Watercolor Blossoms - Pro Techniques Explained | Anna Bucciarelli | Skillshare

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Watercolor Blossoms - Pro Techniques Explained

teacher avatar Anna Bucciarelli, Professional Illustrator

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Supplies: Required and "Nice-to-Have"


    • 3.

      Color Palette


    • 4.

      Technique & Process Overview


    • 5.

      Step 1: Outline & Mask


    • 6.

      Step 2: Background Wash


    • 7.

      Step3: Definition Wash


    • 8.

      Step 4: Accent Wash


    • 9.

      Step 5: Finishing Touches


    • 10.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Do you love botanical watercolors and want to step up your watercolor game? Learn how to paint your own gorgeous cherry blossom - just like the one I created for 2019 Canadian Silver Dollar coin! In this class, I will show you the best way to apply traditional painting methods to achieve that realistic look you want. From drawing a basic outline, to masking light and applying brilliant washes, you will feel more confident in your own style and learn how to make the most out of your watercolors.

Through a series of bite-size lessons, packed with close-up shots of brush movements and pigment flow, we will cover the following topics:

  • Creating a perfect outline for your painting,
  • Masking light and white elements to achieve a realistic look,
  • Layering watercolor washes to create depth and texture, and finally
  • Finishing touches that make all the difference.

To help you get started, I will share a list of my must-have and nice-to-have supplies, including my botanical color palette. I will also share many of my tricks to bring your flower painting to the next level by amplifying shapes and colors thoughtfully for maximum visual impact.

Follow along with me and let’s make beautiful art!

Coin Images:
© Coin Image 2019 - Monnaie royale canadienne - Tous droits réservés
© 2019 - Royal Canadian Mint - All Rights Reserved

Meet Your Teacher

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Anna Bucciarelli

Professional Illustrator

Top Teacher


Hello and welcome to my Skillshare channel! My name is Anna, I am a Canadian money designer,  and illustrator of all things intricate and beautiful. You may have seen my art on Canadian silver dollar coins, Starbucks holiday cups, or the streets of Toronto. My painting style is influenced by the decorative tradition of “Petrykivka” painting – an Eastern European art focusing on floral and plant motifs.

I teach advanced watercolor and gouache here on SkillShare. You can also find lots of painting resources on my YouTube channel, visit my website or follow me on Instagram @anna.m.bucciarelli if you want to learn more about my work or simply say Hello!


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1. Introduction: You love painting flowers and you want to learn more about some advanced watercolor techniques that really make your work stand out, then this is the right class for you. Hey, my name is Anna and I am an illustrator from Canada. I exhibit and work with commercial clients all around the world. You may have seen my art on Starbucks cups, licensed products and magazine ads.If you live in Toronto, you may have seen my colorful murals around the city. But my favorite work is designing money for the government of Canada. My watercolor and digital illustrations have appeared on a number of Canadian silver coins celebrating holidays and special occasions. In this class, I will explain my technique and together we will create a gorgeous cherry blossom, just like the one I did for that 2019 Canadian silver dollar coin. By the end of this class, you will have a better understanding of how to apply color strategically and to use light to really define shapes and create beautiful blossoms. You will have a gorgeous watercolor piece that you can either give as a gift or you can scan and use to create surface patterned designs for your portfolio. Of course, you will be able to apply the knowledge that you gain in this class to any of your future watercolor projects. What makes this class a bit different from other watercolor tutorials is my unique approach to paint. I was trained as a decorative artist. I love those vibrant bright colors and sharp outlines. Am not afraid to paint watercolor moves just a little bit and I will teach you those decorative techniques and how to apply them in watercolor to really make your work stand out. Here are some of the things that we will cover. First, I will show you how to create a perfect outline for your painting without damaging the paper. Next, I will talk about masking white elements so you can preserve light. I will take you through my simple three-step layering technique, so you can get comfortable with wet in wet and wet in dry watercolor washes and start creating beautiful textures and shapes in your painting. Of course, we will talk about those decorative finishing touches that make all the difference. To help you get started, I will share my list of must have supplies and also so nice to have supplies that you may decide to splurge on. They're not necessary, but a really, really fun to use. Finally, I will share some of my favorite tips and tricks that will help you get more comfortable with watercolor medium and really get the most out of your supplies. I look forward to seeing your projects so grab your paints. If you want to download the outline of the cherry blossom, it's in the project resources. I will see you in class. 2. Supplies: Required and "Nice-to-Have": [MUSIC] Hello everyone. Thank you for joining me and welcome to the class. Let's get straight into the art materials and supplies you will need to paint are cherry blossom. I've prepared two lists for you, and both are in the class project description on the Skillshare website. First, we'll talk about our list of required supplies, and I will share the brands that I use. Then we'll talk about some nice to have tools. Now these are not required, but I get a lot of questions on my Instagram about some of these things and I think they're super helpful, and so I want to share them with you in case you want to give them a try. [MUSIC] Let's talk about brushes. This brush is Winsor Newton Series 7 and size two, and this is my favorite brush I probably use at 99% of the time. Kolinsky brushes are really magical because they hold lots of water, but they also maintain a really precise tip. It's a really good investment. You can use it for large washes or you can use it for those tiny details. Yes, they are quite pricey, but you can just get one and you have so much fun using it and you don't need any other brushes to create your paintings. If you don't have a Sable brush, you can use round squirrel or synthetic brushes. The only thing I will note is that you will probably need something in size three or four to cover larger areas of color. Any medium-sized brush, something in size two for your smaller areas of color. For tiny details, synthetic brushes actually work much better because they give you more resistance and control. For example, I love these memory points, synthetic brushes from Germany, in size double zero, and you can use pretty much any acrylic synthetic brush in size doubles zero. These are great for outlines and those decorative details that we will introduce into our painting in the final stage. [MUSIC] There's one thing I would recommend, above all, it would be quality watercolor paper. You've probably heard this before. You have to go 100% cotton and you can't go any lower than 140 pounds. The reason why you need thicker paper is that anything below a 140 pounds simply won't hold any water. I prefer to use blocks. You don't have to worry about stretching your watercolor paper. You can just open up the blog and you can see that it's glued on the sides. Once you're done, you just peel it off and you save yourself some time. There are two types of watercolor paper that you can choose from. One is called cold press, which is the one that I just showed you and it has very rough texture. I prefer this because it really holds the water nicely, the rough texture, it gives it a really nice look. Now if you're creating watercolor paintings that you plan to scan later so you can digitize them and use them for something like surface pattern design, your best bet is hot press paper. Hot press paper is very smooth. It's really much better when you scan it because it doesn't pick up that rough texture of the cold press paper. You'll need a pencil and the key here is it also has to be hard. We don't want to use soft pencils because they will leave markings on the paper. Next you'll need pallet for your colors. I prefer porcelain pallets. They have these beautiful walls and you can just put a little bit of color on the side and mix. Just be careful, they tend to break. Now this is a fun [inaudible] thing that I use. This as a glove that you'll see me using all throughout the painting process. These are typically sold for digital artists who work on iPads or Centric tablets. They're really worked well to prevent you from smudging the screen. What I found is this is actually excellent for a watercolor work or any other traditional work. You just have to wash it every once in a while. As you can see, it's like a half glove, so it has an opening for your fingers, and if you're left-handed, you can also get them for left-handed artists. Masking fluid, I use Windsor and Newton. Don't shake it too much before you start. It will create bubbles and those bubbles take forever to settle, so you just shake it a little bit and then use your applicator. Now in terms of the applicators, people use all sorts of things, brushes, sticks, matches, depends on how much you want to cover. Now for this project, we're really only going to mask white areas on those little details inside each flower, those stamens. We need something really fine, and what I found is this neat little thing. It has a tiny little rubber tip and it moves almost like a brush. This is an excellent tool to use when you're playing masking fluid, and you can get them in all shapes and sizes. They don't need as much clean up of this brushes. Masking fluid can really ruin your brush, even if it's just a throwaway brush, you don't want to spend time cleaning it. It gets really messy. This is much better. When the last conclude is dry and you're ready to remove it, there are a couple of things that you can do. You can use a regular soft eraser like these black ones. But if you really want to be careful with the paper, and you have some tiny little details that you've been masking and you want to remove, just a masking fluid without lifting the paint, this is an excellent tool. It's a retractable the razor, it has a tiny little tip, and you'll see me using it a lot as I remove pieces of masking fluid from the center of each flower. Your hands as much as you clean them, can have some oil. You really don't want to touch the paper you're painting on, so this works really well and you just pressure those pieces away and you're done. [MUSIC] Just in case if you don't have it on hand and you want us to move ahead with the project, not to worry. Once we're done, we're going to paint those white details with white goulash. You may also find something like this in you watercolor set. This is white watercolor. This will work quite well. [MUSIC] 3. Color Palette: Okay. Let's talk about the colors. We'll talk about the necessary colors and there are only five of them. Then we're going to talk about some of the supplementary colors that you may want to use if you already have them in your palette, or you can try to mix your own. I'll just quickly show you what they look like. Before we start talking about our palette, I wanted to quickly talk to you about the way I organize my colors. If you think about color theory, things that are blue and cold appear further away, and things that are warm and more red and yellow really appear closer to the eye. That's how we're going to organize our colors, from warm to cold. We will use those warmer colors and more diluted colors on objects and parts of objects that are closer to us, and we will use colder colors or blues and purples, colder pinks, on parts of the flowers that are further away. The only yellow we're going to use is this Quinacridone Gold. We're going to use it only on leaves and branches. The flowers themselves, we're going to leave fairly cold. This Opera Pink is going to be your main color. This is what you're going to use for all the basic washes. It's going to be one pigment that holds everything together. If you don't have this Opera Pink, here's another alternative Opera Rose from Winsor & Newton. This is Daniel Smith. You may find another light pink in your palette. Feel free to use it. The third color that you will need is this beautiful magenta. This one, you will use to create shadows and boost the color on each flower. Lastly, we have this crimson color. What you're going to use this for is primarily for the leaves and branches, but there will be a few cases where we're going to apply it to the flower itself. It mixes very well with the other reds that we have in our palette, and I think you're going to enjoy it. Dioxazine Purple, this is actually the first tube of professional watercolors I bought and this is what made me fall in love all over again with watercolor. It is a gorgeous, gorgeous pigment. We'll use this for shadows. Quinacridone Coral, gorgeous, gorgeous, warm, creamy color. I will use this just a bit on some of the warmer petals. But in general, I love this color so much. I use it a lot on roses and peonies. Give it a try. It's an absolute joy to paint with. The second one is this Quinacridone Red. If you do feel like adding green and you'll see towards the end of the painting, I decided to add just a tiny bit of green to the branches. Just a hint of it. This Sap Green is probably the best choice. Violet from Daniel Smith is excellent alternative to black or dark brown. I don't like to use black. I think it really changes the look of watercolors. It kind of takes away that lightness that we all want to preserve, and so instead of using dark colors like dark brown or black, I use this Perylene Violet. It really is an excellent color to pair with reds and purples, and it would be an excellent choice for our branches and darker parts of the leaves because it's dark but it really compliments all the pinks and magentas in the painting very well. The last option color is this blue and you can really use any blue you have in your palette. On those areas of the cherry flower that are really in the shade, and we really want to accentuate those shadows, we'll drop a few hints of blue if you have it. If you don't have any blues, we'll just stick to the purple. 4. Technique & Process Overview: Before we start our project, I will explain my technique using a simple cherry flower. It's a very straightforward five-step technique and it's going to hopefully take out the guesswork out of your painting process, especially when it comes to color washes. Once I show the basic idea behind each step using this simple flower, we will go through each step in a separate lesson in a lot more detail so you can follow me along and create a beautiful cherry blossom for your project. Now, let's review the five steps. Step 1, outline and mask. The key here is to avoid erasing on your watercolor paper. I'll talk a bit more about different ways of doing this in the next lesson. Of course, you may choose to mask some of the areas to preserve the white color. We'll talk about masking fluid application as well in the next lesson. Now that your outline is done, if you have a reference photo, you can move on to step number 2. If you don't have a reference, you have to decide on the direction of light. This will help you determine where the shadows are and where the cold colors will go. I don't have a reference photo, so I will say the sunlight is coming from top-left leaving part of the flower in the dark. This is where I will be applying some darker, colder color washes. Step 2 is our background color wash. The key here is to paint very quickly so you can cover all areas with your base colors, and have enough time to drop just a hint of your highlight and shadow pigments while the base color is still wet. This is called a wet-in-wet technique. We will be using opera pink as base color for the flowers that are facing light, and some darker pigments for the flowers that are in the shade. Throughout the painting, we will be adding our purple and blue on all petals that are in the shade and we will be boosting the base color with hints of opera pink and magenta. Quinacridone red will go in the middle of the flower, for our branches we will use gold base with violet shadows, and our leaves will be crimson with our hint of gold as a base and some purple as shadows. Step 3 is where we're going to boost some colors using a wet on dry technique. Your base layer should be completely dry and we will use our wet brush to add another layer of the same warm and cold colors building volume on each petal and each leaf. Step 4 is our accent layer. This is where we can get a bit more loose with our technique and add some decorative touches. We will outline almost every petal with light magenta or light purple. You don't normally see sharp outlines like these in traditional watercolor, but for botanical work, I find it works quite well. We will then enhance the colors even more, but only in some of those areas that we want to really stand out. We will use lots of pink pigment and almost no water here, which again, you rarely see in a realistic watercolor painting, but I will do this very selectively to boost highlights and low lights. Finally, in Step 5, we will erase the masking fluid and go wild with our decorative brush. Now, this is pure folk art as far as technique goes, we will use the same intense red and very little water to apply some creamy pigment to our stamens creating these beautiful curves. The trick is to keep them thin and short so they don't overwhelm the flower, and from a distance it will still look natural, but also quite striking. This is our five-step process. You can apply it to any botanical project simply by adjusting your base color palette. Now, grab your paper and pencil and brushes, and let's start your project. 5. Step 1: Outline & Mask: The key to creating a nice outline for your painting is to avoid putting too much eraser on your new watercolor paper. If you're like me, you may not always feel comfortable drawing directly on your paper so you may want to start by sketching first and then repeating your composition on your watercolor paper, or you can go to class resources and download black and white outline of the cherry blossom, print it and trace it to your watercolor paper. Here's my favorite tried and tested method. First, create your drawing on your cheapest white paper. Then once you're comfortable with the overall composition, use a hard pencil, something like 4H or even higher to draw the cherry blossom again. If you make a few mistakes, it's totally okay to use a soft eraser here and there, as long as you don't do it too much. As you can see here, I have a very dark drawing in my sketch book on the left and I'm repeating the lines very lightly on my arches watercolor block on the right. If you look up-close, I actually outline the general large shapes first. For each flower, it's basically a circle. Then I go in with slightly darker lines to define the petals. If you don't have a hard pencil handy, you can also use a watercolor pencil. The lines you make in the beginning will dissolve once you start painting. For the longest time, I wasn't comfortable drawing directly on my watercolor paper and I used graphite transfer paper when I needed to get my proportions just right. Sometimes I even made my own transfer paper using soft pencils on the back of my drawings. Of course, if you're using lose watercolor sheets instead of a block, as I do here, you can also use light box to trace your drawings. No matter what method you choose, it will work just fine as long as you avoid erasing too much. That's it. Our outline is done and we're ready to start painting, but before we start, there is one small step that you may choose to follow. This step involves preserving the light areas of the painting, the ones that you really want to leave white, the highlights, the tiny little details, tiny little sunspots. These are the things that will really help you create a sense of 3D shape. There are two ways of doing it. You can either mask the light, paint over it, then erase it and the last step and reveal the white or you can try to paint around those white areas. That might be quite difficult if you're masking very small areas or very fine lines. In this case, we are going to mask really tiny details, those stamens inside each flower. I think our best bet here is to use masking fluid. If you don't have a masking fluid, no problem at all. There's another way of doing it and that involves white gouache or white watercolors. To help explain that approach, I'm actually going to leave one flower completely unmasked and we will go in towards the end of our project and I will show you how to outline those white details with white gouache or white watercolor. Grab a masking fluid and your stylus. If you don't have a stylus, feel free to use one of your old brushes or even a plastic stick and start outlining those stamens one-by-one. Try to be very precise. You may want to practice a few times on some scrap paper. Notice that I start from the top of the stamen where it has a little bulb. It's called an anther and I put my stylus there first, let the excess fluid flow down, create a tiny little dot and then drag it to the center of the flower. I tend to do this very slowly because if I make a mistake, I would need to wait until the fluid is completely dry and then erase it and do it all over again. Every time you erase, of course, it damages the paper a little bit. You really want to avoid it. Just like that, one by one, I outlined the stamens on each of the flowers. 6. Step 2: Background Wash: We're going to create a background wash. It's really light and we'll use a lot of our base pink. We'll drop just a hint of colder colors like magenta or purple, just to define where those shadows will be. For branches we'll use gold as a base. 7. Step3: Definition Wash: This is where you will really start applying darker colors, start defining those shapes a little bit more. We'll use a lot of magenta, red. We'll go over the entire composition, and we'll cover the areas that are in the shadow with colder purples and blues, and this will bring us a step closer to that realistic look we're going after. Use your magenta, use your red, use your purple and let's add some definition to our flower branch. 8. Step 4: Accent Wash: We're almost there. This is step number four. It's not going to be as long. This is where we're going to go over our entire painting and really look for those areas that we want to amplify, those shapes, those outlines. As a general rule, things that appear more detailed will appear closer to the eye on paper and so for some of those little flowers that are closer to us, we'll use a bit more outline and a bit more detail and really help create depth. We might break some watercolor rules by applying a few decorative strokes and outlines and that's totally okay if we do this strategically. We'll use really solid colors, almost opaque, to really define those pigmented areas and to really accentuate some of those objects that are closer. 9. Step 5: Finishing Touches: This is typically where you erase all your masking fluid, and reveal the white parts of the painting. Then you go over the painting one more time, and you see how it looks now that the masking fluid is removed, and you put down a few more finishing touches, you fix your mistakes. As I mentioned in my process overview lesson, this is where we will set aside traditional watercolor techniques, and use some purely decorative strokes, to outline our flower stems. I will also add a few more branches that we didn't originally plan, because now that I see the full composition, if you like, having some background elements, would really help us create more balance. Also, as promised, at the very end of this lesson, I will show you how to paint white highlights using gouache, in case you didn't have it in the beginning. I think what I'm going to do now is make it just a bit more interesting by putting a couple of smaller branches set in the background. These branches are not straight. They are actually a little bit crooked, so don't be afraid to show those small imperfections, doesn't have to be a straight line. Keep them very, very light. Now remember, in the beginning of this tutorial, I mentioned that if you don't have the masking fluid, and you want to preserve the light for those tiny little details in the middle of each flower, it's totally okay to not use masking fluid. We have a workaround, and I'm going to show it to you now, so that's a bonus tip. So what we're going to use is white gouache, something like this. I prefer to use synthetic brushes for gouache, but watercolor brushes are really not suitable for gouache, because there were too soft and hold a lot of water. If you have any other small brush that you use for acrylics, that would work well as well. The consistency should be cream, thick cream. Here's the flower that we left without any masking fluid. What I'm going to do is I'm going go with my tiny little brush. I'm going start in the middle, and I drag my brush out, so the straw becomes thinner towards the end. 10. Final Thoughts: That's it, we're done. Don't forget to sign your painting and post your projects in the class description. I can't wait to see them all. Thank you so much for following, I hope this was informative for you. If you have any questions whatsoever, please go in the discussion board and post your questions there. I'll be happy to answer them all. But you can also DM on Instagram or find me on Facebook and send me a message that way. If you have any general feedback on this class, the style of the class, my delivery, if you want to explore some other topics, please let me know. I really look forward to seeing everyone's projects and hearing your feedback. This has been a great fun for me and I hope it was for you. Thank you, and I hope to see you in the next class.