Flowers are one of the most popular subjects people enjoy painting with watercolour, and for a good reason! The wavy and delicate nature of petals makes them pair effortlessly with flowing and spontaneous watercolour.
Today, we will look at how the artist Nina, aka Nyusikart, creates her classic floral designs by mixing simple colours you likely already have!
To begin, let’s take stock of our colours. You will need a cool yellow, a warm blue, and magenta for the primary colours. You will also need a cool green, such as an emerald type green or viridian, and Nina incorporates a warmer yellow later on.
Step 1: Flower Shapes in Shifting Colors
Using a very watered-down mixture of the three primaries, loosely paint three flowers. Your flowers will look different from mine, just as mine look different from Nina’s because we are different people, and that’s okay.
Let the mixture be disproportionate towards different primaries for different petals to add some visual interest and variety. I let my colour differences be rather pronounced so that you can see them in the photo more easily.
Also, it’s a good idea to leave some gaps white, so there’s light in the image.
Once you’ve done that, take a mixture of magenta and green to make a deep purple that works well for the centres of the flowers. Don’t be too precise with it because the looseness is what adds charm.
Step 2: Foliage in All Colors
Now it is time to experiment with mixtures of all the colours in this project’s palette to get varied leaf colours! Make some of them contrast with the flowers, and some of them be similar.
Follow your intuition about what colours look good together! I like to emphasize brown in my paintings because I love how rich and subtle it is, so I painted lots of brown leaves.
The only way to really figure out what you like is to experiment, so don’t be afraid to do some unexpected things!
Step 3: A Whimsical Background
Here’s where we shift gears a bit. Wet the area surrounding the flowers, and splash it with blue and purple. This may look like too much at first but trust the process.
We aren’t done yet. Also, don’t overwork this step because this style of splashed watercolour looks best the first time.
Step 4: Details and Finishing Touches
There’s a lot to unpack in this step, so we will take it as slow as needed. There’s no pressure in the art you do for practice and fun, so you can be as slow or as quick as each painting takes you naturally.
Experiment with different mixtures involving magenta and the other cooler colours in your palette to darken and shape the edges of the petals and give the flowers some more definition.
Nina used a flat brush, and I used a round brush. I experimented with both wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry for this step, so I could decide which I personally liked, and I think that the best way to do this is wet-on-dry followed by some smoothing out with a clean, damp brush.
You want some streaks, but nothing harsh. Feel free to take as many layers as you need to get the value contrast you want, making sure you let each layer dry all the way before adding another. If your shadow colours have some variety, this adds some desirable visual interest!
Once you are happy with the values and shapes of your flowers and leaves, it is time for inking! Nina used gold ink, which I didn’t expect, but I decided to try it and see if I liked it. I ended up loving it!
The gold complements the dusty purple really well and accentuates the softness of the watercolour by contrasting it. I used an oil-based gold calligraphy marker, but you can use anything you like.
I recommend trying gold calligraphy ink and a dip pen to get some line weight variation! Alternatively, you can also use metallic watercolours with a tiny detail brush.
Your project may come out looking very different from both mine and Nina’s, and that’s okay! This project varies greatly depending on your paint selection and how your hand naturally paints.
The learning goal here is to use primaries to mix neutral colours because neutral colours usually don’t come in tubes premixed.
Nina is a true master of colour theory, so if you want to dive deeper into her knowledge, you can click here to join her 90-minute art class! Also, you can subscribe to our email newsletter for updates on more great artists!