Tutorials, Watercolour Tutorials

Spring Tulips Watercolour Tutorial

The vibrant colours and bold simple shapes of these Tulips, brightly lit by the spring sunshine and set against a dark background caught my eye immediately, making a wonderful subject for a watercolour.


Materials used are Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolours and Bockingford 140lb / 300gsm Rough Watercolour Paper, 2B & 4B pencil. Brushes used are Escoda Perla White Toray Round – Sizes 16 & 20

Colours used were:
Winsor Yellow
Permanent Alizarin Crimson
Scarlet Lake
Cerulean Blue
French Ultramarine Blue

Click here to download a free printable sketch here and use Transfer Paper to trace it on to your watercolour paper.

Tonal Sketch

Composition always comes first, so I spent some time adding and subtracting flowers, moving them around in the vase until I was happy with the balance of shapes. Note how I have grouped flowers so that they touch, linking and connecting forms. I then made a charcoal sketch to help me understand the shapes and tonal pattern for my final design.

Tonal Sketch of Spring Tulips

Step 1

I lightly sketched the subject out in 4B pencil, followed by a wash of Winsor Yellow for my underpainting. Any bright highlights were left as white paper. Yellow features in the flowers and creates a good base colour for the green foliage later on.

Step 2

Once dry, I developed the flowers using Scarlet Lake and Winsor Yellow, painting one flower at a time. I first wet each petal with clear water, then added a pale mix of the red and yellow. Stronger mixes are added where the tone was darker, increasing the strength of the red, working wet-in-wet to create soft blends from light to dark.

Step 2 Details

Step 3

The leaves and stems are next, working from light to dark as I did with the flowers. A thin wash of Cerulean Blue and Winsor Yellow was applied to establish the pale tones, then gradually adding French Ultramarine Blue and less water to create the darker areas. I kept this quite loose, allowing colours to mix and blend on the paper.

Step 3 Details

Step 4

The dark background was added with mixes of Cerulean, French Ultramarine and Alizarin Crimson. This is an important feature, creating the contrast to define the flowers. I carefully painted the wash around the flowers with the point of the number 16 brush, switching to the size 20 to keep the surrounding washes loose and free.

Step 5

I finally added the shadows on the petals with Scarlet Lake and Permanent Alizarin Crimson and the foliage with stronger mixes of French Ultramarine and Winsor Yellow. The top right background area was also strengthened to enhance the definition of the flowers further.

The final step was to add the figures using mixes or Raw Umber, Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, followed by the shadows across the grass, path and wall. It’s important to observe how shadows change colour according to the surface they fall across, because a shadow is transparent. To achieve this effect, I simply use a darker mix of the ground colour.

All work ©2022 Paul Weaver

Written by

Paul Weaver

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Paul Weaver is a full-time artist, tutor and demonstrator, based in Bristol, UK. Paul is proud to be a fully elected member of the Pure Watercolour Society. He has exhibited successfully for many years and won several awards. He is a regular contributor to 'The Artist' magazine and demonstrator for St Cuthbert's Mill and Ken Bromley Art Supplies.
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