This watercolor cactus + quote artwork is like sunshine on a page. It has enough of a DIY look to maintain a homey feel, but its rich colors and details give it a professional look that makes it worthy of display. This project has one rule: be flexible and run with your mistakes. Watercolors can be a little bit unpredictable, but rest assured that errant strokes and not-quite-right tones won’t take away from the final effect.
Before You Get Started …
Today’s project isn’t quite a beginner-level endeavor. It requires quite a bit of blending! If you’re new to watercolors, consider enrolling in The Ultimate Beginner’s Watercolor Online Course. Complete that course, and you’ll be able to paint practically any subject.
Now, Let’s Make Some Art!
1. Gather Your Supplies
To make this project, you’ll need:
- One piece of 5″ (12.7 cm) x 7″ (17.78 cm) watercolor paper
- This cactus template artwork, printed on any white printer paper
- Pencil + eraser
- Watercolor paints (whatever palette you have at home is fine)
- Size 3 paintbrush and size 0 paintbrush
- Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White Ink
- Straight Pen fitted with a Nikko G nib
All of the supplies for this project — with the exception of the printable artwork and the white ink — are included in the The Ultimate Beginner’s Watercolor Kit.
2. Trace Around the Printable Cactus Template
If you’re not confident in your illustration skills yet or you just want to save time, start this artwork by tracing the free printable cactus template. Once you download the template (you can find it on this page), print it out. Then, line up your 5″ x 7″ piece of watercolor paper with the guidelines on the template. Next, place the template and the watercolor paper against a sunny window or a light box. You should be able to see the template through the watercolor paper, allowing you trace over it with a pencil!
Once you’re finished, your illustration will look something like this:
3. Paint the Cactus
Once you’ve got that cactus outline on the page, it’s time to bring it to life with watercolors! Start by moistening two shades of green in your watercolor palette: one light green and one dark green. If you don’t have two shades of green in your palette, mix colors until you have a light green and a dark green. (You can learn more about mixing in The Ultimate Beginner’s Watercolor Online Course.)
Use the light green tone and your size 3 paintbrush to fill in the cactus.
While the light green paint is still wet, use the dark green paint to add dimension to the left edge of each part of the cactus.
Now, add a dark purple edge everywhere that you just painted dark green. The deep purple shadows will help to give the cactus dimension!
Wait for your paint to dry to the touch, then use a size 0 paintbrush to add triangles of your dark green tone to random parts of the cactus.
4. Paint the Flowers
Once you’ve painted the spines, you can move on to painting the cactus’ flowers. Start by filling in the bottom half of each flower with a golden yellow tone.
Before the yellow dries, fill in the rest of the flower with a vivid red.
5. Paint the Pot
At this point, you’re going to tie together the colors that you used in the cactus by using them to paint the pot. Start by using the same yellow from the flowers to paint two upside-down, joined triangles:
For this next step, you’ll want to work fast! While the yellow is still moist, fill in the blank triangle on the bottom left side of the pot with the vivid red that you used for the flowers. While that red is still wet, blend your earthy purple into it. Then, use the purple to fill in the entire right side of the pot and some of the pot’s top edge.
The secret to adding color to the pot is working while the paint is wet. You’ll notice that colors bloom and bleed into each other, and that’s exactly what you want! Don’t be afraid to add a little more yellow here, or touch of red or purple there. Overall, you want the pot to be fairly dark so white lettering will show up well over it.
6. Paint the Soil
Your last step here is to add color to the soil! First, start by filling it in with a gray tone.
Wait for the gray to dry slightly (~3 minutes), then use a small paintbrush to add dots of black to the gray. Since the gray is semi-moist, the black will blend in just the right amount.
7. Add a Quote
Once your piece has dried completely (~10 minutes), use a white mechanical pencil to make a draft of the “Bloom where you are planted” quote directly over the watercolor pot. I recommend using a block lettering style like Roman for “BLOOM” and “PLANTED”, and use whimsical all-lowercase Kaitlin Style calligraphy for “where you are”. Then, use white ink and your favorite dip pen + nib combination to trace over it.
The lettering and calligraphy doesn’t have to be meticulous: in fact, imperfection will add to the artistic feel of the piece!
I hope that you enjoyed this watercolor cactus + quote artwork tutorial. I love mine, and I proudly display it in a guest bedroom that features earthy colors and a sunny yellow wall.
Thanks very much for reading, and enjoy making this happy little project!
This article was first posted in March of 2018. It has been updated to include new photos and clearer information.