Paint Realistic Watercolor and Botanicals - STUDIO BASICS
4.4 (2,199 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
11,478 students enrolled

Paint Realistic Watercolor and Botanicals - STUDIO BASICS

This foundation tutorial will help you understand essential work+studio basics for realistic watercolour and botanicals
4.4 (2,200 ratings)
Course Ratings are calculated from individual students’ ratings and a variety of other signals, like age of rating and reliability, to ensure that they reflect course quality fairly and accurately.
11,482 students enrolled
Created by Heidi Willis
Last updated 8/2016
English [Auto], Indonesian [Auto], 5 more
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Current price: $48.99 Original price: $69.99 Discount: 30% off
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This course includes
  • 3 hours on-demand video
  • 1 article
  • 2 downloadable resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
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What you'll learn
  • Understand sound studio, materials and technique basics needed to create realistic watercolour and botanical paintings
  • Learn about materials so you understand what to purchase... don't waste money on the wrong things!
  • Learn how to improve your environment, approaches and results of your own work
  • Build practical strategy towards successful outcomes
  • Feel confidence in yourself by getting the right information
  • Prepare yourself for my subsequent 'hands on, step by step' tutorials
  • You don't need to do a thing! This is the FIRST STEP. This course will help you know where to start if you are a beginner, what you can improve if you're already away, or for those seeking to find 'their thing'... to simply decide IF watercolor is for you. This is a predominantly informative tutorial, however you can practice some of the demonstrations I explain in this content for yourself. This is all about getting the RIGHT processes and materials, so watch this BEFORE you buy anything... then play all you like!

This is a foundation watercolour course from a highly experienced, competent artist and tutor. This tutorial is jam packed with wonderful hints, tips, and insights on everything from studio environments, to materials, to important work practices. The course finishes with 2 levels of exercises, specifically designed to familiarise you with the most common water-colour techniques needed for realistic watercolors and botanicals. This comprehensive guide will definitely get you off on the right foot... and to keep you going and growing! With well over 3 hours of knowledge rich content on how to get started in this medium, this is a wonderful opportunity to gain quality insights into the beautiful world of water-colour painting, and launch you onto your own painting path successfully. 

Who this course is for:
  • Anyone who is interested in watercolors should take this course
  • This course is especially helpful to those who prefer realistic painting and natural subjects
  • People who would love to paint in watercolour, but aren't sure where to start
  • People who have some experience, but are looking to improve their knowledge and skills in the watercolour medium
  • This course is for everyone who has contacted me with watercolour questions!
  • This is the foundation course for anyone looking to take my subsequent 'step by step' water-colour painting tutorials
Course content
Expand all 20 lectures 03:08:32
+ Introduction
2 lectures 12:50

Australian born, Heidi Willis is an entirely self-taught Natural History watercolour artist. Her work intricately illustrates our native and exotic plants, flowers, fruits and seed capsules, whilst her powerful & distinctive portraits of our spectacular bird life offers viewers an insight into the world as she experiences it. Heidi quickly established herself as one of Australia’s emerging artistic talents, and her reputation as a leading natural history, wildlife and botanical artist is now well established. Her meticulous and intricate studies of botany and birds can be found in significant public and private collections around the world.

Heidi’s work has featured in prominent national and international exhibitions, collections and publications over her career, and she is also a freelance illustrator for Australian Geographic Magazine. Other highlights include The Waterhouse Natural Science Art Prize six times to date (South Australian Natural History Museum) Focus On Nature (New York State Museum) Botanica and The Margaret Flockton Award (Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney) Her work is held in the permanent collections such as the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation (PA, USA) and the highly regarded The Shirley Sherwood Collection. Her work has also been featured in several publications, most significantly Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, Craft Arts Magazine, Colophon, SA Life, International Artist Magazine, Artist's Palette Magazine and Australian Geographic Magazine multiple times over, with her work featured on the front cover of Artist’s Palette Issue 123. 

With her work now in such demand and her watercolour masterclasses booked out over a year in advance, she has turned her focus to online teaching in order to answer the many painting questions she is asked daily, and to reach and help more people pursue and achieve their own watercolour goals. As requested, the first tutorial to be released is 'Paint Realistic Watercolor and Botanicals - Studio Basics' This tutorial endeavours to address many of your watercolour questions, and it is the starting point for further painting and learning with Heidi. 

For up to date information, Id love to have you visit me in these places too

My website/blogs

My Facebook Page


Preview 03:03

Love realistic watercolor painting, but you’re in need of some sound, experienced advice on how to achieve this for yourself? Do you look at botanical art and think ‘I wish I could create this too!’ or perhaps ‘I could never do that!’ Well it IS possible, especially if you are put on the right track to begin with. To learn you simply need a desire. Finding the right tutor can be critical in helping you get on the right track, right from the start. I know sometimes thats not so easy to find, but if you are seeking some genuinely knowledgeable instruction from a renowned tutor with a proven track record in painting and teaching to improve your watercolor painting skills, perhaps this is just the chance for you!

The focus of this tutorial is to help you understand the grass roots basics of realistic watercolour painting, and to prepare you for my subsequent painting tutorials. This course will help you get started with the right materials, workspace, headspace, advice, techniques and information to start building from. We address some of the more common studio challenges and questions students tend to struggle with, and I share many practical approaches and strategies that will help you understand, improve or establish successful outcomes for your own painting,... It is a total start to end watercolour painting process overview. 

No matter what stage you are at I believe this knowledge will benefit your development greatly. With very little commitment or risk on your part, this predominantly informative tutorial offers you a rare and fantastic introductory overview into this new world of painting and how it can apply to you... all at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home.

‘How do I even start’ you ask? Well you’ve already found the answer... THIS is where we begin! all you have to do is LET ME SHOW YOU HOW!

Preview 09:47
+ Workspace and Materials
8 lectures 53:03

Brushes are a common point of failure for many people starting out, and most don't even realise this is part of their struggle! What to use? What not to use! What to buy? How to get the best out of the brushes you have... Take a few moments to learn about my brushes and hear my recommendations on what to use for realistic watercolour painting. It will make a BIG difference to your work and enjoyment.


Paper is something Im asked about so often... It really can be a never ending discussion, and an overwhelming prospect for many starting out to consider. In this lecture I discuss my own preferences quite simply, and although its a bit like choosing a best friend for another, I point out many things youll need/want to consider when choosing paper for yourself. 


The Humble Water Jar...? Perhaps! But it is actually quite important, so lets take a quick look at this topic and make sure yours is going to serve you well. Its the little things, remember?

Water Jar

Tissues...? So essential, but so easily overlooked... lets change that shall we!  

Something as Simple as... a Tissue!

This lecture takes a look at the important role of masking fluid in the water-colour painting process. Although it doesn't feature highly in my own work, it is important to understand its purpose, potential and use. Used correctly, it is a wonderful material, so we need take a better look at this medium here 

Masking Fluid

One of the biggest struggles students battle with - is their workspace or work environment. It seems such a simple thing to consider, but so often it is an unwittingly, scrambling mess that unnecessarily bamboozles and clutters students from the start. The good thing is it is very avoidable! This is an critical aspect of having a healthy workflow and an enjoyable painting experience.  In this topic we explore our workspace a little deeper. 

Lets take a look at your workspace

Our selection of palette is critical. Beyond the palette itself, understanding the physical layout and establishing an intimate knowledge of our palette becomes as important to our workflow and process, as perhaps our fingers themselves. Using our palette is a certain kind of art form in itself so its extremely important to know what to look for. 

Choosing a Palette

What could be more important than our paint?! In this lecture we take a closer look at paint, paint quality, characteristics, troubleshooting, colour families, paint selection... and what to buy and why. We experience a lot of problems, frustration and wasted money when we don't get our paint selection right. Getting it right is essential, so this lecture aims to help you make a better informed selection

Lets Look At Paint
+ Basic Work Practices
6 lectures 01:23:59

My approach to colour and how I use it is a theory free combination of logic, simplicity and instinct. Logic I can teach. Instinct I can help you develop. Simplicity... well we can just celebrate that! When instinct or an abstract knowledge can be conveyed in simple logic, we can begin to understand new perspectives and see new possibilities as a result. Dont let colour theory confuse you, just let yourself fall into the feel of the medium, fall in love with it, learn its language and it will be the most rewarding language you will speak. 

This lesson is 'instinct articulated' for you as a first step. The palette and pigment layout is a critical relationship that must be intimately understood and considered. This lecture helps us to understand the basic principles of my work processes and helps you to prepare your palette as practically and effectively as possible. Here, I seek to explain my approach to colour use, the relationships between different 'colour families' as I see it, and demonstrate how this relates to your palette lay out and use for the greatest comfort and success. 

Palette Layout and Colour Families

The reference collection process is half the fun! Where do we start? What are we looking for? What do we need to create a painting for ourselves? There are plenty of things to be mindful of in this process. It is not painting in itself, but it is everything to do with painting. It is the soul, the connection, the spark and the information we build from. If we don't get this stage right, we have nothing worthwhile to create! Have you ever heard of the comment 'see the world through the eyes of an artist' This is exactly this process, it is the origins of our inspirations.

Collecting Reference and Observation

From inspiration, we start to form and create a physical painting. This process is about maturing the seeds of our thoughts, to substance. What happens after the reference collection process? How do we transform what has inspired us, our ideas, our images and drawings into a physical painting? The drawing and image transfer process is so critical to successful outcomes in our work. Understanding the process will not only improve your work out of sight, it will improve the efficiency of your painting process as well. In this lesson we explore the processes involved in making this happen practically, cleanly and thoroughly.

The Drawing and Image Transfer Process

Choosing colour for a specific painting, subject or element can be challenging. There is no firm rule in my book for colours, i love and use them all, and you will too... But lets be practical, lets find a strategic starting point, and a process to help you get started in the right place. This lecture is about simplifying the colour selection process, and how to narrow your colour selection down to a manageable, appropriate and digestible palette to work from.  

Choosing Colour

Textures bring diversity, emotion and interest to our painting. One of the best things about watercolour is the remarkable textural qualities that come naturally with this medium. The variations we can achieve by adjusting our balances, mixes, movements and timing are endless and its imperative that we learn to understand its nature, qualities and potential so we can harness it to our greatest advantage. There are so many textural effects we can achieve in watercolour, so lets take a look at some of the most important approaches for you to explore and have fun playing with. 


There are plenty of approaches to painting watercolour, but this tutorial looks specifically at MY staple diet for painting techniques and everything you'll need to learn to create realistic and botanical watercolours. I take a look at the three fundamental areas I work with - washes, glazes and dry brushing, and demonstrate how these three techniques come together to give fantastic final results.  

Technique Talk - My Staple Diet
+ Painting Technique Basics
2 lectures 33:10

This lecture gives you the first round of practical exercises and activities specific to developing the techniques needed for painting realistic watercolour and botanicals. These simple exercises explore 'wet on wet' 'even washes' and achieving 'tonal variations' Its not about creating a masterpiece, its about learning through play... so pick up the brush and have some fun with these exercises. Try different balances, ideas and approaches, even different sizes and paper to really familiarise yourself with the medium and materials.

The techniques themselves aren't terribly hard to understand in theory, but they take a little time and practice to get a feel for. Once you've established a handle on these approaches, its simply a matter of refining the techniques to a finer and finer degree. Your balance, how far you want to take it, or how you choose to apply it is totally up to you. The key is practice of course!

Note* Worksheets and Drawing Template is available in the 'Materials List and Exercise Worksheets' section of this tutorial

Its Play Time! (Level 1)

This lecture gives you the second round of practical exercises and activities specific to developing the techniques needed for painting realistic watercolour and botanicals. This series of exercises steps things up a little for some challenge, looking at achieving a variety of effects with 'tonal variations' 'multiple colours'  'textures' and we take this even further to some basic 'glazing' as well. Again, its not about creating a masterpiece, its about familiarising yourself with the medium and capabilities of the watercolour medium. Playing also helps us to get over those initial anxieties of putting paint to paper. Remember, try these exercises in different sizes and papers to understand the differences. 

The techniques themselves aren't terribly hard to understand in theory, but they take a little time and practice to get a feel for. Once you've established a handle on these approaches, its simply a matter of refining the techniques to a finer and finer degree. Your balance, how far you want to take it, or how you choose to apply it is totally up to you. The key is practice of course! Try your hand at these exercises, designed to explore and refine the skills needed to produce your best work.  

Note* Worksheets and Drawing Template is available in the 'Materials List and Exercise Worksheets' section of this tutorial

Its Play Time! (Level 2)
+ Conclusion, Materials List and Worksheets
2 lectures 05:30

The materials list itemises everything you'll need to paint realistic and botanical watercolours in my online tutorials

The Exercise Sheet is a simple line drawing template to use for the exercises set out for you in the 'Play Time' section of this tutorial. Its a good starting point for you to practice the image transfer process, and to stick to a defined, relevant practice.

*PLEASE NOTE ~ The challenge of sourcing materials individually can be a huge and daunting task, so I have collaborated with Eckersley's Art Supplies store to supply all my students with a complete start up kit. The kit offers you a one-stop shop for all the materials you'll need for my tutorials, and at a discounted rate, and they will ship internationally. The kit is available through Eckersley's Art Supplies Online, or you can locate it on the 'CLASSROOM' tab of my website. My Start-Up Materials Kit includes a 10x14in sheet of Langton watercolour board. 

MY COMPLETE MATERIALS LIST - RECAP (This is my FULL working watercolour painting materials kit)

• Pencils, 2H, HB and 2B

• Mechanical pencil 0.5 mm HB

• White plastic eraser

• Scotch tape  

• Art Basics brushes, soon to have my own brand… sizes 000, 1, 3, 4, 5 with GOOD points and a cover sleeve on them)

• Palette (a KLIK Palette)

• Masking Fluid (colourless)

• Ruling pen


Watercolour paints artist quality Windsor and Newton

Paint colours


• Sepia

• Windsor Violet

• Perylene Maroon

• Permanent Rose

• Permanent Magenta

• Windsor Red

• Indigo

• French Ultramarine Blue

• Raw Sienna

• Burnt Sienna

• Olive Green

• Permanent Sap Green

• Payne’s Gray

• Cobalt Blue

• Cerulean Blue

• Green Gold

• Windsor Lemon

• Cadmium Yellow

• Scarlet Lake




• Langton Watercolour Board 10x14in

Materials List and Exercise Worksheets

Final thoughts... and thanks so much for joining me here in my Paint Realistic Watercolour and Botanicals course! Its time to take a minute now to digest now I know, but I am really look forward to getting our brushes wet and seeing you in my hands on step by step tutorials that will follow this one. I hope that this tutorial has answered many of your questions, relieved your fears and quandaries, provided you with some clear direction and strategies to approach watercolour painting, and that it has ignited a beautiful flame to fuel you on! I really hope you'll join me on this continuing journey.

Practice grows the seeds of theory, thoughts and ideas to fruition. There is no secret like practice. There is no goal as important as enjoyment... I shall see you again! 

Happy painting ~ Heidi Willis

Happy Painting