Reading Time: 6 minutes

Following in the footsteps of the father of Impressionism Claude Monet, learn the techniques in painting a beautiful water lilies artwork. In this easy to follow project you will learn how to paint like Monet, learning the steps in mixing colours, layering the artwork and capturing the illusion of water by the use of brushstrokes and shapes using Atelier A2 Lightfast Heavy Body Acrylic.


  • Atelier A2 Lightfast Heavy Body Acrylic Paint
    • Titanium White
    • Ultramarine Blue
    • Pthalo Green
    • Alizarine Crimson
    • Burnt Sienna
    • Cadmium Yellow Light
  • Canvas 40cm x 50cm (any size will do)
  • Paint Brushes
    • Large Flat
    • Medium Round
    • Small Round
  • Palette/Paper plate
  • Jar of water
  • Rag/Paper towel

Step One

We will be using an “alla prima” approach, which means that we will be starting and finishing this painting in one session.  Many of the Impressionists used this approach, especially when working “en plein air” or outdoors.

Mix together equal parts: Ultramarine Blue + Alizarine Crimson + Titanium White = Light Purple.

Using the large flat brush cover the entire canvas with this colour and let dry.

This technique of starting with a coloured surface is a fantastic way to control your use of values (light/dark), and to set the colour tone for an artwork. Mauve was a new pigment at the time of the impressionists and Monet loved starting his paintings with a purple base as it complemented the yellow greens of his lilies and various garden plants perfectly.

Painting mauve background A2
Step 1 – Painting a coloured ground

Step Two

Next up we need to begin to build up the pattern/ texture of the reflections in the water. It’s best to use a reference photo of a lily pond for this. Look at the sections of light and dark between the lily pads and imagine what shapes of light and dark would be present if you removed all the ripples and lily pads from the water. The Impressionists were obsessed with the fleeting effects of light in the natural environment. Because of this, they focused on colour and light in loose marks rather than crisp edges of shapes and lines. When painting this piece, experiment with holding your paintbrush loosely in your hands, far back on the handle. Use thick applications of paint and ignore any tendency towards crisp outlines and defined shapes and edges.

Mix together the Ultramarine Blue and Titanium White to create a very light blue colour. With short, dashed marks begin to fill in the spaces of the canvas where the light sky is reflected in the water. It’s best to exaggerate the size of this area. Paint it as if nothing else exists in your painting apart from the light areas of the water. One you have painted in the light blue areas, mix a darker blue colour with more Ultramarine and less white. With this colour overlap and intertwine with the edges of the light blue areas and cover the remaining areas of the canvas in the same dashed, repetitive, vertical pattern as you did with the light blue.

Painting background colour A2
Step 2 – Painting the water

Step Three

Looking at the surface of the water, concentrate on the reflected greenery of the above trees, bushes and grass. Look at the shape and the position of these areas. The next thing to do is to mix up a variety of greens, blues, browns and paint them on in the same dashed, vertical, repetitive, interweaving pattern which was used for the blues in the water. All colours used need to be a little bit muted/dull and cool, so avoid using pure, unmixed colours.

Here are the colour recipes you will need:

  • Dark Muted Blue = Ultramarine Blue 60% + Burnt Sienna 30% + Titanium white 10%
  • Dark Muted Green = Pthalo Green 60% + Burnt Sienna 30% + Titanium White 10%
  • Mid Tone Green = Pthalo Green 50% + Burnt Sienna 20% + Titanium White 30%
  • Light Muted Green = Pthalo Green 40% + Burnt Sienna 10% + Cadmium Yellow Light 10% + Titanium White 30%

These four colours are a great base, but feel free to create as many variations of these as you would like, ensuring that they remain muted/dull and cool.

Painting green colour
Step 3 – Painting green reflections in the water

Step Four

Now it’s time to build up the shape and positioning of the lily pads. The most important consideration here is that the shape of the pads change as they become further away from you. The shapes closest to you, on the bottom of the canvas, are quite rounded ovals. As they recede, the shapes become more flat and horizontal, even dash-like.

Using a medium sized round brush and Pthalo Green start to draw on the lily pads. Start with the pads that are closest to you, towards the bottom of the canvas. Draw them in little clusters of overlapping shapes. Continue to draw on the remainder of the pads ensuring that as they recede, the shapes flatten out, so the shapes at the top of your canvas are horizontal dashes.

Painting the lily pads
Step 4 – Painting the lily pads

Step Five

The painting is really starting to take shape now! With the basic shapes outlined, it’s time to layer on the light colours of the lily pads and place in some soft ripples in the water.

Let’s start by creating a nice, soft rippled effect. To do this you will need to mix a very light blue colour, think of more like a tinted white – 95% Titanium White mixed with 5% Ultramarine Blue. With this colour, draw on dashed overlapping horizontal lines. Focus around the light areas of your water; less is more with these and you do only need a handful of these lines.

Next, build the colours of the lily pads, working from dark to light and keeping in mind the changing of shapes due to distance paint on a variety of greens. The lily pads that are over the light sections of the water will have lighter colours and the ones in the shaded parts will be darker.

Here is the list of colours mixes that were used:

  • Brownish Green = Pthalo Green 50% + Burnt Sienna 20% + Cadmium Yellow Light 20% + Titanium White 10%
  • Bright Green = Pthalo Green 60 % + Cadmium Yellow Light 20% + Titanium White 20%
  • Light Green = Pthalo Green 30% + Cadmium Yellow Light 10% + Titanium White 60%
  • Light Yellow Green = Pthalo Green 10% + Cadmium Yellow Light 20 % + Titanium White 70%
Step 5 – Refining the lilies

Step Six

The last little finishing touch is to paint in some beautiful little lilies blooming atop the pads. Lilies come in a variety of colours depending on the variety of the plant, some can be bright pink, purple, yellow, white or orange. We chose some nice pinky-purple ones to paint in with a little touch of yellow in the center. 

Using the round small brush and a thick application of paint draw in the impression of the lily flower, overlapping light colours over dark.

Here are the colours we used:

  • Dark Purple = Alizarine Crimson 50% + Ultramarine Blue 40% + Titanium White 10%
  • Light Pink = Alizarine Crimson 30% + Titanium White 70%
  • Light yellow = Cadmium Yellow Light 40 % + Titanium White 60%
Step 6 – Close up of lilies

Atelier Artists’ Acrylics Tutorials

Welcome to Chroma Online!

Please select the country you want to visit.