Painting Flowers - How to Paint Blooming Roses

Roses in various stages of blooming can make a beautiful watercolor painting. For this lesson, let's use yellow roses in a clear vase. If painting a dozen roses, only a few need to be in full detail. Others can be seen in the background, giving your painting depth and interest. Some will be facing forward, others to the side and back. Different heights and angles keep the viewer interested.

Start by making a pencil value sketch of your composition. Indicate where your lightest lights and darkest darks will be placed. Decide where your focal point will be. (try placing it off-center.) Show the rose petals curling and turning on the edges. Some may be more open than others. Carefully draw the center petals. Once your sketch is complete, you are ready to pencil it on to your watercolor paper.

For the roses in the foreground aureolin yellow and cadmium yellow will be your major colors, but each flower may have two or three different hues. For instance, the yellow of your rose may be complimented with soft violet in some of the folds and shadows of the flower. Painting flowers allows for much creativity, since no two will be exactly alike. Use a light wash of aureolin for your lightest lights. Mix together aureolin yellow and rose madder genuine for another soft, transparent color. Use this where your values are a little darker than where you used aureolin only. Add cadmium yellow for your deeper yellows. If some of your flowers are casting shadows on others, indicate this with a light wash of violet, made from combining rose madder genuine with cobalt blue.

Use a variety of colors for your stems and leaves. I prefer to mix my own greens, but there are some good greens available from the art supply stores. Viridian green is a nice transparent cool green. This can be mixed with aurelin yellow for a lighter green. Experiment with mixing greens. Your painting will be much more interesting if you don't use just one shade of green. Have your stems curve slightly and remember to indicate your light source throughout your painting.

Use some of your colors from your roses as a soft wash for your vase. Show one or two highlights on your vase where the light lands. Don't overdo. This is a case where less is more. Remember to paint the shadow cast by the vase. Use some of the colors from your painting for this also and you should have a lovely painting of yellow roses.

Sue Doucette, Author/Artist

I have been painting with watercolor for many years, and am happy to share with you what I have learned. For more helpful painting tips, please visit

To see more examples of watercolors, visit

I welcome commissions and can work from your photograph.

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