Learn to Paint Watercolor Orchids | Anne Butera | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

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

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.

      Orchid inspiration


    • 3.

      Observing and Sketching


    • 4.

      Painting Practice Part 1


    • 5.

      Painting Practice Part 2


    • 6.

      Painting Practice Part 3


    • 7.

      Painting Roots


    • 8.

      Putting it all Together Part 1


    • 9.



    • 10.

      Putting it all Together Part 2


    • 11.

      On Your Own


  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Orchids are beautiful, exotic, colorful plants. Their dramatic shapes and colors make them perfect subjects for painting. 

In this class I share my technique for painting orchids with watercolor.

We start by observing the flowers and plants and sketching them to get a feel for their shapes.

Then I demonstrate how to paint the individual elements: flowers, buds leaves, stems and roots.

Finally I take you through the painting of an orchid plant with multiple flowers, buds, leaves and roots.

Throughout the entire process I share my tips and tricks for success with watercolors.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Anne Butera

Artist. Instigating creativity and joy.

Top Teacher

I'm a full-time artist, art educator and writer, but for a long time I believed I wasn't good at art and could never be an artist.

The beginning of my story might sound similar to yours. When I was a child I loved to make things, but as I grew up I "learned" I wasn't good at art and stopped making it.

But that wasn't the end of my story.

I love teaching on Skillshare because through my classes I can help YOU reclaim YOUR creativity. I know what it's like to yearn to make art but not know where to start.

Are you ready to begin rewriting your story?

Read My Blog

Get My Free Sketchbook Guide

See full profile

Level: Beginner

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: Orchids are beautiful, colorful and I find so much inspiration from them. Hi, I'm Anne Butera, I'm the artist behind the website and blog, My Giant Strawberry. I'm primarily known for my watercolor paintings, and orchids are some of my favorite plants to grow and to paint. In this class, I'll show you how to paint the Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchid. We'll start out by sketching. I'll take you through some sketches and observations of flowers, buds, leaves, roots, and stems. Then we'll move on to working with our watercolor. We'll practice making a flower, and then we'll do the other elements. Finally, I'll take you through the process of putting together a whole painting. I look forward in painting with you, and I'll see you in the first lesson. 2. Orchid inspiration: One of the things that make orchids such great subject for painting is that there are so many colors, shapes, and patterns, even within a single type of orchid. Here in my studio, I have a little collection of moth orchids and there are lots of colors for me to choose from when it's time for me to work on a painting. For your own paintings, I'd suggest getting your hands on an actual orchid plant. Of course, you can work from photographs, or from images or these images in this video. But you'll have a lot more success if you can actually take a look at a real plant, see how it's all put together. Take a look at the colors, shapes, and sizes. I've painted orchids many, many times over the years and I've really enjoyed every painting and I hope that you will too. Here are a few that I've painted. This one I printed on my calendars this year. Here's another art paint, one of my paintings, painted them in a tellurium, in pots, outside of pots, so here's just a few ideas to get you started. In the next lesson, we'll get into sketching. I'll see you there. 3. Observing and Sketching: The most important thing to do before you start painting is to really observe your subject. Here I'm taking a good look at this organ flower, seeing how the petals come together, looking at the different parts. Then I will practice sketching and I recommend that you do this as well. Taking my sketchbook and my mechanical pencil, I'm going to get the basic shape of the orchid flower. I'm looking pretty much head on straight at this flower. I'm starting out with the two front petals. Orchids have five petals, and then that center part, which always looks like an angel or an alien to me. A little bit strange but not really so difficult once you study it. Sketching out that little face and then coming down like a neck, and then these outstretched arms, I guess you could call them. I don't know whatever makes it easy for you to see, and to understand the shape. Just following along slowly. I often don't erase when I'm sketching, but I wanted to have some nice neat lines here. Do whatever you most feel comfortable with. It may take you a few tries sketching it a few different times. Don't get discouraged. Sketch it out different sizes. That's not too bad for our first start. Now let's try sketching out some buds. I'm going to be looser, a little messier here for these buds. You can make all of your sketches loose and rough, and the way the buds attached to the stem. Some of them come from above and some come from below. Just observe your plant or your photograph to see what they look like in real life. I've sketched a few buds and other flower, a stem, and now I'm going to try some leaves. I do have a class on watercolor leaves, and we talk about watercolor orchid leaves as one of the segments in that class. So if you want to get a little more in depth, you can take that class as well. I'll also demonstrated in this class later, a lot more quickly. The leaves overlap and they go in two directions, and each leaf has two segments to it which I paint separately to get that nice line without painting an actual line. So they overlap. One of my favorite parts of the orchid to paint and draw are these wiggly roots. Think as though the longer you have your orchid plants, the wilder the roots will look. You get the plant and it's pretty well contained in a pot, and then as it grows, the roots don't want stay contained. So I like to paint them either in or out of a pot, sort of going all over the place. One thing that's a little tricky is painting them overlapping. I'll show you later how I do that, so that it looks like they actually are overlapping. Just sketching out some fun roots here. Keep practicing, you can have rough sketches, big sketches, partial sketches. Fill up some pages on your sketchbook from different angles from the back, from the side, and then you'll be ready to start painting. 4. Painting Practice Part 1: In the handout, I share all the information about the supplies you'll need, but here I'm showing you the watercolor paper, the brushes, pencil, kneaded eraser, also need your paint, here's my palette already filled with some colors for me to choose from, and paper towel, and water. That's pretty much all you'll need to get started. I've sketched out a flower, some buds and the leaf, and I'm ready to paint here. This first petal, I am painting with this pink color filling in the first front large petal. I don't want my color to be entirely even to help give the sense of the shape and the three-dimensionality of this petal. I'm moving the wet paint around on the shape of the petal. Usually I lightened my lines before I start painting. I do that with my kneaded eraser by dabbing at the paper. That makes the lines very hard to see, which is good because then they won't show up once I've finished the painting,but it's also bad because for my classes you can't really see the lines and I have trouble seeing the lines, so this time I'm going to leave them dark and then erase them later. Here I'm working on the second petal and just pulling the color around. I'll continue to work with the color as it dries. One of the most important things that you have to remember when working with watercolor is to let one area dry before painting the area that's directly next to what you've just painted. Otherwise the paint is just going to flow all over the place and make a mess. Let your areas dry. Here these two petals are not touching so I can safely paint them.The paint is still pretty wet, I am pushing it right to the edge of that little alien angel head, so that will define the shape. I'm not going to paint that face it's going to stay the whiter the paper. You see I'm pushing the paint to the edges and making sure I have nice clean edges. Now I am going to work on these buds because all the other parts of the flower are touching. I'm using light green. Sorry for the shaky camera but my table is not very steady here. I will fix it later, but these first couple of videos are a little shaky. Just filling in this green shape. We can add more details and color later, but just this basic blob. This is still wet, but I'm taking a fairly dry brush and removing some of the paint on these petals. That gives a lighter spot. Again, we want these petals to look three-dimensional. Here I'm going to work on the leaf now. Just to give you a sense of how I work, I do one side and then the other I mentioned in the sketching video that by painting one side letting it dry and then painting the other side, I get a line down the center of this leaf without painting an actual line. You'll see how that happens later. Here's just half of the leaf painting with this green, a nice medium kind of green, lifting off some of the color with my mostly dry brush, while the paint is still damp. It gives a highlight and again three-dimensionality. Will continue in the next lesson. See you there. 5. Painting Practice Part 2: One of the things that's time consuming about watercolor painting is waiting for the paper and the paint to dry, you have to wait until it's entirely dry before you erase any pencil lines or else you might damage the paper or smear the pain, so be careful and make sure that it's entirely dry, and then erase anything that you don't want to paint over and have show-through. If the color is dark enough and the pencil lines are faint enough, they won't show through, so here we're doing the center part of the flower, this center is modified petal, and again, I think it looks a little like an angel, but this part is a darker pink in the flower that I'm painting here, and I just want on this top neck, what I call a neck area, I'm just doing the edges, and then the side parts are going to be the dark color, I'm leaving some of the paper white so that I can add in some yellow. Orchid flowers have lots of different variations in terms of coloring, you can make up your own coloring, you can follow carefully along with an actual flower using a flower that you have or one of the reference photos that I've given you or other reference materials that you find on your own. I'm using the tip of this brush to push the paint around and to try and get a nice smooth edge, and while the paint is still wet, I can smooth out these edges. This is hot press paper that I'm using, but it has a little more texture than some hot press paper, and the texture of the paper can sometimes make the edges be less than entirely smooth, which in some cases can be nice because it gives a texture to your painting. Now, at this top part of this modified petal, I'm painting in some little blotches of color, almost like freckles or polka dots, and then I'm painting a dark line down the center, and again, evening out and smoothing my edges, as long as the paint is still wet, I can do that and add more color, and what a nice dark color on this to contrast nicely with other pinks, and you can keep working this for a while. Another option if you want a nice dark color is to paint multiple layers once the paint has dried, so here I'm adding in some orangy yellow, and I'm blending it in to this dark maroon pink. The paint is already started to dry, and my yellow is not super wet, so it's not going to spread a lot, just smoothing the edge here. The color on what I'm calling the neck part is going to define the bottom shape of that little face, the column part of the center of the flower. Now I'm going to start painting this top petal, which actually isn't a petal at all, it's a sepal, and I'm using the light pink again, and because the two first petals that I painted are already dry, I don't have to worry about the color smearing or blending where I don't want it to blend. Now, I'm seeing some lines appear from the first couple brush strokes, some colors of pink are very staining, and the marks you make on the paper are going to just stay where you put them, so I'm seeing that happened here, I'm trying to blend it so that I have a smooth color on top here, but that's just stain. So I'm going to use this chisel blender and gently try and lift some of that color so that I have a more even top sepal, add a little more pink in here. That sometimes also happens and the color doesn't go on entirely smoothly, if the paper is slightly damaged, erasing can do that, so perhaps the paper was slightly damaged. So adding a little bit of extra dark color up at that top of what I call a little head or face, that column part of the center. Now I'm using a very small brush and taking some blue paint and adding that where just along the edge where the front petals overlap with this sepal, so the blue, this deep blue, is going to give a sense of some shadow and make it look as if those petals are in front of that top sepal, then blending it, smoothing it out a bit, adding some pink. The nice thing about watercolor is that you can deepen your colors by adding multiple layers, so if once this dries and I don't like how it looks, if I think it needs some more color, I can add more layers. So still pushing the paint around while it's damp, taking up some highlights, smoothing out the darker parts. The texture of the paper, and the texture of the paint give your painting a sense of texture and depth. When I touch the paper, I am testing to see how wet the paper and paint still is, if it feels cool to the touch, that means it's still damp. So adding more yellow, finishing off that color, dropping in a little bit of that dark maroon, now I'm going to take a little more blue and add a little more blue, we don't want very wet, and you can see the paint is chipping in the palette, that sometimes happens. So just making a nice edge here, and you can see that the pink is still damp and will continue in the next lesson. See you there. 6. Painting Practice Part 3: Just a few more details to add here. Working on the stems. The buds have skinny little curved stems that attach them to the main flower stem. I'm painting them here with a light green. Now I'm painting the main stem with a darker green. I didn't fully let that light green dry. I'm going to mix a little pink in the darker pink and with the green. Orchid stems are sometimes have brownish color or have read speckles. When you mix green with red or green with a pinkish maroon color, you get a brown. I'm going to paint one more little bud here. The small buds that haven't opened at all yet, or a darker color and more green in color then the buds that are getting close to opening. Adding a little more of the pink to the main stem to darken it up a little. Where the flower stems, the little curved stems attach to the main stem, there's usually a little flap that covers it. I'm adding also some details to this flower. Little shading above that face. Then since stripes on the top sepal, I'm sorry that my hand is mostly in the way here. I'm just using a very pale pink and blending it with that pink at the top sepal. Orchid flowers have all different patterning on their petals and sepals and sometimes there are speckles, or spots, or polka dots. Sometimes there are stripes, there's veining. The others sepals are going to get some of these lines too. Sometimes the lines aren't so much stripes as there are ridges. Adding these down here, I don't want them to be overwhelming to the flower. They're are the lines, the veining that goes the long way and there's also some that run from the long lines. Little short connections. You can add as much or as little detail as you would like to your flowers, simplify them if you think that looks better. Again, I mentioned about doing multiple layers. I'm adding a little more green to this leaf to darken up the one side. You can use as many layers as you want. Just smoothing some paint, giving it some depth. I think that looks pretty good. Next up, we put it all together. See you there. 7. Painting Roots: On the same paper, I've sketched out a plant for us to paint and before I start tackling the whole plant, I'm going to start with some roots because I haven't demonstrated yet how to paint the roots with watercolor. I have a pale green that I'm using here. It's a bluish-green that I've mixed with some white paint to make it opaque and creamy looking and I haven't first sketched out the roots. I'm just going to wing it, making them wiggly and I'm going to paint them around here on the bottom of the plant. I'm going to want each root to be dry before I paint any of that overlap and then I'm going to make them overlap because they grow in a tangle. I spent a lot of time looking at my painting and seeing what it needs. Here this root is going to go upwards. I'm painting right to the edge of these leaves. It's going behind and underneath the leaves and coming up on top pointing towards those flowers. I can always add more roots later if I feel the need to. Here this root is going to overlap with one I've already painted. I'm just being very careful where the edges meet using the very tip of my brush so that the one root isn't going to run into the other. Now using my very small brush, I'm going to add some blue for some shadowing. Just a tiny little bit, right where there's the overlap and I'll smooth that out and blend it a bit. Just blending with the green and you can see it looks like they're overlapping. I'm going to add another root over here. This one's a little skinnier and a little darker. They're going to have variations of darkness, lightness, sometimes I'll drop in a little bit of brown because the older roots. Sometimes they look silvery, sometimes they have a little brown. If they have some dead spots, they'll be even more brown. Studying a little more color over there. Take your time. You can also sketch out your roots before you begin painting. I let those dry a bit. Now I'm going to paints more in. If it's not dry the color's just going to run together and you will get as much of a sense that you have distinct roots overlapping with one another. If that does happen, you can let it entirely dry, paint another layer, and hopefully fix the mistake. But it's better just to let it dry in the first place. Here's one going underneath a couple to widen out this top part here. I'm going to need a little more shadowing with that blue dropping a little bit. A little darker here. Little more paint. You don't want too much. There we go. Little darker. I'm going to blend the green and the blue. Darken it a bit. Darken that edge, add a little more blue here. Looking at the stem, I don't really like the way it lines up. Before we start painting, I'm going to erase the stem and redraw it. Just have a curve more tightly, more straight down, less than angle and then that little flap. Literary more flowers could grow out of the stem. We're going to get started painting in the next lesson. I'll see you there. 8. Putting it all Together Part 1: Now I'm going to be speeding up the video. You've already seen me paint these separate parts, and watercolor paintings are very time-consuming. That's why this is sped up. When you're on your own, take as much time as you need, don't feel rushed. Slowly add your color. You can add as many layers and details as you need to, until you feel the painting is finished. It's all right to take a long time. This video's actually four times the speed, I've sped it up four times the speed of what it actually is. One of the nice things about painting a larger painting is that while you're waiting for one area to dry, you can work on the other areas. For the back part of this flower, I just added some light green to the pink, and I like the way those go together. I can move around on the painting, being careful not to set my hand in anything that's wet. While the flower parts are drawing, I can work on the leaves. Although I haven't done this much in the video, it's always best to rotate your paper so that you are working in the most comfortable way. Again, a damp brush can lift up color. Be sure you wait until everything is completely dry before you erase. Moving on to the center part of this first flower. To make things easier on yourself when you're attempting a full plant like this, it's good to simplify as much as you can. Here, I have three open flowers, two of them facing forward, one facing away. Until you feel more confident, you could even just do one open flower and have the rest be buds. I painting plenty of organs like that as I was practicing and learning. Make it as easy on yourself as you can so that you can be the most successful. Remember, we're adding some blue to give a sense of some shadows. Moving on to the yellow of that center part, a little pink. Remember there's no hurry. You're going to want to make sure that all the little bits of your eraser are off the paper and they won't get in your paint, and be careful not to blow them into your palate. Moving onto the center part of that second flower. I like my flowers not to always be exactly the same looking. Try and make slight variations, because in nature there's always variations, and in details and shadowing and a slight ridge down the center of that sepal. You can always add more later. More layers, more color, more details. I'm switching to a different small brush. Sometimes even good brushes, they get worn out and the bristles don't like to stay together. You can do everything with just a couple brushes or you can have a whole variety of brushes. The amount of blue and the amount of shadowing that you add is totally up to you. You can make it very dramatic. You can make it less dramatic, paint some little blue spots for that phase. The speckles in the center. Continue with the leaves. Painting them part by part like this, you really do get that division in that line down the center. Going to continue in the top flower, that middle flower, which is behind the other two, facing away, little shadowing there. Now, the stem overlaps. It's in the way. So I'm painting to make sure to leave space for that stem. These three back sepals are pink with a hint of green in there. You can see there's a space for the stem. The paper's still white, some blue for shadowing, and I'm going to want to let those sepals dry entirely before I start adding the color for the stems. The dark spots on the center part of the flowers, have to make sure the yellow is dry before I paint those. Now for our buds and their little stems that are curving towards them. You add some pink detailing to the buds. They have lines. If you imagine those sepals are on the outside of the bud, and that's what opens up the outside back part of the flower. We'll continue in the next lesson, I'll see you there. 9. Stems: I'm slowing things down here to show you how I paint the stem because we didn't really do that in the practice episode. Taking the green I'm using the tip of my brush, I'm filling in this space. I want a nice concentrated color. So my brush and my paint are not super wet. Now I'm going to add some of that dark pink, and I don't want the colors to entirely mix. I just want to give a model look of these two colors together. Like how you have on the real plant. I'm going to take a thin line and paint under that little flap where the flowers can develop. Turn my paper around and add some more green to the other part of this stem. This is a little bit too wet, but I can pull the paint down and distribute it more evenly. One thing that I haven't demonstrated is how I deal with the water jar. I try not to get my brush too wet because I want a good control of the paint. The drier it is, the less the paint will move on the page. Adding some of the pink here. I want a distinct color along this little flap, and then again the modeled look for the stem and you can see how the paint moves and combines but doesn't fully mix. It gives a nice texture and a nice overall color for the stem. We'll continue painting at a faster rate in the next lesson, I'll see you there. 10. Putting it all Together Part 2: From the home stretch here, I'm going to quickly erase some of our pencil lines. Again, making sure that the paper is dry first. I'm going to continue painting the stem, up here between the flowers just as I painted it down below. Adding the green, and then the pink, avoiding that little, I called it a flap, it's a node, that's where the flowers develop. On your stem, if you're growing an orchid plant and your flowers have finished, they faded. If you cut your stem down to that point, you can get more flowers to bloom there, just a little growing tip for you. Now, adding these other sepals to this last front facing flower, doing the pink, adding the blue for some shadows. Again, when you're working on a painting, you can add multiple layers of paint in order to get a darker color and to add more details, here I'm painting the petals of that flower that's facing away. I find from the back, sometimes the petals and the sepals look very different, even if they look very similar in the front. Now I'm going to show you, this sepal is it quite filling the entire space, so I'm using a small chisel blender here. It's just damp with a little tiny bit of some pink paint, and I'm smoothing out and filling that color in. You can do that to help fix, if you find a spot that you missed or if your color's overlapping where you don't want it to overlap, that chisel blender can help you smooth things out and fix little problems. Now, continuing with our leaves. Again, remember, you want to paint one area and let that fully dry before you paint anything that's going to touch that area. It's important when you're painting something like overlapping leaves or flowers that overlap, or stems and roots. Make sure it's fully dry before you add the next color to the space adjacent. You can paint the parts of the leaves that aren't touching, and wait for those to dry, and work on other parts of your painting. Like this node up at the top, and adding a little more detail to that node, testing the dryness of the paper with the tip of my finger. If it's cool to the touch, then it's still damp. These leaves, I want to have them not be entirely uniform in color. There will be some highlights, there will be some shadows. This leaf that's underneath the other one is going to be darker, because it's in the shadow of that other leaf. I'm going to add a little blue to give the sense of that shadow. Do a little erasing, and then add this edge where the plant connects the leaves and the roots. Getting close, erase some more. Again, you can increase your details once the parts have dried, adding more of the little speckles. Our final little stem where the other flower attaches, then I'm going to add some stripes to the sepals using a pale green. That's more details to these buds. A little bit of pink, a little light green, usually there's more details to the buds that are more open, than the ones that are still pretty tightly closed. Now that these leaves are pretty dry, I can erase more of the pencil lines and I can paint in this color. Another overlapping leaf is going to be darker. A little blue for that sense of shadow. The side part of the leaf, I try and make them be slightly different colors, so there's more distinction. Some lines on the unopened buds. They're more detailed now. Add a little darkness to those little tiny stems. Now, put little faces on that part of the flower. This last little bit of the green leaves. Now, I'm going to add a few more roots because I think it needs a little bit more, and painting them in just the way we did before. They'll twist and overlap, different degrees of darkness and lightness. Another way you can finish off your orchid painting is to set your plant in a pot. Sometimes I put them in pots and sometimes I just leave them with the roots loose like this. It's up to you, whichever you like the best. Now I would probably to finish the painting add some more layers of color in the leaves, and maybe a few details to the flowers, but we're going to stop here and then you'll be on your own to paint your own flower. I'll talk about the project in the next lesson. See you there. 11. On Your Own: Now that you've watched me draw and paint orchids, it's your turn. You can spend some time practicing, sketching, and painting until you're more comfortable. You can share your process of either your practice or finished painting in your class project. Don't be intimidated, it takes awhile to be comfortable with painting one object in front of another, and for putting everything together in a smooth and cohesive way. The more you practice, the better you'll become. I look forward to seeing what you create. Thanks so much for taking my class. Happy painting.