DIY Tutorial: Paint a Flower and Foliage with Gouache (or Watercolor)

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Welcome back! If you remember last week's post, I talked about my experience using gouache from Winsor & Newton. I hope it inspired you to give gouache a try, because this week, I'm going to take you step by step through a project! Grab your brushes and your gouache (or watercolor, if you prefer), and let's get started.

What you'll need:

  1. Gouache set
  2. Paint brushes in 3 sizes
  3. Water
  4. Surface you can mix colors on - I use an old plate
  5. Watercolor paper (or other surface that can stand being wet)
  6. Time! This took me between 2 and 3 hours, because I had to wait for layers to dry before going over them to get some of the finer detail.

The Process:

Step 1

Sketch your flower out on the paper first, then add some leaves around to frame it on the page. This doesn't have to be anywhere near perfect, because you'll paint over it. It's just a guide. Make sure not to draw the lines too dark, or you'll have trouble covering them completely with the paint.

gouache flower sketch step one


Step 2

Using the smallest of the three paint brushes, mix up a dark green shade and start adding some strokes to the large leaves along the bottom. Use the same shade to paint the center of the flower.

I like starting with a darker shade because it helps solidify the shapes and lets me visualize the end product. You can vary the intensity of the color by using more or less water as you paint.

step two paint a gouache flower

Step 3

Using the medium sized brush, take a slightly lighter shade of green and fill in the rest of the large leaf shapes. You can use this shade to start filling in the leaves along the top, as well.

step three paint a gouache flower

If you're like me and only mix up a little bit of color at a time to avoid wasting paint, you'll probably have to make more as you fill in the larger areas on the page. That's totally fine! You can see from this picture that I didn't always make an identical mixture, but as long as the value stayed consistent, I didn't care. A little color variation just adds to the natural appearance of the leaves.

Step 4

Now you can take a lighter, brighter green and add some more color intensity to the leaves. I used the largest brush and a lot of water so I could get a pretty sheer overlay over the work I had done before.

step four paint a glower with gouache

Step 5

Now, mix up a medium coral tone (or orange or red, if you prefer). With the smallest brush, begin adding color to the flower petals, starting at the bottom of the petal and fanning upward.
step five paint a flower with gouache

Step 6

Next, mix up a very light shade of pink and finish in the petal shapes. It's probably easiest to do this with the smallest brush, but you can use whichever one you feel most comfortable with.

step six gouache flower DIY

Step 7

Mixing up a shade that's slightly in between the two you've used so far, go over the entirety of your petals. This will help build color intensity and start to hide the pencil lines (although they may not fully disappear yet, and that's totally fine. We'll get there!).

step 7 paint a flower with gouache

Step 8

Keep building up that color intensity! I went back to the leaves for a bit, letting the layers dry and then adding more color. This helped them not look so see-through.

step eight gouache flower

Step 9

Using the smallest brush and your darkest shades, bring back any definition that was lost as you built up the colors on the leaves. This will bring them to a point where they finally look done!

step nine paint a flower with gouache

Step 10

Now we can repeat the process for the flower! First, just focus on building up the intensity of the color. You can let layers dry and add more paint as many times as feels necessary.

step ten paint a flower with gouache

Step 11

Once the pencil lines have disappeared beneath your layers of paint, mix up the darkest version of your petal color. Taking the smallest brush, flick from the base of the petal to the tip several times to add depth. This step really makes the flower pop!

step eleven paint a flower gouache

Step 12

To really make the piece feel finished, it's time to add a bit of color to the background. Mix up any color you want (that isn't green or coral) - I chose a nice sky blue, but a dark grey or even something like indigo would look stunning as well. 

Taking your largest brush, paint with that new color all around the flower and your leaves. Use your water to create variations in the color as you go along - this adds movement and interest to the entire painting.

final painted flower gouache step 12

Once you have your background, congratulations! You did it!

If you'd like, share your work and tag me @vanduinenstudio on Instagram. I'd love to see what you create!

Hannah's name sign off

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