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How to Paint Tulips in a Garden Setting using Watercolour with Gwen Scott

Posted on Thu 12 May 2016

My preferred choice of watercolour paints for the past 20 years has been Winsor & Newton Artists’ quality colours due to their consistent strength and transparency. Just recently, however, I have been introduced to MaimeriBlu Artists’ watercolour, which is made in Italy, but readily available to buy in the UK. I was initially drawn to the brightness of the colours on the chart and noticed the unusual names of some of the paints. I’ve never heard of faience blue, for instance, or Mars brown before. I ordered a good selection of colours avoiding readymade greens, as I prefer to make my own by mixing blues and yellows together. Squeezing out the bright new colours from the tubes onto the palette for the first time felt quite exciting.

Before starting the painting I made colour swatches of each tube on a piece of paper then diluted them to differing strengths to see the various shades each colour could produce. It’s always advisable to do this with any new paints; practise mixing colour combinations particularly shades of green, listing the names of the colours you’ve used in the various mixes to keep for future reference.

To experiment with my new colours in a painting I chose two photographs (see below) that I had taken in spring of Hidcote Garden as reference material. Combining elements of the two photos gave me more information to work from than just using only one of them. I decided to use the detail of the wall and blue gate shown in Photograph 1, which would become the focal point in my painting, and include the detail of the textured hedges and distant trees. Photograph 2 clearly showed the colours and shapes of the foreground tulips and a wide variety of greens, which would allow me to use the washes that I had practised mixing.


Demonstration Tulips at Hidcote Garden

You will need


Saunders Waterford 300gsm NOT watercolour paper (31.5x25.5cm)


Rounds Nos. 12, 6, 4, & 1


Watercolour palette, HB pencil, Colour Shaper, ruling pen, masking fluid and a small piece of natural sponge

MaimeriBlu watercolour:

Permanent yellow

Primary yellow

Raw sienna


Sandal red

Mars brown

Cobalt blue

Faience blue

Primary blue cyan


How to Paint Tulips in a Garden Setting using Watercolour with Gwen Scott
  • Step 1

    1. Begin by drawing the outline of the wall, pillars and gate with the HB pencil.

    2. Using a Colour Shaper or an old brush, apply the masking fluid along the top of the wall underneath the pencil line. This protects the pale edges of the wall when painting the greenery above it. Mask the small flowers on the right-hand bush and the pale leaves on the top of the small bush.

    3. Switch to a ruling pen to mask the fine lines of the gate.

  • Step 2

    1. Prepare initial washes before wetting the paper: a yellow green, a mid-tone green and a dark green using a mix of primary yellow and faience blue. Make a wash of cobalt blue. The next two stages are painted wet in wet.

    2. Using a No. 12 brush wet the top of the paper with clean water down to the top of the wall, above the gate and to the top of the two bushes. Paint the blue wash across the top of the paper and the yellow green wash below this down to the top of the wall.

    3. Immediately paint leaf detail in the middle of the painting with the mid-green colour using a No. 4 brush. Add the deep green colour on the tip of the brush to paint the dark tree on the left and the top layer in the centre. Leave this to dry thoroughly.

  • Step 3

    1. Leave the masking fluid on while painting the next stage which is painted onto dry paper, referred to as wet on dry. To give the effect of tiny leaves on the distant tree on the right, use a piece of natural sponge to dab lightly the mid green colour made from faience blue and primary yellow.

    2 Paint the flowers behind the gate and on the large bush with a wash of diluted violet using a No. 4 brush.

    3. Make a green wash with primary blue and permanent yellow then paint this under the flowers behind the gate.

    4. Using the yellow green wash made from primary yellow and a little faience blue, add the small bush. Leave this to dry before painting the deeper green shadow, bottom left of this bush.

    5. With a No. 4 brush dot in the detail within the shape of the hedges with the mid-tone green made from equal parts of primary yellow and faience blue.

    6. Add more blue to the mix to make a dark green wash and paint the shadow areas on the hedge behind the gate and also on the hedge above the wall.

  • Step 4

    Once thoroughly dry, remove all the masking fluid by rubbing it with your finger. This reveals the fine masked-out white lines of the gate, which now need to be filled in with cobalt blue. Use a No.1 brush with a sharp point to paint the gate carefully.

  • Step 5

    1. Make a cream wash using mainly raw sienna mixed with a touch of sandal red and a little cobalt blue adding plenty of water to dilute the colour.

    2. Paint the concrete pillars with the cream wash and drop in a grey colour made from a watery mix of cobalt and Mars brown, wet in wet. Leave this to dry.

    3. Mask some of the fine mortar lines on the brick wall with the ruling pen. Leave this to dry while you mix three colours to use wet in wet on the wall: 1 raw sienna mixed with sandal red; 2 raw sienna, sandal red and cobalt; and 3 Mars brown mixed with cobalt blue.

    4. Wet the paper where the wall is to be painted, taking care not to wet the freshly painted cream pillars then drop in the wall colours with a No. 5 brush in the same order as listed above.

  • Step 6

    1. When this is fully dry rub off the masking fluid to reveal white mortar lines, which now have to be painted with the cream colour on the tip of a No. 1 brush.

    2. Add fine dark lines between some of the bricks with a mix of cobalt and Mars brown to define some of the brick shapes.

  • Step 7

    1. Now position all the flowers in the border before painting the green foliage. Start by masking out the small tulips in the far distance with the tip of the Colour Shaper and some larger tulip heads in the middle of the border.

    2. Paint the large foreground tulip heads and the medium-sized tulips above these on to dry paper with primary red and a No. 6 brush.

    3. Dot in the blue flowers that are scattered about the garden with cobalt blue.

    4. Finally mask out the fine tulip stalks with a ruling pen. Leave this to dry thoroughly before applying the green.

  • Step 8

    1. Make three shades of green by mixing primary yellow with faience blue to produce a yellow-green, a mid-tone green then a dark green by adding plenty of blue.

    2. Check that the pink flowers are thoroughly dry before painting the green colour around them otherwise the pink will bleed into the green turning it a muddy brown. Start just above the deep pink flowers by painting the yellow-green wash onto dry paper. While this is still damp add the mid-green wash across the masked out tulip heads then paint the dark green carefully around the pink flowers.

    3. Paint pale flower heads to the left of this greenery then leave it to dry.

  • Step 9

    Directly above the newly painted green area repeat using the same three shades of green. Copy this technique as you move across the paper, varying the shades of greens. I used mixes of primary blue and permanent yellow, and cobalt blue and primary yellow. Cover the paper with the various greens, painting across the masked-out flowers and around the blue and pink flowers down to the top of the large tulip heads.

  • Step 10

    1. Pencil in the detailed leaves at the bottom of the picture underneath the large tulip heads.

    2. Paint the pale tulip leaves first in a yellow green made from primary yellow and a little primary blue. When these pale leaves are dry, paint behind the leaves with a darker green colour made by adding more blue to the mix.

    3. The leaves in the bottom right are painted silver green made from a watery mix of primary blue and only a little permanent yellow.

  • Step 11

    1. When all the green is filled in between the flowers and thoroughly dry, rub off all the masking fluid with your finger to reveal white flower heads and stalks. These white tulip heads need painting carefully with a No. 1 brush in yellow, pale pink and dark pink, referring to the finished painting to see where each of these colours are painted. The fine stalks are painted in with a yellow green.

    2. Darken the base of the blue flowers to give the impression of shadows by dotting in a deeper shade of blue using cobalt mixed with a little violet.

    3. Referring to the finished painting, darken the base of each tulip head to add shadows using a deeper shade of each of the flower colours.

  • Hidcote 12 - The Finished Painting

    Using the finished picture as reference, paint the grey shadows on the cream stone pillars with a watery mix of cobalt and Mars brown.

    Tulips at Hidcote Garden, watercolour, (31.5x5.25.5cm)

    I enjoyed using the MaimeriBlu paints and will certainly add several of these colours to my palette, particularly faience blue, sandal red and Mars brown.

  • Gwen Scott

    Gwen is a professional artist and tutor. To see more of her work and find out about her workshops and painting holidays visit

    Meet Gwen on her stand at Patchings Art, Craft & Photography festival in June (click here for details).

    This feature is taken from the July 2016 issue of Leisure Painter. Click here to purchase your copy.


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  • this art maintains that reality has already been expressed and the themes of it have been exhausted in relation to art. Therefore, the need arises for a new way of perceiving reality. to recommend my favorite artists Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Frida Kahlo, Roberto Matta Gabino amaya cacho and Pablo Picasso.

    Posted by heidy barted on Thu 14 Sep 05:27:01