Colorways: Watercolor Flowers: Tips, techniques, and step-by-step lessons for learning to paint whimsical artwork in vibrant watercolor

Colorways: Watercolor Flowers: Tips, techniques, and step-by-step lessons for learning to paint whimsical artwork in vibrant watercolor

by Bley Hack


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Colorways: Watercolor Flowers teaches artists of all skill levels how to paint harmonious, vibrant, and colorful renditions of flora.

Calling all aspiring artists! Grab your paints because it's time to explore key watercolor techniques, including washes, gradations, painting wet-into-wet, glazing, and understanding the color wheel to create harmony in your art. With  Colorways: Watercolor Flowers, you will create vibrant and colorful floral paintings while mastering how to use color for maximum effect. You'll also learn where to find artistic inspiration, how to become a “visual collector,” and how to add fauna to your floral paintings.

Colorways is a brand-new series from Walter Foster that teaches artists of all skill levels how to create innovative, inspired artwork full of color and imagination. Focusing on creating expressive pieces over realistic scenes, Colorways shows artists how to break the "rules" of color and let their imaginations and artwork soar to new heights.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633226128
Publisher: Foster, Walter Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/18/2018
Series: Colorways Series
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 587,931
Product dimensions: 8.70(w) x 11.50(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Bley Hack is an artist based in the Midwest. Working primarily with watercolor, as well as pen and ink and digital media, Bley creates patterns and artwork inspired by vintage designs. Some of her clients include Papyrus; Design Design, Inc.; Art in Motion; Calypso Cards; Lifetime Brands; and Minted. Learn more at

Read an Excerpt


Tools & Materials

To get started painting with watercolor, all you really need are a few supplies: a good brush, several paint colors, a palette, a cup of clean water, and paper. Don't let yourself get caught up in purchasing just the right kind of everything and worrying that what you have is inadequate. More than likely, what you have is enough, and the best thing to do is just sit down and paint!

Watercolor paints are your most important tool. You don't need to purchase an expensive variety, but keep in mind that higher-quality paints can look more vibrant. Student-grade watercolors in a tube work great, as do concentrated liquid watercolors. A good old-fashioned sketch box with pans of paint is also an option. I use all three in my watercolor work.

If you can't afford to invest in a set of all-new paints, purchase a handful of colors that appeal to you. For mixing purposes, it's wise to choose one color from the red family, one from the blue family, and one from the yellow family, as well as a couple of neutrals.



Unless you purchase a paint box with a built-in palette, you will need a separate palette to put your paints on, as well as for mixing. There are many palettes to choose from, but a simple option often works just as well as the fancier ones.


When I first started painting with watercolor, brushes were one of the most mysterious supplies to me. What kinds did I need, and what sizes should they be? What type of fiber did I want, and in what shape? The only way to figure out the style and type of brush you most enjoy working with is through experimentation. Over time, I discovered that I prefer a small, round, size-6 to -8 brush for detail work; a large, round, size-16 brush for loose floral work; and a water brush for lettering. These are my three workhorse brushes, and I've been using a couple of them for more than 20 years.

Buy the best quality you can afford, and keep in mind that synthetic fibers can make great brushes!


For the greatest success when working with watercolor paints, purchase watercolor paper. Watercolor paper comes in hot-pressed and cold-pressed varieties and in three standard weights: 90-lb., 140-lb., and 300lb. A good all-purpose paper is 140-lb. cold-pressed paper, which is widely available in many sizes. Rough watercolor paper has plenty of "tooth," or raised areas, which add texture to your art. I also like using a 9" x 12" pad. There's no need to spend a lot to get good paper. Local art-supply and craft stores carry high-quality pads at reasonable prices.

You may also find it useful to keep a sketchbook to paint in. Keeping all your pages in one place is a fun way to see how your art progresses over time.

Watercolor paper These three different sheets show how the paint looks on hot-pressed (A.), cold- pressed (B.), and rough, textured paper (C.).

Other Materials

In addition to paint, brushes, and paper, you may want the following items:

Water cup: I use an old jam jar with a folded paper towel placed underneath on which to dab my brush.

Pencil: Keep it handy for drawing guidelines.

Large tray: This is great for holding your supplies, especially if there's room for your pad of paper too. Then, when you are finished working, you can simply pick up the tray and put it away.

Watercolor Techniques

Learning a few simple watercolor techniques will make painting much more accessible and enjoyable for you! Here are some techniques you may want to use while painting colorful flowers using watercolor.


This technique is used to cover a large area with flat color. To create a wash, load your brush with a wet consistency of your chosen color, and then drag the side of the brush across the paper.

Add visual interest to a flat wash by dropping in another paint color while the first layer remains wet.


This technique can be used for all kinds of subjects and lends a spontaneous feel to a painting.

First, create a wet silhouette of the object you wish to paint.

Then load your brush with color, and touch the brush to the outline of the wet area.

For this flower, I also defined its center with a separate touch of color.


Useful for creating foliage and other accents, the drybrush technique offers you more control over your paint. Simply load your brush with color, and paint directly onto dry paper.

Varying the speed at which you make your brushstrokes can give them a feathery look.


For this method, use your brush or another absorbent material to soak up the paint, and then stamp the shape onto your paper.

Add stems to connect your stamped shapes and create beautiful botanical foliage.


This technique can be used to create depth in a painting and simply means painting a second or third layer of color over a base color. Be sure to let the base color dry fully or the colors will bleed into each other.

Layering works well for adding floral details, such as veins in a leaf or shadows on a petal.


Another fun way to use your brush: combining its basic marks to create all-over patterns. For these examples, I used the natural shape of my brush to make marks in a sequence and form a patterned effect. Patterns make a lovely element to add into the background of a floral piece.

Techniques are useful and important for learning how to paint, but nothing can replace the simple act of painting itself. Playing with your paints and brushes is the one thing that will help you improve your skills the most. Try to paint a little bit each day, and soon you will notice an improvement. The projects in this book are designed to give you a guided way to practice your painting while simultaneously creating beautiful artwork.

Color Theory Basics

Color is one of my great joys in life. It makes me happy to see a new color scheme, and my heart really starts to beat fast when I add a new paint color to my palette. If you can approach color with a playful, curious, and observant spirit, you will have the most success.

I often choose a color palette based on a combination I've seen, but my favorite combinations come through experimentation. There is just no substitute for practice! And what type of practice is more fun than playing with color?

One way that I play with color is by keeping a color sketchbook. I collect inspiring color combinations from magazines and catalogs, cutting and pasting as I find hues I love, and develop new color palettes this way. Ultimately, color is about what you like, but it will help if you learn the theories behind color. This will allow you to maximize your creativity!


I like to think of color in terms of relationships rather than rules. Thus, the color wheel is a guide to the interactions between colors.

Primary Colors

Let's start with the three primary colors: red, yellow, and blue. These colors cannot be mixed from other colors.

Secondary Colors

Between the primary colors sit the secondary colors: orange, green, and violet.

More Color Categories

Then there are the tertiary colors, which land between the primary and secondary colors. There are six tertiary colors: red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-violet, and red-violet.

Colors directly across from each other on the color wheel are called "complementary colors," and they bring out the best in one another, making for a vibrant combination. Some examples of complementary color combinations are red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and violet. Analogous colors sit next to each other on the color wheel, and they create a more sedate combination.


Think about how color evokes a mood or recalls to memory a certain location or feeling. It's no coincidence that the tropics are often represented with reds, oranges, pinks, and other bright, vibrant colors. We describe a color as warm or cool depending on its proximity to yellow (warm) or blue (cool) on the color wheel. Warm colors (right) include reds, oranges, pinks, and yellows. Cool colors (below) are greens, blues, and violets.

When choosing a color palette, it is sometimes helpful to keep these relationships in mind, especially if your painting needs a little pop of something to make it interesting. For example, if you are working with warm, analogous pinks, oranges, and yellows, a subtle touch of a cool blue or violet might give your painting that necessary final touch.


No painting is complete without a few drab colors — "ugly" colors, as I like to call them. These are the colors that your elementary-school art teacher described as "muddy" and discouraged you from mixing. But now you can mix your muddy colors with abandon and put them to good use at the same time!

Ugly colors can elevate a painting by creating depth and interest. Grays, browns, and muddy greens and blues all fall into this category. These colors are a great way to clean off your palette too. Just mix all the colors on your palette into one color, water it down, and you've achieved your very own ugly color.

Challenge Yourself

You will always be more naturally drawn to certain colors than others. In my case, I love brights, especially pinks! Sometimes, in order to increase the number of colors I'm comfortable using, I will intentionally pick a color that I don't really like and play with it. By experimenting with adding colors from the rest of my palette, I can often come up with a new scheme that I do really like.

Finding Inspiration

Some people believe that artists wait for inspiration to strike and then get to work; however, most professional artists approach creating in a practical way. If they have a commission, they are given guidelines to follow, and that can often jumpstart creativity. I also keep a "What to Paint" list, which frees my mind to concentrate on the act of painting. Whenever I don't feel particularly inspired, I consult my list, and then I get going.

If you are a beginning artist, this book can be a part of your "What to Paint" list, which will stop you from worrying about what to paint so you can just jump right in and do it! Each project in this book will give you some painting guidelines but leave freedom for you to create.

First, let's get into an artist's frame of mind. What follows are a few ways to collect inspiration for your art.


Here's a simple way to begin thinking like an artist: Collect visual inspiration when you're out and about. Let's say you're out shopping for your kids' clothes, and you see a beautiful color palette in an outfit. Snap a photo to use in your next painting. Or maybe you observe a beautiful tile floor in a restaurant. Take a picture; these all-over patterns can make fabulous backgrounds in floral paintings.


Some of my favorite sources of inspiration are old books. Visit a thrift store or used bookstore, and check out the gardening section. Begin to amass a collection of books that are inspirational to you and can be used as references for new floral and leaf shapes. Also, vintage children's books often have unique color palettes and may provide ready-made inspiration that you can utilize in your painting.


Keeping a sketchbook of inspiring color palettes can be helpful and fun too. This is very simple: Grab a small blank notebook or some loose sheets of paper. Using magazine clippings or paint chips, experiment with putting together different colors until you find some pleasing combinations. Try starting with a color that you wouldn't normally gravitate toward and see if you can create a color palette that you love. Paste the finished colors together on a page to record your unique color palettes. This is a fun exercise to do while traveling or whenever you don't feel like painting.


Botanical gardens and nature preserves don't just make for fun day trips; they can provide a wealth of natural inspiration as well. Remember to bring your camera so you can snap pictures of unique floral shapes.

The great thing about being a visual collector is that you don't have to spend a dime. Simply observe the details around you, and record them in a photo to help jog your memory later.


A Library of Flowers

When painting florals, include at least these three subjects: blooms, leaves, and buds. In this project, you will use small sheets of paper to paint many different flower and leaf shapes that you can use for future reference. To make the most of this exercise, go for quantity over quality. Paint just enough of a flower to imply its shape and form, and then move on to the next one. Amassing a large pile of many different floral shapes will give you lots of inspiration for future paintings.


Blooms are the focal flowers in a bouquet. To help you visualize the various shapes that blooms come in, borrow some gardening or flower books from your local library, and use the shapes you observe to inspire your blooms. Now, let's paint your first bloom!

1 Blooms usually extend from a middle point. This flower will be shown from the side, so the center will be at the top with the petals extending downward.

2 Add a drop of water to create the center of the flower, and then add some yellow or orange paint.

3 Add a stem and a simple leaf.


Excerpted from "Watercolor Flowers"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction, 5,
Tools & Materials, 6,
Watercolor Techniques, 10,
Color Theory Basics, 16,
Finding Inspiration, 22,
Step-by-Step Projects, 29,
A Library of Flowers, 31,
Pretty Patterns, 42,
Vases, 52,
Floral Frames, 60,
Adding Letters to Florals, 68,
Mark-Making Bouquets, 76,
Floral Letters & Monograms, 84,
Modern Seed Packet Painting, 90,
Adding Fauna to Your Flora(ls), 96,
Monochromatic Painting, 104,
Neutrals with a Pop of Color, 110,
Paint, Cut, and Paste Floral Collage, 118,
About the Artist, 128,

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Colorways: Watercolor Flowers: Tips, techniques, and step-by-step lessons for learning to paint whimsical artwork in vibrant watercolor 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
MontzieW More than 1 year ago
Colorways: Watercolor Flowers: Tips, techniques, and step-by-step lessons for learning to paint whimsical artwork in vibrant watercolor by Bley Hack is a book I requested from NetGalley and the review is voluntary. This is a very instructive and delightful book about watercolor painting, mostly flowers in a nice loose form. There are many step by step instructions with lots of pictures throughout this book. The book shows different flowers but also a bird and bugs. How to not only use the colorful palette but use of one color to make a painting properly. I love the loose style! There is also suggestions on how to use the art for cards, picture frames, and more! Lovely book!
OneMomInMichigan More than 1 year ago
True story, after spending a few days experimenting with the first few exercises, I rushed to read finish reading this book because I was SO excited to have an overview and go back to it slowly. I LOVE this book. I received my copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for a fair review, and I'm so glad I did! Colorways: Watercolor Flowers by Bley Hack is a really fun way to experiment and play with watercolors. My daughter and I sat and painted together and reignited my love of watercolors. With whimsical exercises, plenty of room for leeway, and suggestions for playing that produce fun and attractive results, this was just the right balance of instruction and encouragement and freedom. As a mom, artist, and teacher I am excited to keep painting. This would be a great book to work through in a small class or as a group of friends!
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
Colorways: Watercolor Flowers Tips, techniques, and step-by-step lessons for learning to paint whimsical artwork in vibrant watercolor by Bley Hack Non-threatening beginner book for aspiring watercolor artists. This book includes an introduction, information on tools and materials required, basic color theory, where to find inspiration and step by step projects that include making frames for photographs, painting then making collages with watercolor flowers, framing words with flowers and how to do so and other fun ideas. The flowers are free-form and not botanical style at all but fun and easy and a great way to begin painting flowers in watercolor. I have a few ideas from the book that I will use this year as I get back into watercolor painting again. Thank you to Quarto Publishing Group – Walter Foster for the ARC – This is my honest review. 4-5 Stars