Top 3 Art Products for Plant Illustration

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Detailed plant illustration may be complex to look at, but actually requires a super minimal palette AND only a handful of art tools and equipment.

Wanna know what you need to get started? Let’s jump right in!


#1 Pencils

The first step to plant illustration is outlining our plants shape and size. Graphite is great for this step as it is easy to erase and comes in many forms to choose from.

The first and most accessible option is your standard HB pencil. Don’t get hung up on which brand, any will do!

A second option is a mechanical pencil - similar to pacers you might’ve used at school - because the lead never blunts (no more sharpening!) and you get a consistently clean and sharp line. The Staedtler 2B 0.5mm Mechanical Pencil is my preferred product.

Either type of pencil is fine for this kind of work, remember this is just for loosely sketching the plants shape and we will likely not see the pencil marks underneath the paint!


 
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#2 Paints

Whilst pencil brand is not so important, I believe choosing the right product for your paint application is a high priority. Every product differs hugely in terms of colour fastness, consistency, opacity and colour range.

 
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Watercolour

Winsor and Newton have a fantastic range of watercolour paints that not only look delicious on the page, but are great value too! I am still using my very first mini-kit that I purchase years ago because it literally lasts forever and the colour range is all you need for painting plants (it also comes with a super cute travel brush). I find that the Sap Green & Emerald Green are all you need!

Gouache

For the plant potters in this illustration, I have opted to using gouache for it’s matt and consistent application.

For those who are unfamiliar with gouache, it is basically a more opaque version of watercolour - this is due to gouache containing more white pigment which works as a base, in addition to coloured pigment. Watercolour does not contain white pigment, which is why it is transparent.

The best gouache I’ve come across is by a Japanese brand called Holbein. The colours are vibrant, the texture is fluid and the paint dries matt and consistent. Note that these paints do contain acrylic, so make sure to squeeze out only enough for what you need because they are not able to be reactivated after they are dry.

In my illustration I’ve used Crimson, Lilac and Light Magenta to paint the pots!


#3 Paper

Paper is crazy important for watercolour work as you need a surface that will hold water and keep it’s structure too. Aim for weight (thickness) of 185gsm and above - 300gsm is ideal but the price does tend to creep up the thicker you go. Hot Press (smooth) is ideal for detail work and if you don’t want the paper’s texture to come through. Cold Press (rough) is great if you like a natural texture, it’s also cheaper than hot press.

The paper I’ve used for this artwork is the Canson Montval Aquarelle Pad Maxi Pack. Finding paper that is good quality, good value and contains enough sheets to warrant purchasing less often is such a battle - when you find a great product like this, it’s good to share it with people!

This is my all-time favourite for watercolour work for a few reason:

  • It’s a decent thickness of 200gsm

  • The paper is cold press but it isn’t super rough that my details get lost

  • The pad contains 100 sheets

  • It cost around $50AUD which is pretty damn good considering all of the above!

  • NB: that the 240mm x 320mm (a bit bigger than A4) is SOOO much better in value than the A3 (which only comes in 300gsm in a 12 sheet pack).


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