How to paint petals in watercolour

how to paint a petal step images
(Image credit: Jarnie Godwin)

This tutorial shows you how to paint a petal in watercolours. Flowers are always lovely subjects to paint, but their complex petals can often be difficult to get right. By looking at the contrasting effects of highlights, midtones and shadows on a single petal, I will show you how to get a more realistic, tonal appearance with just a few techniques, and only three basic mixes on the palette. See the video below or read on for instructions.

For more tips on this medium, see our watercolour techniques, and make sure you've got the right tools with the best watercolour paper and the best watercolours

How to paint petals in watercolour

1. Make the first wash

(Image: © Jarnie Godwin)

After laying a glaze of clean water, I drop in the lightest colour. While the glaze is still wet, I continue to build up the tone where I need to by adding more touches of paint several times. Lifting colour with a clean, damp brush maintains any highlights and softens the finish. Let each layer dry before applying the next. 

2. Add the midtone

(Image: © Jarnie Godwin)

Now onto the midtone, which will form the actual colour of the petal. Working as before, I let the water glaze settle before dropping in the second colour. Keeping the paint away from the brightest highlight, I leave plenty of the first wash visible. Again, I use a clean, damp brush to lift off any unwanted colour.

3. Add details

(Image: © Jarnie Godwin)

Shadows offer the deepest tones and will give the petal a three-dimensional appearance. Another glaze helps the darkest paint spread, softly building the deeper tones, and creating higher contrast and tone. With more variation and contrast it will look more lifelike. At this stage, wet-on-dry details can also be introduced.

4. Build depth

(Image: © Jarnie Godwin)

Working wet on dry, I apply the deepest colour only where I want it. This builds more depth and movement with several layers of paint. I also soften the edges with a clean, damp brush. The characteristic markings are softened with several complex overglazes, made by mixing the hues on the palette together.

how to paint a petal step images

The finished petal (Image credit: Jarnie Godwin)

This content originally appeared in Paint & Draw Watercolours. Buy it at Magazines Direct here (opens in new tab).

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Jarnie Godwin

Working as a botanical watercolour artist, tutor and blogger, Jarnie is known for her quirky compositions of imperfect subjects.