How to Watercolor a Simple, Graceful Flamingo

How to Watercolor a Simple, Graceful Flamingo

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

A beloved subject of art in cultures across the globe, flamingos are easy to watercolor. You only have to consider two main colors: flaming peach and black. The legs have a pink color, and that’s it. Patches of white are woven into the feathers. It takes only a few steps to paint a beautiful watercolor flamingo.

Flamingo Symbolism

Did you know that flamingos get their distinctive color from a diet of crustaceans (crabs, lobsters, crayfish, etc.)? The color will simply fade if they don’t get to eat their favorite food. 

The pink color takes years to emerge. Symbolic translation: No talent can blossom without the effort to nurture and develop it. It is a good point of reference for us artists. 

Flamingos are undeniably a potent symbol of romance too. Who hasn’t seen images of intertwined flamingo necks? They mate for life and are excellent parents. 

We don’t know why these graceful birds have made a habit of standing on one leg. They even sleep like that. How they keep their balance is anybody’s guess. For this reason, flamingos symbolize balance. So if you are in search of more balance in your life, the flamingo is your totem. 

Flamingo reference photo.
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Photo: Alejandro Contreras via Unsplash/ Creative Commons

Step 1: Drawing the flamingo

I made a quick sketch of a flamingo and then traced it to draw a clear outline. If you want to use my outline drawing for your watercolor flamingo, join One Tree Art Club | Creative. Go to Buy Me a Coffee. Download, trace, and transfer to watercolor paper. It’s a subscription to get 2-3 outlines per month that go with my tutorials. In any case, there are lots of free outlines for other tutorials in the One Tree Art Club library. 

I made a quick sketch of a flamingo and then traced it to draw a clear outline. If you want to Buy Me a Coffee, you can use my outline for your watercolor flamingo painting. Download, trace, and transfer to watercolor paper. It’s a subscription to get 2-3 outline drawings per month that go with my tutorials. In any case, there are lots of free ones in the One Tree Art Club library.

Flamingo sketch.
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Step 2: Mixing the right flaming peachy watercolor

The peachy color that flamingos sport is not common in watercolor sets. You will have to make it yourself. Mix crimson red, yellow, and white gouache. Experiment with the proportions until you get it right. 

Color swatches from the reference photo.
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I picked up the color swatches in our free tool color palette for artists.
Watercolor color swatches.
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The flamingo colors

Step 3: Watercolor the feathers and legs

Paint part of the bird with plain water. Not too much, but just enough to get a moist surface. Then you can add color. It will distribute evenly.

Painting the watercolor flamingo with the characteristic pink color.
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Wet some paper tissue and roll it into a pointed tip. Soak up the color in an uneven way to mimic the spotty feathers. You can “draw” feathers by moving the tissue paper in one direction. 

Using tissue paper to "draw" feathers.
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Complete the whole bird, and paint the pink legs as well. Use tissue paper for the legs too.

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Repaint the areas that have a saturated color. Look at the reference photo.

Painting the darker areas with watercolor.
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Paint the black part of the beak and feathers. Include the shadow by painting with a highly diluted black. 

Painting the black parts of the flamingo with watercolor.
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Step 4: Paint white parts with white gouache

Paint the white parts of the beak. For the feathers, use an almost dry brush with white gouache. It will create feather-like strokes. 

Painting feather effects with white gouache.
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Step 5: Watercolor some blue water

Since the bird stands in blue water, we need at least a suggestion of water. Paint with a circular motion to mimic the water rings around the legs.

Painting some blue water.
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Step 6: Touch-up with colored pencils

The last effort for the watercolor is to do some touch-ups with colored pencils. What you do is fortify the watercolor, not replace it. Tread with care. 

Touch-up with colored pencils.
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The flamingo watercolor is complete

Yes, that’s it. Enjoy painting your elegant flaming pink flamingo watercolor!

Upper part of the finished watercolor flamingo.
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The full watercolor flamingo all done.
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If you wonder about the art material you need for this tutorial, go to my Art Supply Guide.

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