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How to Paint a Loose Watercolour Poppy by Sarah Stokes

A poppy tutorial, by Sarah Stokes Artist

The poppy is a beautiful flower that has become the enduring symbol of remembrance of the First World War. As we approach Remembrance Sunday, you may wish to take some time to reflect and paint a water colour poppy.

I've created a poppy tutorial to help you paint your own water colour poppy from home.

Poppies Copyright Sarah Stokes 2021


Round synthetic brush size 10

Thin rigger brush Winsor and Newton, Cotman range, cad red, cad yellow, sap green, indigo, alizarin crimson Watercolour paper, cold press 300gm

Tissue paper


Research copyright free poppy images using sites such as Look for interesting shapes with at least 3 tonal values; light, mid and dark values

Image 1. (see image 1 below)

Practice colour ways on dry paper going from yellow to red to alizarin crimson to indigo to green. Make sure colours are wet enough to blend but with enough pigment on your brush to "pack a punch". Experiment with dropping water onto colours as well as lifting out with tissues. Create blooms and "happy accidents".

Image 1

Image 2 (see image 2 below).

Draw out loose shapes, different angles, different sizes. Odd numbers work well. Pop in stems and buds.

Image 2

Image 3 (see image 3 below).

Using a size 10 brush or similar, apply water to areas of the poppy where the light and mid values are. Then drop on cad yellow. Let it spread...

Image 3

Images 4 & 5 (see below)

Add cad red and let it merge with the yellow to create oranges. Make sure that it isn't wishy washy. But also make sure that it is runny enough to move about and flow into the yellow. Control flow by lifting if necessary with tissue paper around the edges.

Images 4 & 5

Image 6

Whilst red is still damp, add creamy indigo mix to darker areas and pull down with thin rigger to create a stem

Image 6

Image 7

Continue process until all poppies are painted. Paint buds and grass in varying degrees of green and blue onto dry paper. Let the colours merge by cross crossing your grasses. Add optional splashes by tapping a paint laden brush on the back of your finger.

Image 7

Image 8

Lift out areas of the poppies and buds to reveal undercolours and light. Experiment with dropping water onto areas of the poppies and buds that have lighter values.

Image 8


Remember that not every poppy will necessarily "work". This is because you are experimenting with pigment and water and it's difficult to second guess exactly how everything will react. Above all, have fun and learn!

For more of my online tutorials visit

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