How to paint a watercolour cactus

Get growing with Esther Curtis' cool cactus watercolour painting project

Watercolour cactus project created by Esther Curtis

With their quirky shapes and vivid greens, cacti are an excellent plant to paint in watercolour – a medium that allows you to build up colour and really bring things to life, layer by layer.

This project also makes way for plenty of creative freedom with a pot that positively zings!


You Will Need

  • Pencil
  • Green pencil crayon
  • Watercolour paper
  • Watercolour paints
  • Uni Posca paint pen, Optional
  • Brushes, Various sizes
  • Kitchen towel

Step 1

How to paint a watercolour cactus step 1
Using a pencil, sketch out the rough shape of your cactus on the watercolour paper, then outline lightly with green pencil crayon.

Step 2

How to paint a watercolour cactus step 2

Using a large brush and starting with one section of the cactus, wet the paper inside the shape. (Make sure you have some kitchen towel at the ready to mop up any excess water!)

Step 3

How to paint a watercolour cactus step 3

Mix a light green and load your brush, then allow it to flood into the wet area. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until your cactus is completely green.

Step 4

How to paint a watercolour cactus step 4

Mix a deeper green, and with a wet brush add it to the relevant areas, allowing the colour to bloom and bleed as it wants.

Step 5

How to paint a watercolour cactus step 5

Using the technique in the previous steps, paint in your pot.

Step 6

How to paint a watercolour cactus step 6

Once the cactus is dry, use a thicker mix of watercolour (or a Posca pen) to add yellow dots to your cactus. Once these are done, add a little green to the mix to paint dots around the outside of your cactus for a bobbly look.

Step 7


Mix a strong black and, with a fine brush, paint triangles on the pot. Add a few corners to the edges of the pot to give the sense of a continuous pattern.

Step 8


Add in the flowers with paler pink paint first, then paint in rough petal shapes with a darker pink or red over the top.

Step 9


Use a watered down wash of pale grey to add a shadow. Add a thin line of darker grey directly beneath one side of the pot’s base, for a more intense shadow.


Learn to paint & draw

This project comes from Learn to Paint & Draw: Create Art for your Home, which is out now priced £12.99. Order your copy here.