April 13, 2011

Orange Flowers Tutorial Part 1: Petals

I have always enjoyed painting these little flowers. They are very basic and yet create a very lively painting. For those that have never done a watercolor painting before this is an excellent beginning point and for those who have it is a time to play with new techniques.

1. Gather all the materials that you will need.
-A sheet of quality cold press watercolor paper.
-A pencil and a good eraser.
-Quality watercolors (I am using Windsor and Newton
in the following colors: Alizarin Crimson,
Cadmium Red, Cadmium Orange,
Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Yellow Pale,
and Ultramarine)
-A palette (if you don't have one use an old plate)
-Quality watercolor paint brushes
(make sure the bristles of the brush are nice and soft)
-A cup of clean water
-Paper towel

*Make sure that if you are using a single leaf of watercolor paper that you have something on which to tape it while painting, so that it does not buckle (wrinkle) as you apply the layers of color.
*It is best to prop the paper at an angle as you work, so that the watercolors can flow freely.

2. Begin by lightly sketching out your flower in pencil, try to be very relaxed. I like to begin with the petals. For now I am leaving out the stem and the foliage.

3. Once you have your flower drawn. Take a smaller paint brush and saturate it with the clean water, do not pick up any paint. Then wet the outline of one petal. We are going to work one petal at a time.

4. Before you apply any paint remember to tilt your paper so that it is at a constant angle (about 45 degrees) while you work. Begin with you lightest shade, in my case it would be a yellow. This is the lightest layer but I am still taking account of the form of the petal and where the light would hit it.
*Remember that the more water you use as you paint the lighter the color will be. Also that because we have wet our paper before applying paint we can move the color around, so if I paint in a spot that I really didn't want to I can wipe my brush, then wet it and shift the color.

5. Next apply the darker hue, in my case an bright orange. Do not wait for the yellow to dry. In this step I am even more careful to define the shape of the petal and its shadows.

6. Wait a few minutes for the two washes to dry slightly ( there will still be a shine to the paper when held to the light). Then using the even darker color add in small details and sharper shadows.

I am only going to use the darkest color around the center of the flower so as to give depth and give the illusion that the petal is coming out of the center.

7. Repeat steps 4-6 for all petals. Then allow for them to dry completely.

8. Taking a contrasting color, in my case an Ultramarine blue. Fill in the center of the flower, without wetting the area first. Make sure to leave a few spots without any pigment.

I added a bit of my darkest red to the mix so that the center would be tied in with the petals.

I hope this has been helpful! Remember that Mother's Day is coming up and this would make a lovely surprise.
If you decide to try your hand at painting these flowers please send me any questions or comments that you may have and if you include a picture I will post it on the blog!


  1. Wow, this is so thoughtful of you to post instructions like this. My mother is a watercolorist and the whole procedure always seems so complex. There are so many techniques. Your paintings are beautiful, I've seen them on Etsy!

  2. Thanks Joni! I hope this makes things a little clearer, it can become overwhelming with all of the techniques out there.

  3. Thank you for sharing your lovely tutorial.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial!!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing! I will try it tonight!

  6. Thank you so much for sharing! I will try it tonight!