Nature Close-Ups: Easy Watercolor Paint Project

Nature Close-Ups: Easy Watercolor Paint Project

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This is an easy watercolor project with no drawing required.  Instead, the project makes use of grey-scale photographs printed on watercolor paper to jump-start your painting.  Turn completed paintings into a collection piece by mounting them together or use them on handmade greeting cards for little functional works of art.


watercolor blue rose




Watercolor paper, smooth finish
Watercolor pan set & brushes


I have shared the photographs I used in the patterns for this project.  They have already been edited for painting using simple photo editing software. If you’d like to use your own photograph, adjust the photo using your favorite photo editing tools.  Remove the color from the photograph, changing the image to a very light grey-scale version.  You want to see some areas of shadow with plenty of open light space.  Keep in mind that the printed version of the image is likely to appear lighter than what you see on your computer screen.


watercolor pattern


Cut watercolor paper to letter paper size that will fit in your laser printer. Many manufactured watercolor papers have one side of the paper that is smoother than the other.  Load your paper using the printer’s bypass option (single paper feed not from a tray) so that printing will happen on the smoother side (if possible). Adjust the settings on your printer to accept the heavy watercolor paper and print one photograph on one sheet of paper.

If you’ve painted on watercolor paper before, when you begin using these printed papers you’ll notice that the absorbency of the paper has been altered by the toner laid down in the printing process.  What you’ll see is that very loose paint, with lots of water added, will tend to bead on the surface rather than being immediately absorbed.  At times you can use that effect to your advantage to create attractive random texture while painting.  In general, though, you’ll want to use more paint and little water when first painting in an area of the image.  As more paint is applied to a section of the image, the toner barrier is reduced and the paper will accept loose washes of color.

blue watercolor paint beading on surface green watercolor paint beading on surface


The Begonia

Moisten your paint with a very small amount of water, just enough to allow the paint to be picked up by the brush. Paint over the shadows in the foreground using an undiluted, dark purple color.


Again, using little water, paint the background a dark blue green color.


Paint the flower petals using magenta. Apply undiluted paint at the base of the petal. Use more water when drawing the paint out near the edges of the petal. If the paint beads when you add the additional water, that’s OK. It will eventually absorb into the paper leaving interesting surface texture behind. Leave the outer edges of the petal unpainted (white).


Continue to work all the petals in the same manner. Allow the magenta to mix into the purple shadows where the colors meet.


all petals painted


Put only water on a small round brush and trace a line with the water in the spaces between some of the petals. Drop some undiluted purple paint into the wet water line and allow the purple to spread in the water.


Repeat along the outside edges of the flower (on top of the blue-green) and drop in undiluted purple paint.


purple edges complete


Create a wash of orange color by mixing orange paint with a lot of water on your palette and apply sparingly to light areas on the petals. Continue to leave some areas on the petals white, without paint. If desired, go back to any previous step to intensify the color in an area until you’re satisfied with the painting.


Paint the other images following a similar pattern.  Paint the shadows and background first using a dark, undiluted color.  Paint the flower petals next, applying some fairly ‘dry’ paint that blends with more water into less intensely pigmented areas.  Leave some white or light spaces on the flower petals.  Deepen shadows and dark edges along the edges of the flowers by dropping additional color into water applied to those areas.

The Blanket Flower

Color palette: blue, purple, red-orange, orange-yellow, yellow-green

blanket flower step 1

blanket flower step 2

blanket flower step 3

blanket flower step 4

blanket flower step 5


The Rose

Color palette: burnt sienna, cerulean blue, blue-green, olive green,  black

rose step 1

rose step 2

rose step 3

rose step 4

rose step 5


The Clematis

Color palette: Blue, blue-green, purple, magenta, yellow

clematis step 1

clematis step 2

clematis step 3

clematis step 4

clematis step 5

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