How to Watercolor a Chrysanthemum Flower - Cecilie Okada Design

How to Watercolor a Chrysanthemum Flower

How to Watercolor a Chrysanthemum Flower

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The graceful, ornamental petals of the Chrysanthemum flower inspired me to create this step-by-step watercolor tutorial. You will also learn how to use the dry brush method, as well as white gouache for highlights and colored pencils for depth.

Chrysanthemum enjoys a special status here in Japan with its captivating beauty. It’s part of kimono patterns, traditional crafts, and embellishments in temples and shrines. In botanical gardens, they grow endless varieties. And recently, Japan’s new emperor ascended the Chrysanthemum Throne.

The reference photo in this tutorial was taken by my friend Rebecca Arthur, who is a camera wizard. You can see her stunning collection of flower close-ups on her website.

If you’re not feeling up to drawing your own Chrysanthemum, you can download my pencil drawing for free and trace it. Read this article on how to transfer line art to watercolor paper.

You need watercolors, white gouache and a few colored pencils for this tutorial.

Photo of white chrysanthemum by Rebecca Arthur

Step 1

Since the flower we are going to paint is white, we need a colored background to make the whiteness stand out. To prepare for beautiful, free-flowing background color, paint with ample water around the outline of the drawing. 

Painting the background with plain water first

Step 2

Paint the background loosely with blue, dabbing your brush onto the paper. You can play and mix more than one kind of blue, but make sure to vary the intensity of pigment on your brush. Be careful to use moderate amounts. When done, use a watercolor sponge to soak up the edges to make the background fade out. 

Smoothing out colors of the background

Step 3

Add the light green color to the center of the flower, spreading it loosely to cover more of the flower as you see in the reference photo. If necessary, sponge up paint to distribute the color as you prefer. You get the light green color by mixing green with ochre. 

Adding green watercolor at the centre of the flower

Step 4

You are going to use a dry brush technique to make the maroon colored stripes on the petals. Dip a small or medium size, round brush with the color. If the brush is a bit old and frayed, all the better. Dry the brush with tissue paper, and then practice on a separate sheet of paper until the brush leaves dry marks like those you see here. It’s important that very little pigment is left on the brush and that it is dry. 

Testing dry brush

Step 5

It’s a good idea to practice this step first on a separate sheet of paper. With a light, gentle brushstroke, let your dry brush slowly draw the random red stripes on each petal. Make sure to move your brush along the curving of the petals. 

Watercolor the petals with dry brush

Step 6

With a sepia-colored pencil, draw the outline of the flower. 
You see that I have also painted a little bit of dry green in the center of the flower. 

Drawing outlines with sepia colored pencil

Step 7

Paint the white highlights that you see in the reference photo with white gouache. Gouache is opaque and will cover whatever is underneath. Place your brush at the tip of each petal and paint a little bit towards the start of the petal. Be free in the way you apply the white color; don’t try to copy the photo in an exact way. Remember: The reference photo is just a general guide. 

Painting highlights with white gouache
Download free line art & more

Step 8

Touch up the flower with colored pencils, adding depth and highlights. Draw ever so gently with the pencils. 

Adding depth with colored pencils

And… the Chrysanthemum painting is all done!

Happy painting to you!

How to Watercolor a Chrysanthemum Flower
How to Watercolor a Chrysanthemum Flower 3
How to Watercolor a Chrysanthemum Flower 4
How to watercolor a chrysanthemum flower 2

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