May 29, 2010

PERFECTLY PINK watercolor painting demonstration by Barbara Fox

Perfectly Pink
watercolor  6 x 7"

Here is the photo I used for reference; taken many years ago with my SLR camera.

Step 1) Pencil Drawing
 I did a quick, pencil drawing of the rose on watercolor paper.

 Step 2) Color Field
Each petal of the rose is painted separately using Permanent Rose, Opera, Winsor Violet, and Cobalt Blue. Remember to paint every other petal, so the paint washes won’t run into each other.
I paint the petals in one of two ways:
A. I wet the area of the petal with plain water, then add pure colors, letting the water do the mixing.
see below


B. I painted the petal with Permanent Rose, then immediately added a little Cobalt Blue along the top edge while the paint was still wet.

see below

I painted the background using technique A., getting the paper very wet, adding the color, then tipping the paper to let the colors flow together. I don't try to paint the whole background at once. Here you can see that I painted the background in 2 sittings. This is the big advantage to doing a splotchy, washy background.

The leaves are painted with Sap Green, Viridian, Peacock Blue, and Alizarin Crimson. Plus, I mixed Alizarin Crimson and Viridian to get a black.

3) Shadows and Texture

The cast shadows are added to the flower petals, using Winsor Violet with a bit of Opera here and there.
Remember to paint every area separately, so the colors don’t bleed.

Cast Shadows on the leaves are Black, Viridian, and Prussian Blue
Suddenly the rose has dimension! I also added some detail texture to some of the petals, but that is done after the shadows are completely dry.
see below

Step 4) More Layers/ Richer Colors
I added another layer of pink color over the rose, using Opera and Permanent Rose. Again, painting each petal separately.

The last layer of pink wash was not painted in a flat manner. I tried to follow the gradations of light and dark I saw on the photograph. I also didn’t paint the edge of the petal with the second layer. This gives the flower more shape and dimension.
I added a very dark wash to the background using Viridian, Peacock Blue, Winsor Violet, and Prussian Blue, with a few dabs of Opera, and some black (Alizarin Crimson and Viridian) lines added to the wet wash to give the impression of foliage.
I washed water over each leaf. This “melted” a bit of the heavy pigment and diminished the contrast a little. Too much contrast draws attention, and I don’t want the leaves to be the center of interest in this painting.

The pinks and cool blues and greens balance each other very well in this painting. The painting as a whole is quite dark, but the vibrant pink color, and the value contrast of the rose make it the center of attention.

There are 3 simple ways to make something stand out in a painting:
Value contrast - Shadows!
Lines around the subject -you get this very subtle effect when each area is painted seperately.
Complementary colors - The pink flower against the greenish background.

If something is inclear in this demonstration, please let me know by leaving a comment or sending an email.
Happy Painting!


  1. Beautiful rose, Barbara. Thanks so much for sharing your process. This helps me learn so much. Have a safe Memorial Day weekend.

  2. Barbara, thanks for the lesson. It is helpful and I shall work to use your ideas in my painting. Much appreciated and by the way, a beautiful painting. Terry Radecki

  3. Barbara, I enjoyed reading every word in your lesson on painting the watercolor Rose. Will attempt to follow your guidance. But, I don't have Opera Rose and Peacock Blue. Will try to substitute.

  4. Thank you all.
    If you don't have Holbein's Opera or Peacock Blue, I recommend Permanent Rose or Quinacridone Rose, and Manganese Blue with a little Pthalo Blue added. These don't have the oomph that Opera and Peacock Blue have, but are great colors none the less.

  5. Such detailed explanation --thank you :)

  6. Picture postcard perfect in color and clarity. Thank you so much for sharing. Kathleen

  7. Gorgeous and thank you for question..on the wet on wet background, do you wet both sides of the paper please. I love your work, especially pink flowers.

  8. Thank you for your kind letter.
    When I paint wet on wet, I just wet the area where I am dropping in the pigment. You just need to wet the side you are painting on.