How to Paint Watercolour Flowers Using Mixed Media

15th July 2020 Estimated reading time: 4 mins

Something a bit different from me today, it’s a grey and rainy day outside and although I’m not sure of what I’m looking for in this piece I do know that I need to approach it a bit differently. Why? Because when you teach people how to paint, it is easy to slip into a pattern of ‘draw, paint, detail’ and in order to practice what I very often preach, I need to break that order to see what results I get.

I recently made a trip to a local garden where I found hydrangeas emerging in the borders. I’ve only ever done one painting of this flower and that was in acrylic so it’s about time I give it the mixed media approach.

Step 1: How to paint watercolour flowers

A large blank piece of watercolour paper is just itching for me to throw colour at it, so I have rummaged around with my photograph in hand, looking for materials that I think will match the colours and/or textures in the flower. I’ve come up with three colours of Brusho and two in watercolour that I think have a similarity to my subject. I’ve also got a touch of white gouache mixed up just in case I need it.

Step 2: Adding colours and textures

Nothing else for it but sprinkling, dusting, spraying and flicking paint at the surface while thinking about the colours and textures that I can see in my subject. This is the part of the process that is scary and liberating in equal measure. Will I put down too much? Will it be too bright? Not bright enough?

Step 3: Adding shape to flowers

What I have created on the page is textures in sort of the right places but possibly not dark enough so after drying it thoroughly with a hairdryer, I have gone back in with more Green Apatite watercolour to start thinking about shape.

Step 4: Line Drawing

I have created a line drawing that deals with a few of the elements that I think are interesting or important and I have transferred this line drawing on to tracing paper. I can then position my drawing over the top of the sections of the textures that I think ‘fit’ or have potential. It’s all very intuitive at this point and I’m not sure where it is heading.

Step 5: Tracedown

I stick the line drawing down with tape, slip a sheet of Tracedown underneath and transfer on to the surface. Even though I pressed quite hard, I found I had to go back over the transfer as I couldn’t quite see the lines.

Step 6: Creating Foliage

Now I have something I can work with to start creating the foliage at the back of the painting. Working with the Green Apatite I pull out some of the flower shapes by painting around and behind them to make them stand out.

Step 7: Adding highlights

Looking at my painting at this point, I am pleased with the darks but it is lacking enough texture in the small buds and highlights so I’m going to put some of the highlights in and see how it looks. I will use gouache mixed with the Brusho colours to lighten them.

Step 8: Shaping buds

After layering in a little gouache, I can see that those pale areas still aren’t bright enough and the texture of the buds needs adding to so by inverting my brush and using the handle, I’m able to add the round shapes.

Step 9: Building stems

I can also start building the stems up by mixing together some of the Brusho and watercolour colours together and there need to be even more buds so I’m going to use the end of a pencil for a larger mark.


Step 10: Adding edges

At this point I often taken a photograph to see what else needs to be done to a piece, it gives a little distance. I like the slightly abstract quality of the piece, but it needs some really sharp edges and brighter highlights to finish it off. I could do this with a brush but a Posca pen will do a much better job.

This was such an experimental piece, I didn’t know particularly where it was heading, but the freedom of not over-thinking it was much more fun than the end result. The process of painting before drawing is one I really enjoy and I hope that you are able to experiment in this way with a future project too.

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