on hand lettering to help you!

I'm now offering this semi-custom print in my shop! Order the print as a Valentine's Day or Anniversary gift for your spouse, and I'll change the names and date to your own. So cute!

Watercolor Tutorial Lesson Seven: Roses
free watercolor tutorial, how to paint roses

free watercolor tutorial, how to paint roses

I'm so excited to share today's tutorial because roses are one of my all-time favorite flowers and are really fun to paint. Plus, next week I'm going to show you how to combine the last few tutorials to create a custom illustration for your hunny bunny for Valentine's Day. How fun is that??

paint pink roses for valentine's day, watercolor tutorial

paint pink roses for valentine's day, watercolor tutorial

To get started you'll need some sort of reference material. I get David Austin catalogs in the mail that I keep on hand for references, but you could simply pull up a rose on your phone or computer. I chose pink for Valentine's Day. :)

We'll be working in our watercolor moleskine sketchbooks again and using a large round brush size 16.

free watercolor tutorial, how to paint roses

free watercolor tutorial, how to paint roses

A few tips:

  • hold the brush lightly and toward the end of the handle with a loose wrist because you'll want less control over movement
  • use lots of water
  • fade the petals as you move away from the center by rinsing your brush out slightly with each layer
  • practice twisting the brush in your hand as you paint
  • keep the line work uneven and varied

Step 1: Start from the center and work your way out.

Load your brush with a saturated pink. I used a blend of Cotman Permanent Rose and Dr. Ph. Martin's Hydrus Quinacridone Magenta. (For a full list of all my supplies, please read this Getting Started tutorial.)

In a circular motion working away from center, pull the brush around in a swirly motion, twisting the brush slightly, working slowly, and varying the pressure on the bristles to create a varied look. Go slow and practice this motion! Try to do it all without stopping or picking up your brush.

Since rose petals are more compact toward the center of the flower, the petals there will be smaller. So use the tip of your brush to create thinner lines.

You may want to drop a bit more color into the very center while the paint is still wet.

Step 2. Rinse the brush and work outward.

As you work your way outward, remember that the petals get lighter, so rinse the brush out slightly before moving on. 

Start at the bottom edge of the swirly center you just created and, with a wet brush, use the side of the bristles to make a flatter, larger petal. Repeat that motion as you add petals around the center of the flower.

step by step watercolor tutorial, free painting lessons, how to paint roses

step by step watercolor tutorial, free painting lessons, how to paint roses

Step 3: Rinse brush again and add a few thinner petals to the outer edge.

You should now have a center surrounded by 3-4 larger petals to one side (bottom left or right). Rinse your brush and pick up a medium shade of pink from your palette.

Add a few smaller petals to the sides and top of the center to make the rose look more full and in bloom. Blur your eyes and back away from the painting slightly to see where the rose might need more petals or be uneven. 

Step 4: Practice and paint lots of roses!

It takes lots of practice to know how many petals to add, how much color to load your brush with, and how to fade the petals from dark to light. So, work at a consistent pace and paint lots of flowers like I did! Don't be afraid to fill the entire page with roses.

Don't forget to come back next Thursday for another tutorial! We'll be combining our skills to create super cute customizable floral wreaths. How fun!

Watercolor Tutorial Lesson Six: Plants

Hello there! It's time to pick up where we left off before the holidays and get those brushes out again! These past tutorials can be a refresher for you before we begin.

I thought we could spend a few weeks talking about flowers and leaves since there's a lot to cover on that subject, and they're really fun to paint. At first we're just going to practice in our sketchbooks until we feel more confident to combine a few of the skills I've taught you into one nice painting.

The book I'll be using as a reference is called "Natural Companions" by Ken Druse. You can purchase a copy here. It's gorgeous! I'll probably be using it in other tutorials as we go along.

1. Paint a leaf with three brush strokes.

Start with a #10 round brush and the color yellow-green. Use the tip of the brush to create a small line, then press down harder to make a wider, darker line as you paint the outline of a simple leaf shape. Then, with a slightly bluer green, fill in the center of the leaf by pulling the brush along. 

Leave a slight white line to define the center of each leaf. Try adding different green hues (some warmer and some cooler) to each leaf. 

When your leaf is painted but still wet, drop a bit of color into the wet areas to add dimension.

2. Now change colors and brushes to paint the flower petals.

I moved to a smaller brush- a #6 or 8- to paint the flower petals. Work your way around the center of the flower clockwise, pulling the paint from the center outward until all the petals have been added. Some of the petals might touch, which is fine, while others will look a bit separated from the center. You might want them all to touch or be separate, it's up to you!

Here's another look at the floral picture I used as reference...

3. Add a smaller flower and a few buds.

The object of this lesson is to practice your brushwork, so don't worry if your painting doesn't match mine exactly. In fact, I'd encourage you to create your own painting all together!

Wherever you want to add a smaller flower is fine. Be sure to move down a size in brush. 

Then go in and add a few small buds with very simple lines, making sure to put varying degrees of pressure on your brush as you go to make sure the line isn't uniform. You want it to be varied.

4. Add a stem and darker lines to the leaves.

Since I like a fair amount of dark values in my paintings, I'm going to go in and add some dark details to the leaves. Use a #8 brush and a blue green to add varying lines to each leaf to show the veins and folds of the leaves.

Add a yellow-brown stem by gently pulling the tip of your round brush down and around. I like to add a curve to it like it's blowing in the wind.

While the stem is still wet, drop a darker value into the wet areas by tapping the end of your brush and letting the pigment flow into the wet areas of the paper.

5. Add the finishing touches.

Toward the end of every painting I like to lean back and look at the painting as a whole. If there are any gaps of white space that make it seem out of balance, add a leaf or a simple flower bud. You might even want to continue the painting to fill the entire page! It's up to you.

I make my living painting houses and people and animals, not flowers. So, there's plenty of room for improvement in my flower-painting skills. I don't claim to be an expert floral artist, and in fact, would advise you to search the internet for supplemental help when it comes to floral painting techniques. Yao Chang is one of my favorite floral artists and shares a lot of her techniques on her blog

I do, however, know enough to get you started in the right direction. I'm going to share more about botanicals in the coming weeks including tips for painting botanical wreathes and combining florals and lettering.

And don't forget- painting flowers looks easy but is actually a very delicate thing. The more you practice, the better you'll be! Good luck and have fun!