Step-by-Step Guide: Painting a Watercolor Still Life

Discover a captivating watercolor still life tutorial perfect for beginners. Follow step-by-step instructions on a delightful artistic journey.

Step-by-Step Guide: Painting a Watercolor Still Life

Embark on a delightful journey with this step-by-step watercolor still life tutorial. Designed specifically for beginners, this project offers a simple yet captivating subject, accompanied by easy-to-follow instructions. Join me as we explore various watercolor techniques and create a beautiful masterpiece together. Let's get started!

Step-by-Step Watercolor Still Life Tutorial

Let's dive into the watercolor still life step-by-step guide. Follow along to clarify any remaining queries you may have about this project. If you are curious about the watercolor materials used, please scroll down where you will find a list of brushes, hues and such.

Subject Matter

Our focus for this tutorial is "vessels." We'll be painting a vase, cups, a bowl, and a red ball—a perfect subject for beginners. As you gain confidence in painting still life, you can gradually explore more complex watercolor ideas.

Setting Goals

Each painting presents an opportunity to address specific challenges and improve your watercolor skills. For instance, if you struggle with landscapes or basic drawing, embrace each artwork as a chance to overcome these obstacles. This two-for-one approach not only enhances your skills but also cultivates a strong work ethic that will sustain your watercolor journey in the long run. Avoiding challenges only leads to frustration, burnout, and eventually giving up.

My Goals for This Painting

Let me share my objectives for this particular artwork:

  1. Capturing light and shadow effectively.
  2. Mastering wet-in-wet techniques without encountering issues like cauliflowers and water marks.
  3. Maintaining crisp colors without excessive saturation.

Add drawing using needle brush
Add drawing using needle brush

Step #1: Preliminary Drawing

Begin by sketching the subject using a needle brush or a pencil. Focus on simplicity unless you desire a more realistic representation. Personally, I prefer a loose and playful approach.

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Blocking in main shapes with local color
Blocking in main shapes with local color

Step #2: Blocking in Shapes with Local Color

Proceed by blocking in all the shapes using mixtures resembling tea. If you're unfamiliar with this technique, refer to this article covering the basics of watercolor painting techniques.

Build up colors with thicker paint
Build up colors with thicker paint

Step #3: Building Up Colors with Thicker Paint

Enhance the colors by applying charging techniques. Load the brush with thicker paint and drop it into the washes to achieve the desired effect.

Add darker shadows
Add darker shadows

Step #4: Adding Darker Shadows

Start painting the light and shadows. Leave a strip of white paper on the black vase, and if the reflection appears too rigid, soften it with a clean, damp brush.

Paint bowl details
Paint bowl details

Step #5: Painting Bowl Details

Utilize a dagger brush (or any small liner/pointed round brush) to paint intricate details on the bowl.

Paint cast shadows
Paint cast shadows

Step #6: Depicting Cast Shadows

Using darker green and milk-mixtures, paint the cast shadows. These mixtures consist of thicker paint, with more pigment and less water.

Layering background
Layering background

Step #7: Layering the Background

Apply another layer of darker hues to build up the background. This step allows you to tidy up the edges surrounding the vessels using negative space painting.

Finishing touches
Final Touches

Step #8: Final Touches

The painting is nearly complete! Add patterns to the tablecloth and incorporate a few intense colors. Step back and observe the artwork from a distance. This perspective will provide fresh insights and help determine any final adjustments needed.

Step-by-Step Guide: Painting a Watercolor Still Life
Still Life Study by Robert Joyner

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Watercolor Materials

Before we dive into the tutorial, let's discuss the materials you'll need. While you don't necessarily require every color or brush I use, ensure you have at least six primary colors representing warm and cool tones. Additionally, grab a couple of pointed round brushes and, most importantly, quality watercolor paper. If you're unsure about the recommended materials, you can find more information here.


I hope you thoroughly enjoyed this watercolor painting tutorial. If you have any questions or seek further clarification, don't hesitate to leave a comment below. I'm more than happy to assist you. Now, let's pick up our brushes and embark on a joyful painting journey together. Happy painting!