Your Perfect Project: Watercolor Peony

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This bold bloom is so fresh you can practically smell it! But creating this painting isn't about perfect realism. Instead, you'll play with rich, bright colors and explore tons of different watercolor techniques in a loose, free approach.

Watercolor Peony

Level: Easy

What You Need

  • Peony reference photo
  • Watercolor paper
  • ¼-inch dagger brush
  • No. 1 round brush
  • Opera rose watercolor paint
  • Cobalt turquoise light watercolor paint
  • Alizarin crimson watercolor paint
  • Naples yellow watercolor paint
  • Raw Sienna watercolor paint
  • Quinacridone red watercolor paint

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Instructions

1. Block In the Flower

Load your dagger brush with a 10:90 paint-to-water ratio (translation: use tons of water and just the tiniest bit of pigment) and lay your first wash. Begin in the yellow center and use soft brushstrokes and flooding to make the ruffles. If you use too much pigment, lift some of the color with your brush.

For the petals, use a 50:50 paint-to-water ratio on your dagger brush and make sweeping strokes to form each petal. Pay close attention to the curve and shape of the peony. Leave a tiny bit of white space between each petal so they don't bleed into one another and create a big blob.

Continue working around the peony until all petals are painted, then add your other two blooms.

Add Intensity to the Petals
When the first phase of your peony is dry, use a 60:40 paint-to-water ratio and add intensity to the petals with a bolder layer of color. Along with creating contrast, you can also use this step to fix any mistakes made in your first wash. Now take a quick break while everything dries again.

Detail with Line Work
Next, pick up your No. 1 round brush and begin the line work. This gives dimension to the petals and the flower center — but be certain your painting is dry before adding the lines, or the colors will bleed together. Remember, this isn't about realism, so don't be too worried about perfection.

Experiment with mixing different colors on your palette for the line work, and add these details to the flower center as well.

2. Build the Bouquet

When your three main flowers are done, move on to the surrounding leaves and fillers. Paint smaller flowers, berries, stems and leaves — whatever you want! You can stick closely to the reference photo, or use your artistic license and go off-script. Just make sure your composition is balanced!

3. Add the Final Details

Assess your painting and make any final adjustments. Use this time to complete your line work, add more filler to any glaring blank spaces and turn this piece into something you can't wait to hang on the wall.

Adapted from Get Started Watercoloring: Fresh Florals .

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