10 Tips to Enhance Your Watercolor Botanical Art
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. Choose the right brush
  2. Pick paint with high pigmentation
  3. Use high-quality paper
  4. Start with a light sketch
  5. Practice blending techniques
  6. Layer colors for depth
  7. Preserve white spaces
  8. Paint in petals and leaves last
  9. Add details with a fine brush
  10. Allow your painting to dry completely

When it comes to getting better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals, the journey can be as colorful and rewarding as the final artwork. Whether you're a budding artist exploring the vibrant world of botanical art or an experienced illustrator aiming to refine your skills, these ten tips will help you enhance your watercolor botanical creations.

Choose the right brush

The first step in your journey towards getting better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals is selecting the right brush. Not all brushes are created equal, and the one you choose can make a significant difference to your artwork.

Consider using a round brush. This type of brush has a pointed tip and is perfect for creating those delicate strokes that botanical illustrations require. A size 6 or size 8 round brush will give you the flexibility to create both thin lines and broad strokes, making it an ideal choice for beginners and experts alike.

Remember, when it comes to brushes, quality matters. While it's tempting to save a few bucks and go for cheaper options, investing in a good quality brush will give you better control over your strokes and ensure your paint goes on smoothly. A well-made brush won't shed bristles onto your artwork — a common problem with cheaper brushes.

Don't forget to take care of your brushes! Clean them promptly after each use, and store them with the bristles facing up to maintain their shape. This way, your brushes will serve you well for a long time, helping you get better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals.

So, the next time you sit down to paint, pay attention to the brush in your hand. It might just be the secret to taking your watercolor botanical art to the next level.

Pick paint with high pigmentation

Once you've chosen your brush, the next step towards getting better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals is picking the right paint. And when it comes to watercolor paints, high pigmentation is key.

Highly pigmented paints are rich in color and deliver a vibrant result. They allow you to create deep, intense shades and bright, lively hues—perfect for capturing the beauty of nature in your botanical illustrations. Plus, they offer excellent coverage and are less likely to fade over time, ensuring your artwork retains its vibrancy.

There are numerous brands offering high-quality, highly pigmented watercolor paints. Brands such as Winsor & Newton, Daniel Smith, and M. Graham & Co are popular among artists for their range of colors and high pigmentation. But remember, it's not just about the brand—it's about finding the paint that works best for you and your style.

When selecting your paints, consider buying individual tubes instead of sets. This allows you to handpick each color based on your specific needs and preferences, ensuring you have the perfect palette for your botanical illustrations.

So, don't underestimate the power of high-pigmented paint. It might be the missing ingredient in your journey towards mastering watercolor botanical illustrations in journals.

Use high-quality paper

Using high-quality paper is another tip to help you get better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals. High-quality watercolor paper makes a world of difference when it comes to the end result of your painting. It can make your colors appear more vibrant, your brush strokes more precise, and your overall painting more professional.

When choosing paper, look for something that's heavy—think 140lb or 300lb. The heavier the paper, the more water it can hold without warping or buckling. This is especially important for watercolors, as they require a lot of water to create those beautiful, blended effects.

Another aspect to consider is the texture of the paper. For botanical illustrations, a paper with a slight texture or "tooth" can add a lovely, natural feel to your artwork. Brands like Arches, Fabriano, and Strathmore all offer textured watercolor paper that can add that extra bit of depth and dimension to your botanical illustrations.

Remember, investing in good quality paper is not an extravagance, but a necessity when you're serious about getting better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals. So go ahead, give your art the foundation it deserves.

Start with a light sketch

Before you start painting your botanical illustrations, it's a good idea to sketch them out first. This is a beneficial step towards getting better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals. When sketching, remember to keep it light. Why so? Because watercolor is transparent, and you don't want your pencil marks to show through your lovely washes of color.

Start by observing your subject closely. Try to capture the basic shapes and forms. Look for patterns in the way leaves and petals grow and cluster together. Don't worry about details at this point. The aim is to get a feel for the overall composition and structure of your subject.

Choose a pencil that's on the harder side—perhaps an H or 2H. These pencils have harder leads and produce lighter marks, perfect for under-sketching. If you make a mistake, don't fret. Just lightly erase and keep going. Remember, this stage is simply about laying the groundwork for your watercolor botanical illustration.

Sketching beforehand also gives you the opportunity to plan your painting—decide where you want to place your darkest darks and lightest lights, figure out which parts to leave white, and so on. With a plan in place, you're less likely to make mistakes when you start applying paint. And as they say, a good beginning is half the battle won!

Practice blending techniques

Getting better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals involves mastering a range of blending techniques. When you're painting delicate flowers and leaves, you're often not dealing with flat colors. There's a delicate interplay of lights and shadows, and mastering blending techniques can help you capture this.

One popular blending technique is the wet-on-wet method. Here you apply a layer of water to your paper first, then drop in your color. This creates a soft, diffused effect as the color spreads across the wet area. It's excellent for creating backgrounds or capturing light and shadow on larger areas.

Another technique you might find useful is the wet-on-dry method. In this technique, you apply wet paint onto dry paper. The result is a defined, clear shape with sharp edges. It's perfect for adding details or working on smaller, more intricate parts of your plants and flowers.

Then there's the gradient or ombre effect. To achieve this, you start with a dark, saturated color and gradually add water to lighten it, creating a smooth transition from dark to light. This can be really effective for capturing the subtle color changes in a flower petal or a leaf.

Remember, the key to mastering these techniques is practice, so don't be discouraged if your initial attempts don't turn out as expected. The more you practice, the more comfortable you'll get with handling your brush and controlling the amount of water and paint you use. And as with anything else, the more you do it, the better you'll get!

Layer colors for depth

Adding depth to your botanical illustrations can really bring them to life. One way to achieve this is by layering colors. Layering involves adding multiple layers of paint to create depth and detail in your paintings — think of it as building up shadows and highlights.

When starting, it's best to begin with lighter colors and gradually add darker ones. That's because it's easier to add darkness to a light area than it is to lighten a dark area. In watercolor painting, this technique is known as 'glazing'. With every layer, you're adding a new dimension to your painting, creating an illusion of depth.

For instance, if you're painting a leaf, you might start with a light green wash. Once that layer is dry, you can add a darker green to areas that are in shadow. Maybe even add a hint of brown or red to mimic the changing colors of a real leaf. By layering these colors, you’re creating a more realistic, three-dimensional effect.

A word of caution here: patience is key. Allow each layer to dry completely before adding the next. This prevents the colors from bleeding into each other, maintaining the clarity of your details. Remember, getting better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals isn't about rushing—it's about taking the time to carefully build up your painting, layer by layer.

Preserve white spaces

White spaces—those untouched areas of your paper—are a powerful tool in watercolor painting, especially when it comes to botanical illustrations. They can represent anything from a glint of sunlight on a leaf, to the delicate veins in a flower petal, or just the space between two elements.

Preserving white spaces can be a bit of a challenge, particularly for beginners. The trick is to plan ahead. Before you even pick up your brush, imagine where the light would naturally hit your subject. Where would it cast shadows? Where would it show through the leaves or petals? These are the places you'll want to leave untouched.

Using white spaces effectively can significantly improve your watercolor botanical illustrations in journals. They create contrast and depth, and can make your colors appear more vibrant. So, while it might be tempting to cover your entire page with color, remember: sometimes, less is more.

Of course, if you accidentally paint over a spot you wanted to leave white, don't fret. It happens to everyone! That's just another part of the process of getting better at watercolor botanical illustrations. The important thing is to keep practicing, keep learning, and most importantly—keep having fun with it.

Paint in petals and leaves last

One of the most exciting parts of watercolor botanical illustrations is painting the stunning petals and vibrant leaves. But it's often best to save these for last. In the world of botanical art, patience pays off.

Begin with the background and less detailed areas, building up your painting from there. This gives you the freedom to adjust colors, details, and composition as your illustration progresses. It's like creating a stage for your petals and leaves to shine on.

When you finally get to paint the petals and leaves, it's all about the details. The veins, the subtle color changes, the play of light and shadow—these are the things that will bring your botanical illustration to life. And since you've already laid down the base colors and shapes, you can focus all your attention on these minutiae.

It might seem counter-intuitive, but painting the petals and leaves last can also help you avoid overworking your painting. By the time you get to these elements, you'll have a better sense of where your painting stands and how much detail it really needs. This can be a game-changer in getting better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals.

So next time you're eager to dive into those vibrant petals or lush leaves, take a deep breath, paint your background first, and remember: good things come to those who wait.

Add details with a fine brush

Once you have sketched out your botanical illustration and painted the larger areas, it's time to add the details. This is where a fine brush comes into play. Using a brush with a fine tip allows you to add intricate details that bring your watercolor botanical illustrations to life.

Imagine the delicate veins in a leaf, the intricate stamen in a flower, or the faint textures on a stem. These details might seem small, but they can make a big difference in the overall look of your illustration. They give your painting depth, realism, and a sense of life.

But remember, using a fine brush does not mean you have to paint every single detail. Painting is not about copying reality, but interpreting it. So, choose the details that you think will enhance your illustration and focus on those.

And don't forget about the negative space—sometimes, what you don't paint is just as important as what you do paint. Use your fine brush to create crisp, clean edges around your botanical elements, letting the white of the paper show through. This can create a sense of light and make your illustration pop.

Mastering a fine brush takes practice, but it's worth it. The ability to add subtle details can be a major step forward in getting better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals. So keep practicing, and remember: the devil is in the details.

Allow your painting to dry completely

Now, you've done all the hard work—sketching, layering, blending, and adding those final details. What's next? Well, it might sound simple, but it's super important: let your painting dry completely.

Watercolor paint is made up of pigment and water. As the water evaporates, it leaves the pigment behind on the paper. This drying process is essential for the final look of your painting. If you rush it or disturb it, you can end up smudging your work or diluting your colors. So, even if you're eager to see the final result, patience is key here.

How long does it take for a watercolor painting to dry? It depends on a few factors: the type of paper you're using, the amount of water you used, and the humidity in your environment. But as a rule of thumb, it's a good idea to leave your painting undisturbed for at least 24 hours.

While it's drying, try to resist the temptation to touch it or move it around. And don't try to speed up the process with a hairdryer or heater—these can cause the paint to crack or the paper to warp.

Allowing your painting to dry completely is the final step in getting better at watercolor botanical illustrations in journals. It's a test of patience, but it's also a chance to step back and appreciate the work you've done. So, give your painting the time it needs. You'll be rewarded with a beautiful, vibrant illustration that you can be proud of.

If you enjoyed these 10 tips to enhance your watercolor botanical art, we recommend checking out the workshop 'How to Paint Water' by Jauni (tofublock). Although focused on painting water, the techniques and insights shared in this workshop can be applied to your botanical art, further elevating your skills in watercolor painting.