Tutorial: Rainbow Starburst in Watercolor/Gouache

“It's this simple:
If I never try anything,
I never learn anything.
If I never take a risk,
I stay where I am.”
Hugh Prather


A sunburst video tutorial for you! I'll show you how to draw the starburst mandala, paint the drawing with gouache {watercolor will also work perfectly for this format} and draw doodle patterns in each section. We'll do some hand-lettering too!

The sunburst format allows spaces to fill with colors, patterns and words. Elements we all adore in our art journals. I like the flexibility and the ability to use words as actual words or written in a scribbly manner. This allows us to get something off of our mind or analyze a decision yet let it look mostly like texture. Legible, but not easy to read. 


I painted this page with gouache in an A4 watercolor moleskine journal. I like the flow of drawing and painting at the same time rather than painting and then later drawing or writing. Did you catch the missing letter in the word ANOT[H]ER? It's cool; this page is not going to the Smithsonian. It's not the first time I've forgotten a letter, an entire word, hand-lettered an incorrect quotation, wrote the wrong lyrics...  it's all about the DOING not the end result. The end result is a happy bonus.

You are welcome to create your own version following the tutorial. The idea is not to duplicate my work, but to search your mind for words, patterns and doodles and fill your own STARBURST. 


  • Black permanent marker or black india ink
  • Watercolor paper
  • Watercolor or gouache paint {my page is in gouache}
  • Watercolor brush, size 6 or 8 pointed round or round
  • Water jar with water, paper towel to catch drips


  1. Draw the outline of the starburst with a permanent black marker. In this tutorial video, I am using a black "Classic" Sakura Gelly Roll. This is a gel pen with a metal nib, one of my favs for lettering; you can paint on top of the ink with watercolor or gouache too. 
    • Draw a free-form circle in the center of a rectangular piece of watercolor paper. Just keep drawing round & round until it looks somewhat circular. Art journaling is NOT about perfection.
    • Draw free-form lines radiating from the outer edge of the circle. We are not trying to draw perfectly straight lines. Just lines!
  2. Doodle like crazy!
    • Draw a different pattern in each section of the starburst. Look around the room you are in and find some sort of patterns. Consider chevrons, stripes, waves, etc. Vary your designs so that some are curvy and others are geometric. Variety is the spice of life, right?
    • In some sections, write words in block letters. Leave some sections blank. For words, you can use a quote or phrase that inspires you! 
    • You can add more words, write in tiny or big cursive letters or divide some of the sections into smaller sections in an impromptu fashion. A great lettering technique for the rays of this starburst? Slow journaling. Find a tutorial here.
  3. Prep your paints.
    • If you are using pan watercolors, spritz your watercolor kit with water using a little spray bottle. Or put a drop of water in each of your pans. This prepares your paints for painting!
    • If you are using tubed watercolor or gouache paints, you can work straight from the tube {using very little paint and playing with the paint-to-water ratio to get the color intensity you seek. Or you can squeeze a bit of paint into each section of a plastic palette and let them dry overnight so that you can use them as you would pan paints. When dry, you would spritz with water to moisten before painting. More about organizing tubed paints in this post.
  4. Dip your brush in the jar of water and then into one of the paint pans and grab some color. 
  5. Paint each section one by one. When you switch colors, dip your brush in the jar of water and swoosh it around to remove the paint. 
  6. Add details with the brush {stripes... dots... swirls...} 
  7. Add details and additional words with a black permanent marker. 

Love this idea? Learn more abstract painting techniques in my Tiny Museum workshop!!!

Daisy Yellow Tiny Museum Workshop

Painting peaceful, playful abstract designs & patterns working in watercolor or gouache.
➸ 19 videos; 3.5 hours of video tutorials.
➸ Includes 29 page Watercolor Expansion Pack ebook!
➸ Private workshop website.
Workshop access thru 12/31/19.

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