watercolor cactus tutorial

3 Watercolor Cactus or Succulent Tutorial (Step-by-Step )

A watercolor cactus is a fun subject to paint and their green nature in baron places usually provides some lively ‘pop’ on paper. 

Today, we will be looking at a tutorial done by Charu on how to paint a watercolor succulent (or cactus), so feel free to follow along with your own materials.


Watercolor supplies needed for this tutorial:

  • Rough grade paper
  • Watercolor paint (this watercolor set would do)
  • Watercolor brushes (we prefer round brush #2 or #8)
  • 2 jars of water (one for clean brushes, one for dirty)
  • Paper towels for blotting and highlighting

This tutorial was created by artists who have handpicked supplies just for you.
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Step 1: Paint the flower pot

With your sketchbook or paper laid flat, wet your brush (thin head) and activate a dark amber paint within your palette. Alternatively, any shade of orange or brown will do.

Once activated, your brush should be dried to no-more than a dampened state and start by painting a flower pot. Remember to leave white or lighten your brown for a highlighted effect. We like to add a darker shade of brown as a border around the pot like so:

Watercolor Cactus Tutorial Step 1: Paint the flower pot

Step 2: Paint the cactus

Once you’ve finished the pot, you can wait for it to dry or carefully start with the outer rounding border of your watercolor cactus. 

The watercolor succulent will be done with a shade of green to your choosing and we will later be able to manipulate the color with additional pigment and water. Don’t put too much thought into it now.

Watercolor Cactus or Succulent Green outline

With a wetter brush, begin to fill the inside of your watercolor cactus with the same tone of green. Like with the flower pot, our preference is to add a darker shade of green with a dry brush to the border of the plant as seen below. 

This will give the effect of light hitting the plant. If your light source is coming from the left, your shading will be focused on the right side of the plant. It will also add a bit of texture to your watercolor art.

fill thWatercolor Cactus Tutorial Step 3: fill the insidee inside

Step 3: Be creative with the cactus

Now, make it yours. You can begin to add variants of the plant that give it character using the same process we did for the base of the succulent. Remember, for every ‘branch’ of the cactus, proper shading will be necessary to add where light may be blocked. This will give the watercolor cactus some perspective.

Watercolor Cactus Tutorial Step 3: Be creative with the cactus

Step 4: Let it dry and try a new one

Let your cactus dry for about ten to twenty minutes.

While doing so, you can make other watercolor succulent designs just as we did the first one.

Watercolor Cactus Tutorial Step 4: Let it dry

Remember, all cactus are not the same. That’s part of the fun of painting this watercolor plant is the variation you are afforded in doing them. Mix it up and have fun with your shapes and sizes.


Step 5: Add some flare to the first cactus

OK – back to your first watercolor cactus. . .

Now, let’s add some flare in the form of vibrant watercolor flowers. For this, you will need to rinse your brush in one of the jars of water (whichever you used to wash the amber paint from the flower pot). 

Wet your brush and activate a new, bright color within your palette. This will be used for flowers to offset the color composition of your piece. 

After activating, dry your brush if it isn’t already to a dampened state. You will understand better what this means once you get started or have some experience in watercolor painting.

Carefully add a variety of flowers to your watercolor paintings. They can be as intricate or less-detailed as you’d like.

Watercolor Cactus Tutorial Step 5: Add some flare

There you have it; a few variations of watercolor cactus and succulents. If you’d like to try one more variation, follow along with our final step.


Step 6: Add a third cactus and texture

Start with the same process for your flower pot and cactus base, but this time, use a lighter shade of green for the cactus. You’ll see why.

Watercolor Cactus Tutorial Step 6: Add a third cactus

Next, you’re going to add darker green thin lines that cascade down your plant. This will give it shape. Feel free to do this with the previous two plants as well, however, on your third plant, it should stand out more.

Watercolor Cactus Tutorial Step 6: Add texture 1

You’re almost done. Lightly dot the greener lines to give the final cactus its thorny texture and add a flower as icing on the cake.

Watercolor Cactus Tutorial Step 6: Add flower and prickly

And voila! Make sure to add any final touches to your shading on either three pieces and you’re finished!

Watercolor Cactus or Succulent final

Watercolor Cactus Tutorial and Other Watercolor Tutorials

Ready for another challenge? Take a look at our 12 favorite watercolor flowers tutorial for more depth to your watercolor landscapes!

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

This tutorial was created by artists who have handpicked supplies just for you.
Click below to shop with a 30% discount.

About the Author: Watercolor Classes

Hello, and welcome to our site. We've been passionate about watercolor for years and have learned a lot along the way. We hope our tutorials and tips will help you out on your watercolor journey. Let's make art together!

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