Paint These Marvelous Mixed-Media Poppies

Have you ever tried painting with tissue paper? In this step-by-step tutorial from our spring 2016 issue of Zen Doodle Workshop, artist Angela LeClair shows you how to paint mixed-media poppies using this fun and easy technique.

Paint with tissue to make mixed-media poppies! (Art by Angela LeClair, photographed by Sharon White Photograpy)

Mixed-Media Poppies by Angela LeClair

I have always loved painting and photographing flowers, especially poppies. I recently discovered “painting” with tissue paper and love the mosaic texture it adds to my work. I am entranced by the artwork found in Eric Carle books, like The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and find it inspiring. Tissue painting is a simple and fun way to create watercolor backgrounds. Tissue comes in a variety of colors and is relatively inexpensive. In my artwork I adhere the tissue pieces to my art surface using water and Mod Podge. I use paint, markers, and artists’ pens to define the images, using doodles and outlining.

These poppies in shades of pink are called heirloom Shirley poppies. They have a light tissue-like appearance. I love the fuzzy stems and pods.


  • Paper (I use plain copy paper or sketch pad paper.)
  • Pencil
  • Watercolor paper (I used a 9″ x 12″ piece of 140-lb. cold-press watercolor paper.)
  • Transfer paper (I used Saral® Transfer Paper.)
  • Tissue paper, a variety of colors (I like recycling tissue from gifts and parties when I can.)
  • Water
  • Mod Podge®, matte
  • Paintbrush(es)
  • Dual-tip markers, brush and fine tip (I used Tsukineko® Memento™ dual-tip marker sets: Camp Fire (oranges and yellows), Girls’ Night Out, (pinks and grays), and Greenhouse (springy greens).)
  • Watercolor paints, a variety of colors
  • Artist pens (I used Faber-Castell PITT® artist pens in black in Superfine, Fine, Medium, and Brush tips.)

1. Make a rough sketch of your layout on plain copy paper or a sketch pad. When you’re happy with the composition, transfer the drawing to cold-press watercolor paper with transfer paper. (Figure 1) Alternatively, draw directly on your watercolor paper.


2. Choose some tissue colors for the background. Tear the tissue in all shapes and sizes. I chose blue, green, and yellow tissues. Using various shapes and sizes gives you a textured mosaic look.

3. Start to create the background. Paint a light wash of water on the watercolor paper, brush a light coating of Mod Podge onto the tissue, and place the tissue onto the wet surface to adhere it. Working with colored tissue is very similar to using paint. Apply light colors first, and work toward darker tones for best results. Overlap the different colored tissues to create other colors and a more random look. Continue adding more tissue until you achieve your desired effect. (Figure 2) Let dry.


NOTE: You only need a small amount of water and Mod Podge to adhere the tissue because the tissue is very thin and absorbs them quickly.

4. Paint in the flower colors. Slightly wet the petals with clean water; this helps the paint flow. Load your brush with paint and, beginning at the inner part of the petal near the center, fill the entire area with color, working your way to the outer part of the petal. Do this for each petal. I chose pinks and peachy colors for my poppies, and spring green for the stems. Dab any really wet areas with a paper towel so the paint doesn’t puddle. Don’t worry if the paper warps a bit; it’s expected. I like the overlapping folds and creases the warping adds. (Figure 3) Allow to dry.


Add Details

1. Outline the components of your painting with a medium tip pen or paintbrush. I outlined the flowers, stems, and leaves with a darker pink and darker green. (Figure 4)


TIP: Make a copy of your original line art, so that you can try out doodle patterns before you add them to the finished painting.

2. Add doodles to the flowers and stems. I doodle in a slightly darker color than the main color on my subject, using markers or paint and a fine brush. Here I used a darker pink, doodling little circles and zigzags. I prefer random patterns and tend to mix them up. (Figure 5)


NOTE: You can add doodles to the flowers with a black pen. I love the contrast that a black pen creates, but it can darken the overall look of the work.

3. Add stippling (numerous fine dots or specks) throughout the painting with a white fine-tip pen to add pattern and texture. (See opening image.) I love things that are whimsical, and think the little dots give the painting a soft feeling.

4. Using a fine black artist pen, add more detail in areas you want to stand out. I outlined the stems and added lines in the flower centers. (See opening image.)

5. Optional: Paint matte medium over your painting to protect it.

Painting with tissue and adding doodles is an enjoyable process. Experiment and have fun with it.

Angela LeClair is an illustrator and graphic designer, freelancing from her home studio in Colorado. She enjoys creating whimsical illustrations for children’s books, and hopes to publish one of her own in the near future. Visit her website at

Check out our Painting Techniques that Make You Trust Your Gut blog post for more painting tips!

This issue of Zen Doodle Workshop explores taking doodling to wood, rocks and more. Learn how Jodi Ohl utilizes ink sprays and get advice of doodling creativity from Julie-Fan Balzer. All this and much more inside!
In this video workshop, Sandrine Pelissier will teach you how to paint a loose, abstract background that will pave the way for your imagination to take over and paint flowers not found in nature.
Create captivating art infused with your own unique style in this video workshop with Carrie Schmitt and Amy Jones. You’ll learn how to paint floral paintings while interpreting inspirational images and honing your observational skills.



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