Tutorial: How to paint watercolour lilac

Lilac is a beautiful tree, but it’s most gorgeous in the spring when the buds open up into delicate four-petal flowers in light purple and pink tones. This might look complex, but the trick is to focus on creating the individual flower heads, and then build outwards.

tutorial how to paint lilac branches in watercolor

What you will need


  • Sap Green
  • Dioxazine Purple
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Opera Rose
  • Burnt Umber

All the watercolour paint I use is Winsor & Newton Professional. Don’t worry if you don’t have these exact colours – just find the closest match in your palette.

The best way to mix the colours is to create blends of the blue, pink and purple. As you paint the flowers, keep changing up the colours by adding more blue or pink, and then do the opposite.

Focus on varying the value too – the lightness or darkness of the colour by adding water.

Paint lilac flowers – step by step

  1. Start by painting an individual flower head. Create four petals, leaving a small gap in the middle. Give the petals rounded edges.
  2. Add another flower next to it, touching the petals together. Mix up the colours by adding more blue to this one, then more pink to the next.
  3. Vary the value by adding more water to the one after that. You can also drop darker colours like a deep purple into the centres of light ones.
  4. Begin creating a column shape with the flowers. Create half flowers on the edges with pairs of petals. Build an irregular bottom edge.
  5. Draw up the tip with stems in a V shape. Fill in with oval buds in a deep shade. You’re aiming for a triangle shape.
  6. Add a few stem lines to fill in any gaps in the flowers. And add stem lines at the bottom to connect to a central stem.
  7. Add the stem line in brown. Pull out stems for the leaves in green, and then create long, heart-shaped leaves. Pull them to a fine point and try to leave a white line down the middle.
That should give you a perfect lilac branch in a loose watercolour style! Happy painting

More spring flower tutorials

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