Every time I make a tutorial like this watercolor cactus + quote artwork, I wonder why I don’t make more watercolor pieces. There’s a certain satisfaction in watching a blank piece of paper transform into a vibrant, eye-catching work of art! I know that many people find watercolors to be intimidating, but there’s a secret to using them: embrace mistakes and run with them! Watercolor seems to have a mind of its own, and that’s the basis of its beauty. Understand that, and you’ll enjoy making artwork like this. Here’s how to do it:
1. Cut Out a Piece of 5″ x 7″ Watercolor Paper
Start by taking your favorite watercolor paper and cutting it down to 5″ x 7″ (127 mm x 178 mm). If you don’t have any watercolor paper handy, drawing paper should work!
2. Trace Around the Printable Cactus Template
I wanted the focus of this quote artwork tutorial to be on the watercolor and the lettering rather than illustration. For that reason, I drew the cactus for you! You can find the printable cactus template for free by clicking here.
Once you download the template, print it out. Line up your 5″ x 7″ piece of watercolor paper with the guidelines on the template. Then, put 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 watercolor paper should look something like this:
3. Paint the Cactus
Now that you’ve got your cactus outline, it’s time to bring it to life with watercolors! Start by moistening two shades of green: one light green and one dark green.
Use the light green tone and a medium-sized paintbrush (size 2 would be good) to fill in the entire cactus.
While the green paint is still wet, use the dark green paint to fill out the left edge of each part of the cactus. Making the left edge darker implies that we have light coming from the right, resulting in shadows.
Okay, now, this is my favorite botanical watercolor trick: use a dark, earthy purple for shadows! Again, try to make sure your dark green paint is still moist, and add a purple edge everywhere that you added dark green. The deep purple shadows will help to give the cactus dimension! If you don’t have a purple, feel free to experiment with a dark brown or a black tone.
Wait for your paint to dry to the touch (~5 minutes), then use a small paintbrush to add little triangles of your dark green tone to random parts of the cactus. The triangles represent spines!
4. Paint the Flowers
Once you’ve painted the cactus’ spines, you can move on to painting its 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 a solid “W” shape like the one shown below:
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 top edge.
The secret to making the pot is to work 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 text 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 should blend in just the right amount!
7. Add Your Quote
The last thing missing in this quote artwork is, of course, an inspirational quote! I think that “Bloom where you are planted” is appropriate here. It goes with the blooming cactus theme, and it conveys a nice, optimistic message!
Once your piece has dried completely (~10 minutes), I’d recommend drawing a light draft of your quote with a pencil (or — preferably — a white mechanical pencil) directly over the watercolor. Then, grab some opaque white ink like Dr. Ph. Martin’s Bleed Proof White. Use a block lettering style like Roman for “BLOOM” and “PLANTED”, and use whimsical all-lowercase Kaitlin Style calligraphy for “where you are”. The lettering and calligraphy doesn’t have to be meticulous: in fact, imperfection will add to the artistic feel of the piece!
What you do with the artwork now is up to you! You can frame it for display in your home, put it on a bulletin board, send it as a card, or give it to a loved one as a gift! No matter what you choose to do with it, be proud of the work and creativity that went in to making it.
I hope that you enjoyed this watercolor cactus + quote artwork tutorial. Of course, if you have any questions about it, you should feel free to ask in the comments! Don’t forget, too, that the giveaway for the Ultimate Modern Calligraphy Kit ($75 value) is running until April 2nd. If you haven’t entered yet, you can visit the giveaways page to do so!
Thanks very much for reading, and have an amazing, artistic weekend!