Easy Watercolor Coneflower Tutorial for Beginners


Start with just one coneflower, or paint a whole bouquet with this easy watercolor tutorial for beginners. Use your own favorite colors to create unique cards or paintings with coneflowers while you begin mastering basic watercolor techniques like background washes.

Downloads for Easy Watercolor Coneflower for Beginners

Coneflower 8 x 10 Outline Page

Coneflower Reference Photo

Card size outline and Finished Painting

Suggested Colors For Watercolor Coneflowers

Feel free to use your own favorite colors instead of these. Your painting does not have to look like mine to be a success.

  • Red or Pink – any Quinacridone red, rose or magenta PV19
  • Blue – Cobalt Blue PB28 and/or Phthalo Blue PB15 or Cobalt Hue
  • Yellow – any good light yellow (like Lemon PY53 or Aureolin PY40)
  • Orange – tube orange or mix Red + Yellow
  • Brown – Burnt Sienna PB7 or any brown
  • Black – tube black or your own black mix

Step by Step Coneflower Painting Instructions

Step 1 Draw or Trace Your Outline

Using graphite paper to trace your watercolor outline - photo by watercolor artist Deb Watson

To trace your outline page, tape it to the top of your watercolor paper. Place graphite paper between, graphite side down. Go over the outlines with a pen, pencil or stylus. Trace each coneflower petal carefully.

Step 2 – Paint the background wet on wet.

Deb Watson's student painting with salt effects from easy watercolor coneflower tutorial.

The key to a great background is to let the color mix on the paper by turning the paper – don’t brush it. If the color doesn’t spread, give it a small spray with the misting bottle and try turning again.

First – Mix a puddles of each color: yellow, blue, and red or pink. Use enough paint to make a well saturated wash, as the water already on the paper will dilute it. Mix more paint than you think you’ll need.

Start ‘painting’ by dropping in yellow – more yellow than you’ll want, as most of it will turn green.

Next, drop in a few areas of blue and tilt your paper gently to let some of the yellow and blue mix into green.

Don’t cover the whole paper evenly – let some areas have more paint and some less. Leaving some areas white can also be nice.

Adjust your background colors by

Original watercolor painting with salt flowers and humming bird by watercolor artist Deb Watson.
See the salt effect in the background?

• adding more color by dropping in or spattering.
• or dabbing color out with a thirsty brush (a damp brush) or a paper towel or tilting.

Adding red or pink? Be careful adding red and pink to green areas as it will turn dark or muddy. You can dab up some color with a paper towel and then put red on in the empty space.

Salt for TextureOnce your wash starts to dry (the shine goes off the paper), sprinkle with salt.

Common issues with the wet on wet background and the solutions

Really don’t like your background? – run your paper under the sink and rub gently with a soft sponge or Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser to wash most of it off. (The fewer brush strokes you use, the easier it will be to lift.)

Dry the paper and repeat Step 2. Remember to try not to use your brush – the paint and water will do a better job by themselves if you use gravity by turning the paper.

Background too light. If you want more color in your background, mix more paint into your puddles of color and repeat Step 2.

Step 3 – Paint the coneflower head.

Paint yellow on the head, starting a bit below the top line, leaving an unpainted bit of white above it.

Next add some orange below the yellow, then brown, then black, going down in between the top of the flowers (see photos below). (You could also sprinkle with salt for more texture!)

Rinse out your brush and blend the colors as needed, keeping it lighter at the top.

When the paper is dry, dot in some brown or black about 2/3 the way up from the bottom to suggest texture.

Step 4 – Paint the Coneflower Petals and Stem

You want most of the petals very light in value – almost white with a tint of color.

easy watercolor coneflower finished painting from watercolor tutorial by watercolor artist Deb Watson

Paint each petal with very watery pink or red. If they don’t have a very light value, dab most of the paint back up with a paper towel.
For shading, mix your petal pink or red with a bit of blue to make a darker shade.
Last, paint the stem with green or [orange and green].

Common issues with the coneflower and Solutions

Petals blend in with background – if your flower petals are the same value as your background, they won’t stand out. If your petals are too dark, rewet them with clean water and dab up most of the paint, or use Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser to lift color off. If your petals and your background are light – make your petals darker.

Summary for Watercolor Coneflowers for Beginners

watercolor painting of coneflowers by award winning watercolor artist and teacher, Deb Watson
One of my early coneflower paintings – note the medium value background and light petals

How did you do with your watercolor coneflower and drop-in background? It’s very difficult to let the water do the work for backgrounds, but it will give you the best results. And did you realize how important it is to keep the light values light, especially against a medium value background? It’s the values that make this flower painting pop, as much or more than the colors.

Happy Painting!

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