Watercolor Still Life Step-By-Step Tutorial

Enjoy a Watercolor Still Life Step-By-Step Tutorial. This lesson breaks down many techniques for beginners This is a great project that is simple and easy to follow. I’ll be walking you through each step so that you can easily paint along with me. Let’s get started!

How To Paint Watercolor Still Life

Let’s break it down beginning with materials. You don’t have to have every color, or brush we use, but at least make sure you have 6 primaries that represent warm and cool hues. And a few pointed round brushes, and most importantly, good watercolor paper.

The video doesn’t cover materials, so I thought it would be useful to list them below. You will also see the finished art along with the still life inspiration image. Oh, I have another awesome beginner tutorial that’s delicious. Be sure to check it out!

Watercolor still life painting
Inspiration image

Materials used in this demo

For this project, you will need the following:

  • Fabriano Artistico paper; 140 lb cold press, 11″ x 15″
  • Holbein watercolors; yellow ochre, cadmium yellow lemon, cobalt blue, ultramarine blue, cadmium red light, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna and neutral tint.
  • Princeton Neptune brushes; pointed round #6, #12, dagger 2/3″

You can discover more about the recommended WCF materials here.

The Subject

Our subject is vessels. We have a vase, cups, bowl and a red ball. It’s an easy still life subject which makes it suitable for beginners. As you get more confident painting still life, you can take on more complex ideas.

Define the goals

We all have certain issues and problems we need to address. I use each painting as a way to work out my watercolor demons.

For example, some watercolor artists don’t like painting landscapes, r struggle with basic drawing skills. Use every painting as a way to address these problems. This way you are getting two-for-one. And, you are developing a good work ethic that will help sustain your watercolor painting endeavors for years to come. Avoiding problems will only cause frustration. This leads to burnout, and quitting.

My goals for this painting are:

  • To capture light and shadow
  • Paint wet-in-wet without getting cauliflowers, and water marks
  • Keep colors crisp, but not too saturated

Step-by-step tutorial

Now that we have our materials, goals and subject in order, let’s move on to the step-by-step guide. This may answer any questions you still have about this project.

Add drawing with needle brush

Step #1

Add the drawing using a needle brush, or pencil. Keep details to a minimum unless you want a more realistic painting. For me, I’ll keep it loose, and playful.

Blocking in main shapes with local color

Step #2

Start blocking in all the shapes using tea-like mixtures. Not sure what this is? Check out this article that covers the basics of watercolor painting techniques.

Build up colors with thicker paint

Step #3

Build up colors with charging techniques. Basically, load the brush with thicker paint and drop it into the washes.

Add darker shadows

Step #4

Start painting light and shadows. Leave a strip of white paper on the black vase. If the reflection looks too stiff, try softening it with a clean damp brush.

Paint bowl details

Step #5

Paint details on the bowl using a dagger brush. If you don’t own one of these, any small liner or pointed round will do.

Paint cast shadows

Step #6

Paint cast shadows using darker green and milk-mixtures. This is thicker paint which is mixed using more pigment and less water.

Layering background

Step #7

Build up the background with another layer of darker hues. This is an opportunity to clean up the edges around the vessels by using negative space painting.

Finishing touches

Step #8

Time for finishing touches. I added some patterns to the tablecloth and a few intense colors. Be sure to take a few steps back from the painting to see how it’s reading. It always looks a little different when you do this and will help you determine what the painting needs.


I hope you enjoyed this watercolor painting tutorial. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below. I’ll be happy to answer them! Happy painting!