Watercolor Rose Tutorial For Beginners – I know what a romantic bunch you are, so in this step-by-step tutorial, I’ll show you how to paint a rose with watercolors. I’ll go over all the details so you can follow the process from start to finish.
Flowers are a favorite subject for many artists, but roses have particularly complex shapes, which can sometimes present challenges in painting these flowers.
Watercolor Rose Tutorial For Beginners
If you want, you can design your own version of this composition. All reference materials and sketch templates can be downloaded below.
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The sketch below simplifies the anatomy of a rose into basic geometric shapes. Understanding such a structure will help us understand how it interacts with light and shadow.
The center of the calyx contains a series of smaller, closely packed petals that make up the interior of the rose.
In general, when a rose is lit from above, the top of the rose will appear brighter than the bottom.
Additionally, because of the way the petals converge toward the center of the rose, each petal will appear lighter at the edge and gradually darker as it reaches the center of the flower.
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The combined effect is that the tonal values of the rose gradually darken from top to bottom (lighter at the top, darker at the bottom) and become progressively darker from the edges of the petals towards the center, gradually fading out of the light.
Just keep in mind these ideas of how light and shadow change on the surface of a flower to be able to paint a reasonable interpretation of a watercolor rose without even trying to reproduce the subject exactly.
Before working on the final painting, I did a quick watercolor rendering following the “rules of tonal value” just described.
First, I made a freehand sketch of a rose, which was shaped to approximate the geometry of a flower, with petals closely spaced in the middle and larger spreading petals on the outside.
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The idea was to do a loose painting as a warm up for the final watercolor painting, so I didn’t want to be too precise with my strokes while I could test my paint mix.
I started with a very light and thin pink and added some yellow for some variety.
I drew the shapes of the petals with the general coloring rules in mind. You can see that I tried to leave some white highlights on the edges of the petals since they are more exposed to the light. I darken the inner folds of the petals as these are the darkest parts of the shadow.
I used the varnish technique to add more layers of color to enhance the value of the underside of the rose, where the shadow would naturally be more intense. I left the top and outer edge of the petals a light color. For these shapes, one coat of diluted paint is sufficient.
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As a final touch, I added a few strokes of dark color to the more shaded parts of the flower, such as the ruffles on the lowest petals and the core of the rose, which is usually quite dark due to the dense concentration of petals in the center.
I’m not really worried about blending the edges at this stage. I just want the overall tonal values to look about right.
I added a quick background using a contrasting green to help the flowers stand out on the page.
I find it helpful to do a loose watercolor sketch like this before you finish the final painting. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with a subject.
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Start by transferring the outline of the rose to a piece of watercolor paper, then glue it to the flat surface.
I applied my first brush marks to the inner folds of the petals, where the tones are darker, and then using the washed and varnished brush, I blended the color outwards, making the edges lighter. You can use reference photos as a guide to help you do this.
Continue working from the center outwards using the same method. You can also use some different colors for charging, such as warm red or yellow, to add some color variation.
When you get to the outer petals at the bottom, you’ll need to adjust the paint mix so that the petals take on the shade. To this, a small amount of French ultramarine was added to create a violet color.
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In the real world, outdoor lighting tends to be warm, which creates cool blue-purple looking shadows. The result will be more colorful and realistic than trying to use a dark color like gray or brown. Brown is too warm and will create the wrong shadow color in this case.
Continue painting the outer petals on the top of the flower, this time of course you’ll want to use a diluted light pink color. As you can see in the reference photo, the top of the rose is lit.
As you go down, you can use a darker color. I work mainly with wet and dry techniques. I applied the brush marks directly onto the dry paper, then rinsed the brush and blended the edges to get a smooth gradation of color from dark to light. When you start mixing, make sure the brush is not too wet, otherwise it can overwhelm the existing cleaning solution and cause unwanted stains known as “blooming”.
When I get to the bottom of the flower I use a stronger color and also add a little extra color where the paper is still wet. This is a wet-on-wet technique called ‘charging’.
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Let the paint dry, then go back to the parts that need stronger values, such as the center of the flower and the petals that are in shadow.
Let the paint dry again. You will find that the watercolor looks lighter as it dries, so repeat the layering process again to increase the tonal value of the darker aspects of the petals.
I designed them in a very relaxed style. I didn’t want to add too much detail to the leaves as they are not the main focus of the painting.
I painted them in quick strokes rather than trying to be too precise. While the shape is still wet, I either drop in various colors of green or wipe the color with a dry brush. The goal is to create loose leaf shapes in a variety of tones and colors.
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While the first coat of paint was drying, I added a few quick strokes to add some texture to the leaves. Nothing too exact, just a suggestion of the kind of pattern you’ll find on the leaves.
If you try this project yourself, let me know what you think in the comments below!
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