For my first attempt with botanical painting, I’ve chosen the Bird Vetch (Vicia Cracca), which is now blooming abundantly in meadows. It has an interesting shape and beautiful colors. Maybe it’s not the easiest plant to paint, but let’s see what will come out of it.


Firstly, I drew sketches of the plant on a regular copy paper. Then I put the tracing paper on the paper and I traced the shapes on it with a black ink fineliner. I cut out individual elements and tried to put together a sensible composition, which was not so easy.

Once the composition has been set up, I turned my watercolor paper facing down and I arranged the composition on it, but in a mirror image, after which I taped my elements to the back side of the watercolor paper.


I applied my watercolor paper (with elements taped on the bottom) to the balcony window (I do not have a light box and it’s a free replacement. You can do it in several other ways). Now, using an HP pencil, I traced all shapes on watercolor paper (I use Fabriano Artistico hot pressed, 300 gsm).

I already have a sketch on my paper and now I can start painting.

I taped the paper with a masking tape to a painting board. I laid a large sheet of tracing paper on the whole, cutting out a fragment in it, which reveals the element which I will be working on. This way the entire sheet of paper is covered, and I have access only to the part I will be working on. Thanks to this, I will save paper from random stains, spilled paint or any dirt.

In the next images you can see the next stages of painting this fragment. I always start with the lightest shades. I mainly use Ultramarine Blue PB29 and Winsor Violet PV23 here. I apply many layers and each next layer is usually a bit darker. Finally, I add hairs. I paint hairs with white gouache, to which I add a bit of blue watercolor so that the color is not completely white.


The next stage is the Vicca’s leaves. I paint them in the same way as the previous elements, applying many layers of green. Only at the very end I add small hairs.


After painting the leaves, there were only flowers left. One twig with flowers combined with leaves, three flowers at high magnification and the largest floral element on the right.


I’ve learned several things from this painting:

  • I have to use a little bit bigger size of paper, especially when I paint more than one element.
  • I have to be really, really patient. Every layer should be laid down only when the previous one is completely dry. This should be the rule number one!
  • It is much better to build up a shape and color with more than one layer. Slowly building up, layer by layer, makes the plant look more realistic, more 3D and the color is deeper.
  • White gouache is really good paint for painting little hairs on the stems or leaves. Sometimes it’s good to mix some watercolor with gouache just to add some color to those hairs.
  • Color swatches/color charts are really helpful with choosing the right color to your painting.

To paint this I used:

  • paints: Schmincke Horadam and Winsor&Newton
  • colors: mostly French Ultramarine PB29 (W&N), Payne’s Grey Bluish PBk6/PB15:6 (SH), Mauve PV23 (SH), Cobalt Violet PV14 (W&N), Purple Magenta PR122 (SH), Perylene Violet PV29 (W&N)
  • paper: Fabriano Artistico HP, 140lb
  • size: 35 x 45 cm

Here is the final result:

I’ve also made a video showing the process: