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Step-by-Step Process: Digital Watercolour Rose in Procreate

Check out how I made this beautiful digitally painted watercolour rose using the Master Watercolour brush pack from Trailhead Design Co. for Procreate on the iPad.

These digital watercolour brushes are the best watercolour brush set that I've tried (and I've tried many!). At first glance, I found this set a little intimidating, with 148 brushes to choose from! But after watching some of Design Cuts paint-along tutorials with Nathan from Trailhead Design Co. I got to know the brushes a bit better and then figured out the best way to create some super realistic, botanical pieces. In total I've used

So for this step-by-step guide I'll walk you through the brushes I've used for each part of this watercolour floral painting.

What do you need:

  • iPad Pro: I have the iPad Pro 12.9 inch but any size will work fine.

  • Apple Pencil (2nd Generation) Any drawing stylus that's compatible with the iPad will work but I would highly recommend the Apple pencil as it's precision and quality is the best.

  • Procreate App: You do not need the latest version of Procreate to create this watercolour rose but I would suggest updating the app so you can avail of all the latest features! This includes saving opacity and brush sizes, as well as keeping track of the latest brushes you've used.

  • Pinterest (free) or VizRef ipad ($3.99) iPad app: Both of these apps are not entirely necessary but they are super handy to use for reference while sketching and painting. For this tutorial I've created a moodboard in VizRef which I keep visible throughout by using the iPad Pro's split view feature.

Step 1: Set up Canvas

If you really want to add some realism to your digital watercolour piece, then I would suggest either setting up a watercolour canvas yourself or using a pre-made canvas. For this tutorial I've used the 'hot press standard' canvas taken from the Ultimate Canvas Creator by Trailhead Design Co. This pack includes 40 different canvas types as well as gold foil and layer masks! I would highly recommend downloading this pack as you have lots of canvases to choose from. Includes dry, wet and paint media plus lots of pre-made layer masks.

Step 2: Start Drawing!

Once you have your reference photograph on one side of the screen and your canvas on the other then you are ready to start drawing!

Procreate TIP: If you don't want to make use of the split screen option, Procreate v5 have a new 'Reference' option so you can upload a floating reference image to sit on top of your canvas. You can colour pick from this image and move it around your Procreate canvas freely so it doesn't interfere with your drawing space.

Step 3: Paint your Base Layer

  • Create a new layer on top of your sketch layer. Reduce the opacity of your sketch layer so you can see how the paint looks on its own without the pencil lines.

  • Brush: TH Smooth Watery Round

This brush can be found in the Textured Round Brushes group. It works really well for adding a watercolour base. If you push down it adds more paint and gives a nice heavy, textured look. If you lift the brush and paint lightly, then it gives a more opaque/watery look. I like to lift my Apple pencil a few times while painting the base so I get some layered strokes, which gives a much more realistic look.

Painting TIP: If you go a little overboard with your watercolour strokes and want to reduce these down then don't worry! You can always grab the smudge tool (pointing finger next to the brush icon at the top of the screen) and use any of the brushes in the Water Brushes - Smudge Tool group to smudge in some of the strokes so they blend together.

Step 4: Create white shape layer

Now that you have your base layer ready, now is the time to create your white shape layer. As the base paint layer is so light, the clipping mask option doesn't always work so this shape will be used for selection only. This will make more sense at a later stage.

  • Duplicate base layer

  • Go to adjustments > brightness

  • Reduce to 100% white

  • Duplicate this white shape layer 5 times then merge all 5 layers together.

  • Once you've merged the layers, duplicate this layer again 3 times and merge once again. This will allow for the white layer to become less transparent and therefore less gaps when selected.

  • Move the white layer to sit below all the other layers

Step 5: Darker Base Layer

  • Create a new layer, above the base later and set this to Multiply.

  • Keep the 'TH Smooth Watery Round' brush but darken your colour slightly and start painting some of the darker shaded areas of the petals.

  • Use the smudge tool to even out these brush strokes so they blended nicely with the base layer.

Step 6: Darken edges

  • Create a new layer on top of the dark base layer. Set the blending mode to 'Darken'

  • Keep your swatch colour the same as in the previous step. If you feel like you need to darken this again then go ahead. Whatever you feel works best for your painting.

  • Brush: TH Wet Edge Detail.

This brush can be found in the Detail Brushes group.

  • Start in the darkest areas of your petals, follow along the edge first and then lift your pencil slightly to allow for the paint to become opaque and blend into the base colour.

  • Create some subtle crease lines by starting in the centre and moving outwards with the curve of the petal. Then grab your smudge tool and smudge some of the lighter parts so the line doesn't look too defined.

PAINTING TIP: When painting the darkened details of your rose, remember you can adjust the opacity of your paint brush (you can do the same thing with your smudge brush) to avoid going overboard in detail. I know from experience that it's so easy to do this! So after painting a few areas, zoom out of your painting to just have a quick look over to make sure it looks ok. If not, then just smudge out some of the lines and reduce the brush opacity.

Step 7: Add Dark Textured Edges

  • Select your white base layer and then tap the layer once again so the layer options appear.

  • Go to 'Select' and you will see the area of your white base layer is selected and ready for painting.

  • Create a new layer above the rest and set to Multiply

  • Swatch should be set to the original base layer colour

  • Brush: TH Wet Edge Round

This brush can be found in the Textured Round Brushes group.

  • Make sure your white base layer is still selected and you are on your new layer which is set to Multiply. Start lightly painting the edges of the flower petal. You will see that the brush will only paint the areas within the white base layer selection.

Have fun with this part and play with the textures. There are lots of nice textured brushes in the pack but the 'TH Wet Edge Round' is my favourite so far!

Step 8: Add Definition

  • Turn off selection.

  • Create new layer above the rest. Set blending mode to Multiply

  • Darken colour slightly depending on your preference. The colour I used was a dark red.

  • Brush: TH Watercolour Fine Liner (Brush opacity 60% and brush size 20%)

This brush can be found in the Textured Round Brushes group.

  • Start lightly painting the edges allowing the pressure of brush to vary the thickness of the lines. I pushed the brush down to get a nice thick line in the darker areas.

  • Use the smudge tool to spread out some of the edges of these lines but be super minimal with this tool as you don't want the detailed lines to disappear!

Step 9: Add splashes

  • Select the white base layer once again

  • Create a new layer above the rest and set blending mode to Multiply

  • Brush: TH Water and Salt (Brush opacity 60% and Brush size 80%)

This brush can be found in the Special Effects group.

  • Start lightly tapping your pencil over the rose. You can use the Transform tool (arrow icon in the top left corner next to the ribbon) to move or reduce the size of the paint effect within the selected area.

  • Turn off the white base layer selection and then lightly tap a couple of splashes on the outside of the petals to add a nice effect. Make sure not to go too wild with the additional splashes. You can add more later on if you feel like you need to!

Step 10: Watercolour Background

Don't feel like you have to follow me for this part in the process. There are so many amazing brushes to choose from in this Master Watercolour Brush pack that I would suggest playing around with them and seeing what you like the best. For my process these are the steps I took:

  • Create a new layer above the rest and set the blend mode to Multiply

  • Grab a contrasting colour. I chose a dark blue.

  • Brush: TH Intense Wash

This brush can be found in the Stains and Washes group.

  • Start adding some colour around your rose. Push your pencil down to get a more intense colour and lift the pencil to get a lighter colour. Use the smudge tool to tidy up any areas you think are too intense.

  • Switch the colour to the same dark red used in your rose and paint around a few of the rose edges. Use the smudge tool to blend the red paint into the rose. This will add a watercolour run effect, as if the background paint and the paint in the rose are both wet and therefore blending in with each other.

  • Create another new layer and set blend mode to Colour Burn

  • Switch your colour back to the dark blue and keep the brush the same here.

  • Start adding some interesting effects to the outer edges of the painting. The Colour Burn blend mode will intensify the blue so it looks saturated. Be very minimal with this part as you don't want to the effect to take over the painting.

  • Grab the red colour and do the same thing to some of the outside petals.

And there you have it! A beautiful dramatic watercolour rose, painted digitally using the Master watercolour brush pack by Trailhead Design Co.

The Procreate colour palette used for this tutorial is free and available to download! All you have to do is sign up to my newsletter to grab the palette along with more freebies and a few Lara Elsie Design updates :)


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