Practicing Watercolor Techniques

If patience were an art supply, we think it would be watercolor! Why? Because in order to produce the watercolor painting of your dreams, you need to wait for it to dry completely between layers. Keep reading for more helpful watercolor tips from our instructors.


Artist: Pam Thompson


Go with the flow

“Working in watercolor requires not only patience, but also the willingness to relinquish control. With colored pencils, we are mostly able to control what our hands create on the page, but one of the uniquely beautiful aspects of watercolor is the spontaneity and flow of the pigment in water. To enjoy working with watercolor, you have to be able to let go of your desire for complete control – it’s just not going to happen, and you actually don’t want it to!

Play around and experiment

Understanding how the pigment moves in water helps us maintain a slight level of control. Play around with the following factors to see how they affect how the pigment moves and where it will land:

+ The amount of water in your mix of paint
+ The amount of water in your brush
+ The amount of water on your paper

When you get that balance right, you will be able to coax the pigment to move through the water where you want it to be. It’s a fun challenge! Don’t be discouraged if it feels a bit like herding cats at first; with practice it can become second nature. Use our recommended art supplies to keep it simple.

You don’t have to do it all alone!

We can help 🙂

Join any of our live Zoom Drawing Workshops to learn the fundamentals of watercolor and colored pencil techniques.

Find upcoming workshops here


Join us for a fun lesson in how to combine whimsical watercolor with compelling colored pencil to transform flat drawings into vibrant, three-dimensional wonders. We’ll practice with radishes, the ideal subject to learn the fundamentals of our Draw Botanical techniques and study the art of depth and dimension… Learn more

Register for Live Zoom Workshop


Recordings of Past Zoom Workshops are also available!

Though you won’t get the live experience, you can draw along with the recorded lesson and email our instructors with photos of your work at any time throughout your process, and they’ll reply with confidence-boosting compliments, constructive critiques, and answers to all of your botanical art questions.

Find our Zoom Workshop Archive here


Artist: Pam Thompson


Leave it alone!

Once you get the pigment to land where you want it to, you want it to stay there. This is where patience comes in handy, as we add layers of watercolor. You want that paint and paper to dry completely before adding another layer, or the pigment that you just got to land where you wanted it to land will move around on the paper or back into your brush, and all that balance and control will be ruined.

Keep yourself occupied

Just because you’re waiting doesn’t mean that you have to be bored, whistling and twiddling your thumbs. Try creative ways to keep yourself from rushing in with pencil before your paper is completely dry! Here are some suggestions of what we like to do:

+ work on other parts of our drawings
+ take a break to stretch
+ practice fundamental skills from Botanical Basics
+ use the time to cross some other tasks off of our to do lists.”

Pam Thompson


Artist: Sam McWilliams


Two brushes (simultaneously)

“There’s something so incredibly satisfying about brushing clean water down on the paper, then dipping the brush in pigment, laying it on the paper and watching the paint travel. Working with watercolor is a delicate dance between quickness and slowness, patience and control, and a bit of wild style and intuition. I like to work with two brushes at the same time – one for clear water and one for paint.

If you’re in the market for new brushes, we love the Interlon watercolor brushes. (View all the art supplies we recommend here.)

Have fun and make mistakes

Surrendering control with watercolor can feel scary in the beginning. I like to encourage new students to have fun, embrace the unexpected, and allow themselves to have a good time and make mistakes. Multicolored leaves, like Crotons, are a great practice subject for this – SO MUCH FUN!

P.S. The water dries really quickly on one’s paper on a hot day on Kauai in August.

Hot tip

Try mixing a little magenta or red violet into your green to darken it a bit. Works great for leaves and nature’s greens.  Enjoy!” –Sam McWilliams


Artist: Wendy Hollender


Magical combination

“Though using watercolor is a practice in patience, I’ve found that combining watercolor with colored pencil speeds up the process of creating vibrant, colorful botanical drawings with a good amount of contrast. Here are some of the advantages to layering watercolor washes:

+ creates a more intense color more quickly
+ easily removes the texture of the white paper that often shows through a colored pencil drawing
+ requires less blending of the pencil colors
+ eliminates the need for blenders or solvents to blend the colors together

To make things as easy as possible, I love to use Faber Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils in combination with the same colors of Faber Castell Polychromos colored pencils to create precisely accurate colors. This way, I only have to learn my colors once. Click on the links to those pencils to check out the essential colors we recommend.

View all of our recommended art supplies here

Start early

When I want really bright colors, like the shiny red of a ripe summer tomato or the intense pink of a radish’s skin, I pick up my watercolor pencils. I like to use watercolor washes in the early stages of a drawing to quickly see my subject start to come to life. 

Progress with saturated layers

As a drawing progresses, I will also use more vibrant saturated layers of watercolor, especially if it is an intense darker color, like the deep purple of an eggplant.Wendy Hollender


Combining Colored Pencil & Watercolor

LIVE April 7 & 11, 2024

Join us for a fun lesson in how to combine whimsical watercolor with compelling colored pencil to transform flat drawings into vibrant, three-dimensional wonders. We’ll practice with radishes, the ideal subject to learn the fundamentals of our Draw Botanical techniques and study the art of depth and dimension… Learn more

Register for Live Zoom Workshop


Watercolor Techniques: Practice Together

RECORDED: September 3 & 6, 2022

Don’t be afraid of watercolor! In this workshop, we worked slowly through the basics of watercolor together. From the amount of water used to the size of the brush, we worked step-by-step and paid close attention to the fundamental techniques involved in botanical painting with watercolor. We practiced watercolor exercises together to improve our core watercolor skills, and practice what we learn on some simple botanical subjects.

If you missed the live session, don’t fret! You can still purchase the recordings and can email info@drawbotanical.com with any questions along the way.

Learn more & register here


Note: These prices start September 1, 2022

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