To paint spontaneous watercolour florals with no sketching underneath, you need to be confident and skilled with your brushstrokes. This is where Thea Ong’s 30-minute class comes in handy because she explains all the brushstrokes and pen techniques you will need to be successful in loose floral painting!

Let’s follow her advice and explore some practical techniques that will give you results with a bit of practice!

Step 1: Brushstroke Practise

Before we put together plant paintings, let’s run through the basics. For the thin lines at the top of this diagram, use the very point of your brush and don’t use overly much pressure. At first, the lines might be shaky (mine are still shaky and I’ve been painting for a few years) but that’s okay, don’t give up!

Next, practise making lines that are still a bit thin but you’re applying more pressure. This will be a challenge because the pressure needs to stay the same amount the entire time. Eventually, you will succeed, and it isn’t too hard once you find an angle you like holding the brush at.

Now for the two thickest lines. The first example is straightforward, all you need to do is drag the brush along on its side to make the thickest line possible. For the next one, the painting technique is the same, but you’ll load two colours onto the brush: One on the tip, and one on the side.

The result is an automatic gradient! This one will take a little practice but is surprisingly easy to do. The next section of the diagram is about stippling and hatching.

As you can see, we’re going to use both watercolour and pen for these techniques to get different effects in different scenarios. Stippling is when you shade with little dots, and hatching is where you shade with little lines.

Using a brush for these creates more variety and softness while using a fineliner pen will make precise and striking effects. I made the pen hatching look a bit like grass because that’s my favourite use of hatching lines.

The lower section of the diagram will be the trickiest technique, but don’t give up. Experiment with different amounts of paint and water, and even with different brushes and angles until you find what works. Alternate between extremely light pressure and the hardest pressure you can manage to make a varying line. This will be useful later for making leaves.

Once you’ve worked through the technique diagram, let’s start painting some plants!

Step 2: Making Some Leaves

What you’re going to do here is lay down some washi tape, so that there’s a nice rectangle in the end where you can write a message if you like. Then, use thin strokes and the pressure variation technique from before to create delicate stems with graceful leaves. I find it helpful to paint the leaf first and work downward; be sure to experiment and see what you like best.

Do the same thing but with a different shade of green to keep things interesting. On some of the leaves, Thea likes to use two brushstrokes and unite them, to create a wide leaf with a vein down the centre.

Repeat this process a third time with the third shade of green, and you’ll have a lovely bouquet of foliage! If you include the stems at the bottom, that makes the scene look more grounded in space. Here I’ve lifted the tape so you can see the nice rectangle! This taping technique works great for making cards.

If you want to add even more dimension and variety, you can use your pen to add little leaves, stems, and subtle flowers! You don’t want to overdo this and drown out the watercolour, but adding a few little details with your pen lets you change the texture and make the piece more whimsical and lively.

Step 3: An Anemone Flower!

Here’s where you get to do some truly fun things with a pen. Start with the stippling technique and make a little circle for the centre of the flower. Now, one side of this is going to be all pen, and the other side all watercolour, so we’re only going to worry about the pen half for now.

To add stamens to the flower, make little lines coming from the middle, then make little dots at the ends of the lines. Already the flower is taking shape!

To make the petals, start by drawing the basic outline and then gently hatching to create veins. What I’m doing in the picture here is an optional step that can add lots of depth, and it’s very easy: Simply outline the petals again when you’re finished hatching. The difference in line weight between the outline and the veins will make the petals look more real.

Now, the watercolour half of this flower is quick and simple. Lay down paint on one side of the petal, then with a wet brush drag the pigment out to shape the petal.

This automatically creates a shadow gradient and makes the petal dimensional. The centre petals can be a lighter and warmer colour than the outer petals so that there’s dimension and atmospheric perspective.

I hope these techniques help you with your watercolour florals! I certainly found Thea’s demo helpful, and if you did too then I recommend her 90-minute class! Also, you can subscribe to our email newsletter for exclusive updates and new lessons! Have a great time painting!

Elsa Wahlstrom is an illustrator/writer living in the south Idaho hill country. She  loves to create cozy, homey pictures and populate them with funny little creatures  having surreal little adventures. Her biggest inspiration is the music and comedy that  came out of England in the late 60s. When she’s not busy making art, she goes for long  hikes, plays a few instruments, and collects vinyl.

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