For the past year or so, I’ve noticed watercolor cactus artwork popping up on my Pinterest feed. I love the way that you can layer watercolors to make cacti with different tones, then finish up the artwork by painting delicate spines! In today’s tutorial, you’ll learn how to use a special watercolor technique to make a whimsical, eye-catching cactus wreath. Don’t hesitate to pick up your brush even if you’re new to painting with watercolors!
1. Prepare Watercolors + Draw a Guideline
First, get out your watercolor palette, and moisten the colors with a couple of spritzes of water.
Next, find a piece of watercolor paper to paint your cactus wreath on. Use a pencil to draw a faint oval guideline. This guideline will serve as a path for the wreath!
2. Paint the Dry Layer (First Layer)
You’ll be using a wet-on-dry watercolor technique today. That means that you’ll paint the cacti in 2-3 layers, and this is the very first layer (which will eventually become your dry layer). First, use a turquoise color to paint shapes like the ones below. These shapes are connected ovals and circles that will eventually come together to look like a cactus!
Now, use a dark green color to make four solid ovals. Again, you’ll want to make sure you have more water on your brush than paint.
Pick out a light green color, and use that to paint aloe vera plants. I made these plants by painting small curved triangles that connect at a rounded base.
Finally, add a pop of color by painting several conglomerations of red dots. Each conglomeration will end up looking like a desert flower!
3. Paint the Wet Layer
Once the first layer of paint has dried, choose a dark blue color. Add a small dot of that color to each connection between the circles in the first shapes that you painted (the turquoise cacti). Rinse off your brush in water, then use the still-wet brush to blend the blue into the rest of the shape. Once your blended blue dries (<1 minute), use a tiny paintbrush to draw small lines on the cacti. These small lines represent spines.
Once you’ve put spines on the blue cacti, use a dark green color to paint faint stripes on the green oval cacti. Once the stripes have dried, use a small brush to make spines on the oval cacti as well.
Finish up by outlining the aloe vera leaves with a dark green color. Once you’ve outlined the leaves, go over the left side of each leaf with tiny dots to represent spikes.
And, voilà — a fun, Southwestern-inspired watercolor cactus wreath!
4. Add Content to the Middle
While you can use this watercolor cactus wreath to visually frame anything, I chose to make a greeting card out of it. No matter what you plan on putting in the center of your wreath, you’ll want to map it out in pencil first! I wrote “hello” using Kaitlin Style calligraphy.
Next, I painted over my pencil guidelines with turquoise and dark green paint.
As I waited for the paint to dry, I made an envelope out of corresponding colors.
And there you have it! Lovely and whimsical watercolor cactus-themed stationery that’s ready to send.
I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial! It’s a real treat to give yourself some time on a quiet morning to explore this wet-on-dry watercolor technique by painting cacti. Again, even if you’re not very familiar with using watercolors, you should give this tutorial a shot! It’s a nice, basic way to explore using a medium that’s fun, engaging, and capable of making beautiful things.