loose watercolour guide

Loose watercolour is not about painting detailed, realistic and perfect motifs, but rather about painting free forms with a few loose brushstrokes. Here, control can be consciously relinquished; in the end, the watercolours run as they wish anyway. It is a letting go of perfection and reality, towards abstraction and simplified representation 

What materials do you need for loose watercolour 

As the name suggests, you need watercolour. For painting flowers, for example, three/four colours are already sufficient. You can mix different shades of green from a yellow and green tone, and depending on the colour you want your flowers to have, other colours are useful. You will also need a suitable brush. It is best to have a relatively large brush and a fine tip so that you can paint both thin and thick lines with the same brush. This allows you to work very quickly, which is very advantageous when painting freer shapes.   

Our KUM French Aqua is the perfect brush for loose painting. The very thin synthetic brush hair have different diameters and therefore store an extremely large amount of water and paint. Due to its pointed shape and elasticity, the brush is also suitable for small details. The KUM Memory Point is an absolute all-rounder that is also wonderfully suitable for loose painting.  

Since watercolour is a watery medium and you work with a lot of water, it is important to use a thick watercolour paper of at least 300 g/qm. Otherwise your paper will curl and not absorb the paint. As the icing on the cake, you can use cold-pressed paper. This has an interesting structure and brings out the motifs very nicely.  

Loose Watercolour Florals 

There are many different and beautiful flowers in the world and many more in your imagination. There are many ways and techniques to paint loose. Be inspired by the tips, learn new techniques, but don’t be discouraged if the first results don’t turn out the way you want them to.   

©Lena Schmuck – @loosegemalt

©Lena Schmuck – @loosegemalt

How do you paint Loose Watercolor flowers 

To do this, we place circular petals around a centre. However, this should be left free at first. A nice effect is created when the petals are intentionally not completely painted and small white spaces are created. By painting the petals sometimes more, sometimes less and sometimes completely, an interesting and natural result is created. The colour of the individual petals can also be varied. Adding more water changes the intensity and transparency of the colour. But also the slight change of the colour itself can create an interesting variety. Of course, petals can be painted lighter or darker at random, but you can also consider where the light source is and play with the shadow that the petals create.  

The centre of the petals can either be left blank or supplemented with stamens. To do this, dab several yellow or brown dots in the centre. Really beautiful and interesting colour gradients are created when painting quickly and the colour of the petals is still wet.   

With this simple technique, a wide variety of flowers can be created. The size, shape, colour and number of petals can be varied at will. For example, many elongated petals with a yellow centre make you think of daisies. An arrangement of red petals in several rows, on the other hand, reminds of a rose. The beauty of loose painting is that it doesn’t matter if the flower in reality exists. The imagination can and should be given free rein.  

For more variation in the picture, flowers can be painted in different perspectives. Think about how the flower will look if you change the angle of the top view a little. The centre of the flower is a good guide to how the petals will be arranged.   

The leaves also belong to the flower. In a flower bouquet, flower stems are dispensed with and the leaves are placed directly next to the flower, as if you were looking at the flower from above. You can create beautiful leaves with just three strokes. First draw a fine line with the tip of the brush. Then start with a thin line at the end of the stem and press down harder and harder so that the line becomes wider and wider. At the end of the leaf, reduce the pressure again and let it taper off to a point. The shape should not be straight, but slightly curved and resemble a semicircle. The second semicircle is then drawn in the exact opposite direction. The strokes should only touch in a few places, leaving a line of white in the middle of the sheet. Even though a gap between the halves of the leaf is not realistic, it makes the drawing look more three-dimensional.  

Depending on how much paint you have picked up or how much the brush can pick up at all, you will have to pick up new paint between each step. If you vary and play with the amount of water, you can create interesting colour contrasts and gradients. As long as the paint is still wet, you can also add more colour to the sheet. To bring additional tension into the picture, you can also vary the width of the leaves.  

From time to time, we make our Instagram channel @kumgermany
available to artists to give you an insight into their art.

They show and explain live what they like to paint,
which materials they use and which techniques they apply.  

Hydrangeas with @laendle.liebelei  

Isabelle took us into the world of hydrangeas in her livestream. She painted the whole motif with only one brush, the slanted 12 Memory Point. But depending on whether you want the petals to be larger or smaller, you can also vary the size of the brush. Only two colours are needed: a blue or purple for the hydrangea petals and a green for the leaves. The different shades of colour are only achieved by adding water. The more water is mixed with the pigment, the more transparent the flowers become.   

©Isabelle Franchina – @laendle.liebelei  

©Isabelle Franchina – @laendle.liebelei  

How does it work?   

A hydrangea flower consists of four petals. To paint a petal, take the brush in your hand so that the tip of the brush points towards the body and the stick away from the body. Now move the brush to the left with a slight S movement. To avoid always having to realign your hand, it is easier to turn the watercolour paper for each new petal. For a little more depth, a little of the pigment is very carefully dabbed into the centre of the finished flower with the tip of the brush without using much water.  

Isabelle has painted the flowers in layers, overlapping more and more from layer to layer. To achieve this, the blossoms in the background are first painted with a lot of water and little pigment, then with each subsequent layer a little more pigment is added. When everything has dried well, a few accents can be added at the end with metallic paint or a gel pen.  

Before starting to paint on good watercolour paper, Isabelle gives the tip to practise the leaves on mixed media paper first. The practised flowers can then be used further, for example, they can be cut out and glued onto greeting cards.   

Loose Watercolour flowers with @loosegemalt 

Lena gives us an insight into the floral loose watercolour world with this tutorial. For this loose illustration it is very important that the watercolour paper is made of 100% cotton, as Lena works with the wet-on-wet technique. So she uses the brushes from her Loose Watercolour brush set, which she has put together for exactly such motifs with the KUM Memory Point and KUM French Aqua brushes.   

©Lena Schmuck – @loosegemalt

How does it work?  

At the beginning she gives an insight into the composition and shows on a sketch how she builds up her motif step by step. Besides the composition, Lena also shows which colours she uses and where she wants to use them in her motif. On the watercolour paper, she then begins to draw the outlines with a pencil. Before she really gets started, she also explains and shows how she paints the different loose leaves and what possibilities there are to achieve the colour gradients.   

Flower wreath with @die.handschreiberei

For gift cards, postcards or as a poster – the flower wreath that Melli painted in the livestream is suitable for so many things. The wreath can also be beautifully personalised with lettering. For the wreath, Melli presented various brushes that are well suited for painting floral motifs. In addition to the round brush, which is great for loose painting, she also likes to use the slanted brush for leaves and the cat’s tongue brush for petals. In the recorded livestream, she explains in more detail which technique she uses to paint the leaves.   

©Melli Stelzl – @die.handschreiberei

How does it work? 

To begin with, Melli draws the circle very finely with a pencil. Then she thinks in advance about where she wants to place the large blossoms on the wreath. She usually arranges the flowers in an imaginary triangle and also makes sure that she places an odd number of flowers on the wreath. She starts filling the wreath with the largest elements and gradually decreases the elements until the wreath is full. For the whole motif, Melli uses the Memory Point brush in a medium size to paint all the elements very loosely. For a less loose result, she recommends painting the leaves with a sword brush.   

To loosen up the wreath and make it look natural, the flowers can be painted from different perspectives and the petals can also overlap. After the flowers, the circles representing the berries are painted without thinking much about the arrangement. To show light reflections, small white spaces can also be deliberately left when painting.   

For a loose look of the leaves, Melli gives the tip to paint them faster rather than slower. For the technique, she only applies the round brush once, presses it on the paper and then pulls it away in one direction. For more variation, she uses different shades of green, which she also uses to paint over leaves that have already been painted lighter. Other leaf colours, such as the blue used here, also further loosen up the wreath.   

When the wreath is well filled, the details are added. The flower centres are painted with highly pigmented brown paint and the structure of the leaves is worked out and hinted at a little. For these fine and thin lines Melli used the liner in size 2. Finally, she painted some stems on the berries. These do not all have to be connected, because the details can also be painted loosely and quickly.