Tips for Painting White Flowers in Watercolor

By Birgit O’Connor


Infinity (watercolor on paper, 30×40) by Birgit O’Connor

When you’re painting a white flower, you’re really painting with water and very little color. First, figure out the values. Before you start to paint, study the value changes within the white petals.

Here is an exercise that will help you learn how to change values by just adding water.

  1. First create a grid made up of four columns and six rows on a sheet of cold-pressed paper. Make each rectangle approximately 1 inch by ½ inch. Leave space at the bottom to make two single 1-inch bars.
  2. Now take five colors: yellow ochre, French ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, burnt umber and purple madder.
  3. In the first rectangle, place a stroke of yellow ochre and a separate stroke of French ultramarine blue. Label both.
  4. ln the second rectangle, moving horizontally, place a stroke of French ultramarine blue and yellow ochre mixed. In the third rectangle, place a stroke of the same color combination made weaker by the addition of more water. In the fourth and fifth, do the same thing, only each time add even more water.
  5. Move to the next row and repeat this exercise, experimenting with strokes of the remaining pure colors and mixed combinations of color.
  6. Now work on the bars along the bottom of the page. Fill the first bar with clean water. On one end, place one stroke each of French ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and purple madder. Let the colors flow into one another. This exercise accomplishes two things: It demonstrates a wet-into-wet technique, and it shows you how values change within colors—just by the addition of water.
  7. In your second bar, repeat the process by using burnt sienna, yellow ochre and purple madder.

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