painting watercolor flowers

the most important thing you need to know
about painting watercolor flowers

watercolor is fun!

Painting watercolor flowers is even more fun! I never tire of the beauty and suspense of the watercolors flowing and moving during the painting process.

Watercolors can be controlled to a certain extent, but it is so much fun to let them do their own thing.

There is always an element of surprise and wonder. Watercolors mingle and flow together to create their own beauty.

painting spring flowers

It's springtime and after a long winter my flowers are breaking ground. While I am waiting for them to grow and bloom, I decided to do some painting.

The Bradford Pear trees have bloomed. Redbuds and Dogwoods are taking their turn. Poppies are blooming. The Iris is starting to open.

In the joy of springtime, I painted three different watercolor flower paintings, Echinacea, poppies and a couple of purple iris.

First let's see how the iris was painted.

bearded iris

The bearded German Iris were just opening in my sister's yard. She gave me a couple along with some phlox. I brought them home, put them in a vase and worked on drawing them.

the quickest and easiest way to paint watercolor flowers

draw and transfer the drawing

photo of Bearded Iris with phloxIris photo

The Iris has three petals drooping down.
There are three upright petals.

Transfer the drawing to the painting surface and mask some highlight areas.Transfer drawing and mask highlights.

The drawing was transferred to an Aquabord.
Apply masking fluid to preserve the highlights.

paint the flowers first

Under-paint the flowersUnder-paint the flowers
Darken the flower color where desiredDarken the flower color where desired

The color scheme was compliment plus left one half using the colors of blue, purple and yellow.

then float in the background

Then float in a soft backgroundFloat in a soft background

Float in a light background of blue and yellow. Yellow makes its complimentary color (purple) stand out.

detail and finish the painting

Painting watercolor flowers with artist Carol MayPainting Watercolor Flowers

When the paint is thoroughly dry, remove the masking fluid to expose the highlight areas. Soften the edges of the highlight areas to make a smooth transition where they move into the main color of the petals.

Paint in the stems with a combination of blue and yellow. Put a bit of yellow on the beards.

Lift out some highlighted veins with a damp brush or a fiberglass brush. This is the beauty of Aquabord; colors may be lifted off after they are dry.

This watercolor flower painting is complete.

Echinacea flowers on paper

The leaves of my Coneflowers (Echinacea) are about two inches out of the ground. Daisies have been my favorite flowers ever since I was a child. So I enjoyed painting one of my favorites.

The Purple Coneflowers (They look pink to me, but they are called purple.) are native in the Midwest. They bloom all summer and come back faithfully each spring.

watercolor Echinecea flower on 300# Arches paperEchinacea on 300# paper

draw and transfer the drawing

Drawing them probably took more time, than I spent on painting them. I drew them in my sketchbook and then transferred the drawing to the watercolor paper with graphite transfer paper. Erasures can damage watercolor paper, so I did all my erasing on the sketch paper.

Notice neither of the flowers is centered and they each tilt a different direction. This helps give life to the painting.

select your colors and painting surface

Normally my watercolors go onto Aquabord or Claybord, but this time I used paper for a fun, quick painting. I was breaking out of the winter doldrums and I wanted to have some fun painting watercolor flowers. So I grabbed a block of 300# watercolor paper for this quick painting.

I used a semi-triad color scheme with pink (red), yellow and blue. I slipped a bit of orange into the center cone. The yellow and blue colors mixed for the green. Normally I paint with a limited number of colors. It simplifies the painting process and makes it more restful for the viewer.

This was a quick, fun painting to do, so no masking was done before painting.

painting the flowers

Relax while painting your watercolor flowers. The painting will go smoothly and you will have fun.

Paint the pink petals first. Wet the petal and start painting near the center of the coneflower. Then pull the paint lighter and lighter, as you go out toward the tip of the petals.

Yellow goes on the top of the cone which is closest to the light source. Add blue to the bottom for the shadow side of the cone.

Then I went to lunch while the flowers dried.

paint the background

Wet the entire background, when the flowers are thoroughly dry.

Float in variations of yellow and blue and a mixture of green. Keep the colors lighter toward the light source and darker at the bottom of the painting.

Come back with a second wash of darker blue between the two flowers to highlight the focal flower.

a quick fun flower painting - try it!

colorful poppies

The idea for this painting came from an oil painting I saw by Nancy Medina. The painting is changed significantly from the original, but I want to give Nancy credit for the idea.

Watercolor poppy flowers by artist Carol MayColorful Poppies

This was a carefree painting in my favorite free painting style. Don't try to produce a photocopy. Painting watercolor flowers is such a joy with its unpredictable results.

just have fun painting!

draw and transfer the drawing

The painting was drawn in my sketchbook and transferred to the painting surface with graphite transfer paper. This time I used an 8x10 inch Aquabord by Ampersand.

That way I may spray the dry painting with a fixative and frame it without glass. This is my favorite way of painting watercolor flowers and for that matter all of my watercolor paintings.

No masking was used. I painted around the white areas.


I used the analogous colors of yellow, pink and orange with their compliments of blue and purple.

This painting breaks the rules of good composition because the focal flower is dead-centered in the painting. It was painted with my love of color.

it was fun - just let it flow!

painting the flowers

The main subject, the flowers were painted first. While I am painting, I like to leave specks of white paper to give spark and light to the painting.

paint the background around the flowers

Then when the flowers were dry, I floated in dark colors for the background. This is my normal painting process for portraits of close-up subjects. Paint the main subject first and then paint the background around the main subject.

When the main subject is painted first, it gives you a better idea of what value to paint the background. The dark background really sets off the light colored flowers.

The yellow by the right-hand flower indicates the light source. It is a good idea to repeat colors throughout the painting.  It gives the painting cohesiveness.

So drop yellow into the white spots that were left while painting the background. And spatter some yellow into the wet background.

Carefully paint the background around the leaf areas. Then the stems and leaves can be painted in a carefree manner with yellow and a mixed green.

painting watercolor flowers is so much fun!

are you ready to paint your own watercolor flowers?

It's easy, just follow these simple steps.

  • Select and Draw Your Subject - Adjust your drawing and do any erasures on your sketch paper.
  • Transfer Your Drawing to your painting surface, watercolor canvas, paper or Aquabord.
  • Mask the highlight areas you want to preserve. Let the masking dry completely before you paint.
  • Choose Your Colors. - For simplicity and beauty use a limited number of colors in each painting.
  • Paint the background after you have a better idea of what value will highlight the main subject.
  • Complete the painting with any finishing touches you like.

have fun painting watercolor flowers! - that's what it is all about!

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