The saguaro cactus is one of my favourite plants. It has such a distinctive shape, with the arms almost like they’re waving at you! For this watercolour tutorial, you’re going to need a fine brush and a steady hand for the lines.
What you will need
- Watercolour paints
- Watercolour paper
- Some brushes, including a fine one for the details
- Jars of clean water
- Paper towel
- Sap Green
- Hookers Green
- Yellow Ochre
All the watercolour paint I use is the professional range from Winsor & Newton. Don’t worry if you don’t have these exact colours – find the closest match in your palette.
Paint a saguaro cactus step by step
- If you would like to start with a sketch, you will need to outline a tall central column with a rounded top. Then create the arms, coming out of the central column with a more rounded tip.
- Imagine a light source towards the top right of your painting – this will be where you create the highlights. Mix up a light green and fill in your central column shape, leaving a small white space highlight towards the right side.
- While the paint is still wet, use a darker green on the left side to create a slight shadow. Allow this to blend out naturally wet-on-wet. Don’t worry about making it too dark, or you won’t be able to see the lines at the end.
- Repeat the process with the arms of the cactus. To create a natural look, make the arms a different height, and ensure they start at a different place in the central column. If your cactus is too symmetrical, it won’t look natural.
- Once the base layer is dry, grab your smallest watercolour brush. Load up with your darkest green paint, and use a light touch to paint the lines down the cactus, using the wet-on-dry technique. Break up the lines by lifting the brush from the paper as you draw, and make them darker on the shadow side.
- Finish by adding the base in a light brown.
And you’re done! Now you’ve painted one saguaro cactus, why not try creating a desert scene? Add multiple cacti, making some smaller and lighter to make them recede into the background.
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