Learn how to paint loose watercolor flowers. In this step-by-step video tutorial, we will show you how to paint beautiful, loose flowers with ease. You will learn everything you need to know, from choosing the right colors to having the right approach. So, grab your paints and get ready to create some stunning paintings!
Note this is an advanced watercolor tutorial and not intended for beginners. But even if you’re new you can certainly learn from this lesson. Just know that it takes some experience to pull it off, so don’t become overwhelmed, or too frustrated if you try and fail. Like landscapes, flowers can be challenging. But if you’re up for it, let’s get started.
Looking for the finished art and inspiration image? Scroll down to the bottom of the post and you’ll find both images. That way you can have a closer look and paint along with me if you wish.
Painting loose flowers is all about approach!
Imperfections are part of the process. Therefore, it’s important to not control every single brushstroke. Experienced watercolor artists know this and actually encourage mistakes to happen. This is where the magic begins.
The first step in learning how to paint loose watercolor flowers is having the right materials.
Here are some guidelines that may help;
- We will first talk about having the right paint and choosing good watercolor paper is one of the most important decisions you will have to make. Not all watercolors are created equal and neither are their papers!
- And if you choose a poor quality paper, it might deteriorate after just a few washes. How frustrating would that be?
- We recommend using professional grade 140 lb. cold press paper. I wrote an article about my exact watercolor supplies if you care to browse.
- The colors we use are listed below. Note the white flat acrylic. This can be substituted with gouache, or Chinese white watercolor paint.
- We recommend using a limited color palette consisting of just five or six colors. This will help simplify things and make painting loose much easier.
Paints used in this demo are:
- Cadmium red light
- Alizarin crimson
- Cerulean blue
- Ultramarine blue
- Yellow ochre
- Cadmium yellow lemon
- Neutral tint
- Burnt sienna
What about the almighty brushes?
For brushes I’m leaning heavy on Princeton Neptune dagger and Princeton Neptune #8 quill. I discussed my preferred watercolor brushes in this article. The dagger is one of my favorites. The results from the brush is simply amazing, but also can be a little unpredictable.
That’s enough chat about materials, let’s get into the step-by-step shall we?
Step #1; Tone the paper
Tone the paper – Step #1
- Tone the paper using yellow ochre, neutral tint and plenty of water. This is a tea-like mixture and needs to be very light in value.
- Make sure the paper is very saturated, not dripping wet, but damp enough that it will stay this way for at-least ten minutes.
- The goal is to eliminate the white of the paper. And that’s because there are white flowers in the composition. And we don’t want the paper to compete with the flowers.
Step #2; Add first wash
- All washes in this stage are tea-like mixtures. Lots of water and little pigment. And it is added to the background wash using wet on wet technique.
- Paint is applied from this point forward with Princeton Neptune dagger brush.
- Mix the green with Hookers and cadmium yellow lemon and apply it loosely to the desired area.
- Mix alizarin crimson and a touch of cadmium red light for the flowers.
- IMPORTANT! Don’t try to control the washes. Allow the hues to fuse and mingle as they wish.
Step #3; Paint white flowers
- Add the white flowers using matte acrylic paint. Feel free to substitute with white gouache or Chinese white watercolors.
- It’s important to use minimalistic strokes. Put the paint down and leave it alone.
- Avoid fussing with the flowers, or you will have more issues to fix later on.
Step #4; Add darker hues
- Keep in mind we are still working into wet paint and washes at this stage. They should be drying quickly so work fast!
- Add the blue vase with cerulean, or cobalt.
- If the red flowers are flat, use a damp brush to remove some pigment.
- Again, get in and get out! Don’t fuss with it.
- Add some darker greens using same mixture but this time less water. Think milk! Thicker than tea.
Step #5; Define edges and key shapes
- Allow everything to dry 100%.
- Build up the reds and greens with darker hues.
- Use the same color mixtures but more paint and less water.
- If the white flowers need a pop just add a touch of pure white to them.
- Add a few stems and leaves around the perimeter of the flowers.
- Watch out for symmetry. If you see the flowers, leavers and/or flowers centers appear symmetrical fix it now.
- You can do this with a clean damp brush, or just add another flower to offset them.
Step #6; Add background
- Using the same yellow mixture go ahead and tint the background.
- Use some negative space painting to describe outer edges of leaves and flowers.
- Add a few vertical and horizontal lines towards the bottom to suggest a tablecloth.
- The most difficult stage is right now! You will want to control every aspect of the subject. But fussing with them will only ruin the loose flower qualities.
Step #7; Paint darker background hues
- Add darker hues to the top right-hand corner of the background.
- Again, keep it loose!
- Add some darker blue hues to the vase using cerulean and ultramarine.
- Add some dark centers to the flowers if needed.
- Define a few larger leaves using negative space painting techniques.
Step #8; Finishing touches
- A few saturated strokes of cadmium red were added to the flowers
- A small red flower on the lower left-hand area of the arrangement.
- It’s best to stop sooner than later.
- Overpainting is easy to do so let it rest and see what you think later on.
- As for me, it was done!
I hope you enjoyed the how to paint loose watercolor flowers lesson. How did your painting turn out? Be sure to share it with us in the comments section below, or join us on the official Watercolor Fanatic Youtube channel. We’d love for you to be part of the fun!