How to Paint a Layered Shamrock Wreath with Watercolor
Would you like to paint a layered spring wreath, but don’t know where to begin? It can be hard to know what to paint first when starting a watercolor wreath! Today we are going to paint a fun shamrock/clover wreath for March. I will walk you through each step as we “anchor” the wreath with shamrocks and add layers in varied, loose greens. You will be able to use this approach when painting any type of wreath!
Hi everyone!! It’s Cris here from the Design Team and I’m kind of obsessed with watercolor wreaths. I love painting loose floral wreaths and I’ve developed a sort of system for approaching them. You’ll see what I mean as we paint this March/spring themed greenery wreath together!!
- Watercolor paper (140 lbs cold pressed works best)
- The Pigeon Letters round watercolor paint brushes (sizes 10, 6 and 2)
- Watercolor paints (any paints you like! I used Winsor & Newton sap green, green gold and indigo and Daniel Smith undersea green)
- White gouache and/or white pen
- Clean water and paper towel for blotting
- Bowl for tracing (optional)
Want to watch the video tutorial?
Step 1: Practice Your Shamrock/Clover
I thought we could start by practicing a clover or shamrock shape. I make mine with teardrop shaped leaves that touch at their tops. You’ll see in the photo I start with two leaves opposite each other and then add the other two. Then I fill them in and, before they are completely dry, I add a little squiggle line of white gouache with my size 2 brush. This fun detail really makes it all work! I used straight sap green here and white gouache, but a white pen could also work for this detail. Just make sure your leaf is dry if using a pen.
Step 2: Paint Your “Anchor” Shamrocks
Now let’s start our wreath! I like to anchor two “corners” of my wreath with the most prominent detail. Let’s paint three sap green shamrocks in the upper right and in the lower left of our circle. I used a size 6 brush for this part. You’ll see I positioned mine so that some leaves are overlapping others. The key here is to let the first leaf dry before you paint the leaf that’s “under” the other one. Make the “underneath” leaf darker than the one on top as if there is a shadow on the lower leaf.
Important Tip: If you have trouble keeping your wreaths circular, lightly trace a bowl or glass to give yourself a “go by” line to follow. Just remember if you paint over your pencil line, you won’t be able to erase it later. If you use dark enough paint, you won’t see it anyway.
Step 3: Add First Layers of Leaves
Now it’s time to start adding in leaves in varying shades and shapes! Get some green gold on your brush (size 6 or 10 will work!) and let’s add a branch of two-stroke leaves on either side of our shamrocks (see 1 in photo above). I did my leaves all toward the inside of the wreath. Then get some nice dark undersea green and let’s make some elongated, one-stoke leaves as shown in 2 in the photo above. You can see we are getting a nice round shape going! To keep things varied, let’s add in some small leaves turning toward the center in a mix of sap green and green gold (see 3 in photo above). I used a size 2 brush here and made tiny leaves with two stokes, leaving a little white space in the center. Finally, let’s keep rounding out our wreath by adding some additional two stroke leaves on the outside of our original leaves (see 4 in photo above) and around our shamrocks (see 5 in photo above). You can use the layering technique here to put some leaves under the shamrocks.
Important Tip: It really doesn’t matter what greens you are using and/or mixing. The key is just to have some variation between your leaves to add contrast and keep it from being kind of boring!
Step 4: Continue Adding Leaf Layers and Ink Details
Let’s continue to add interest and layers by making some “sprigs” in dark green (see 1 in photo above). I used a size 6 brush here and just planted my brush and flicked it out to create this detail. You’ll see I added some turning to the inside of the wreath and some at the ends of our other leaf branches. Next let’s add a few more small sap green leaves along the outside (see 2 in photo above). I really think we should fill in a few more clover or shamrocks in slightly darker tones (a mix of sap and undersea green) that tuck behind our original groups of three (see 3 in photo above). This will draw the eye and help those original ones stand out!
Need some more nature watercolor inspo?
Important Tip: It’s helpful to take a step back from time to time and see how your wreath is shaping up! You can get some perspective on where there is too much white space or maybe where the shape is getting out of whack. And remember you can stop adding layers at any point!! It’s your wreath and your call!
Let’s round out our wreath by tucking large, pale leaves anywhere we need to help fill in some space or improve our wreath shape (see 4 in photo above). I used very little pigment (a mix of sap green and indigo for some and sap and gold green for others) and painted right over the existing leaves. I used just a light touch so as not to smear the layer below and it gives the impression that the leaf is behind the others.
Finally, let’s add some fun veining detail with white ink! I just added some leaf veins to the darker leaves in my wreath (see 5 in photo above). I think the ink detail really completes this wreath! You can keep adding leaf layers, little details or ink as you see fit! Just remember it’s okay if your wreath isn’t perfectly round or perfectly symmetrical! In fact, I think it’s more fun if it’s a little wonky!
I sure hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I would love to see your wreaths! Share them on instagram and tag @thepigeonletters and @sweetseasonsart! You can also access my skillshare classes and youtube channel from my website-sweetseasonsart.squarespace.com. Happy painting!
See all of Cris’ tutorials on the blog!
Cris is a self-taught artist living in Richmond, Virginia. She works in watercolor (her first love), gouache and digital design. She gravitates to botanicals, but loves painting along with the seasons and trying new subject matter like food, buildings and birds!