How to draw a realistic rose

The rose has an important symbolism in almost all cultures. It stands for beauty, grace, love, joie de vivre and perfection. No wonder, then, that it is also a popular motif for drawing. Drawing roses is quite challenging: there are different layers of petals and the shades are also a challenge. Our guest author Josephine Cordes shows you in this blog post how you can learn to paint roses step by step. She shows you the creation process with photos of the individual work steps and gives you many tips and tricks so that you can successfully create your first rose drawing even as a beginner.




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You will need these materials



The right paper is essential for watercolor painting, as the paint is applied with a lot of water and if the wrong paper is used, the colors do not show beautiful gradients. If you are not yet familiar with the basic techniques of watercolor, I would recommend that you do one first Watercolor paintingWatch the tutorial or read you.

It is therefore advisable to invest in a decent watercolor pad, otherwise you can quickly become desperate and don't even want to continue. On the one hand, I can recommend that Canson paper e.g .: Moulin du Roy, the Bamboo Mixed Media Block from Hahnemühle or that is also recommended Cold Press paper from Strathmore.



Real hair brushes should be particularly water-absorbent, but there are now also good synthetic alternatives which are also not so price-intensive. I like to use the Brush number 1 by Raphael, as well as the Kolinsky brush from Roufloff.



I use the common ones Watercolor cup of make-up or Luke. Ultimately, it is enough to work with the standard colors, as you can easily mix your own colors and, by varying the amount of water, conjure up many different nuances from one and the same color.


More utensils

You also need a glass of water, a kitchen towel, pencil and a Eraser.



Rose Painting - How to Paint a Rose?


Loose Watercolor Rose

Here one does without an exact, detailed representation of the rose and instead tries to capture its shape rather loosely. You have to have the rough anatomy of a rose in your head in order to know where to place the brushstrokes.


Detailed illustration of the rose

After drawing up a detailed sketch in pencil, in contrast to loosely grasping a rose, one orientates oneself quite precisely on the model. In my opinion, the art here is to depict the flower as realistically as possible without making it look like a photo. Care should be taken not to get bogged down with the petals. It's okay to skip a sheet here and there, as long as the shape gets pretty good at the end.



Step-by-step instructions to draw a rose


Rose sketch

The important thing is to use a pencil that is relatively fine and that you just press on as lightly as possible. You should also use the Sketch only as a rough guide so that the sketch can be erased again after the watercolor. Depending on the nature of the paper, it may also be that the pencil lines can no longer be erased. To prevent this, you can also use one water-soluble colored pencil make the sketch in a color similar to that of the rose. These lines will then disappear upon contact with water.


Define light and shadow

Before you start to use watercolors, you should look closely at the object to be painted and determine where the light reaches the least and thus there is the most shadow and where the light comes most and the leaves are the brightest.

Closely observing the light and shadow is crucial for the rose to have depth and look realistic.


The first brushstrokes

A rose is usually constructed in such a way that the leaves are closer together in the inner area and consequently less light gets into these areas. The leaves have more space to unfold on the outside and are therefore larger and lighter in the outer area of ​​each leaf. In addition, the petals overlap each other.

Keeping these things in mind, you pick up the desired color with a brush with a relatively watery consistency and, if you imagine a circle, start with close crescent-shaped strokes inside the circle. (1) Outwardly, the brushstrokes get wider and bigger. (2) They also overlap. (3) This structure makes it easy to imitate the shape of a rose that has blossomed. (4)

If you paint a rose with watercolors, you can easily do it Wet in wet technique apply. To do this, you take up water with a brush and paint the rose as described above and then pick up the desired color with the brush and apply it to the previously watered areas of the leaf. Now the color runs by itself to where water was previously applied and that results in very nice color gradients.



Drawing roses with the wet in dry technique

I explain the detailed representation of the rose in the following Wet in dry technique. In contrast to the method described above, this means that the color is applied to the dry paper and you have more control over the color and the gradients.

Once the sketch has been drawn up, determine the lightest shade of the base color of the rose. (1) In addition, you now have to look exactly where the brightest, possibly white areas of the rose are, because these areas must be left out from the start. Since you always work from light to dark with watercolor, everything that has been colored once cannot be completely undone. So next, the whole rose is colored with the lightest basic tone (except for the lightest areas).

Now, as I said, you work your way from light to dark. (2) It helps to keep in mind that the watercolor will lighten it as it dries and that the darker areas may need several coats of paint.

The darkest parts of a rose, or a flower in general, are mostly the areas inside the flower, such as the leaves sitting close together, as well as the areas where the petals are held together or where they come out of the stem. So these areas are painted with a slightly darker tone than the basic tone. With a little more darker color - I like to use earthy tones to darken the basic tone of the rose - e.g .: brown you can now also create the areas that appear darkest, as an orientation, so to speak. (3)

It continues with the next layer of paint - the areas of the rose that are neither light nor dark. This layer of color is therefore applied more intensely than the basic tone, between the lightest and darker areas. (4)

Now the different color applications are blended a little so that there are nice transitions and everything looks a bit more pleasing. You can do this by moistening the brush slightly, thus activating the colors and bringing them together.

Now you can see that the darker areas have to be reworked again. By blending and applying different shades of color, as well as drying the color, the rose needs even stronger contrasts to give the rose more depth and expressiveness. (5)

Now you can already see the strong contrast between the lightest and darkest areas of the flower. You can now go over and apply the basic shade of the rose again and recolor the lightened areas here and there. (6)

Finally, erase the pencil sketch, or what's left of it. Congratulations, you've drawn your first rose. Then it is advisable to first put the picture somewhere and look at it from a little further away. This helps you to get an overview of the proportions (by the way, this applies to every type of motif) and to see possible errors. You should also let the paint dry completely before you decide whether the picture is finally ready.

Most of the time I find that the contrast is not strong enough for me or that the veneer could be made a little softer.



General tips


When I started painting roses, I already had one painted picture of a rose made whose style I liked and wanted to learn. (But please do not make these practice pictures public as your own product without mentioning the original painter!)

Here, too, it is essential to look closely at the picture so that what you have observed before can be put on paper.

Then I have mine photographed roses I looked for a reference picture and painted it. It becomes difficult with a rose that you have in front of you. My experience is that a photo moves an object into the distance, making it easier for you to get the proportions and capture of the object. When you have practiced drawing roses a little more and feel more confident, you can build a still life and a real rose or take flower as a reference.



Josephine Cordes

The primary school teacher of Josephine Cordes advised her parents to nurture the talent she saw in Josephine. So her parents looked around for a way to do the same. Ultimately, she was allowed to spend time with an old lady who was a painter once a week during her school days until she graduated from high school. She taught Josephine some basics and sparked her love for watercolor. After graduating from high school, she studied dentistry and never touched a brush during her studies and work. After her license to practice medicine and doctorate, I worked for three years. In 2009 Josephine married and had their first child, followed by numbers 2 and 3. In 2016 Josephine Cordes started hand lettering and found herself painting again.

That is why she has been painting watercolors again since 2016 and has developed further with information from various sources. In addition to watercolor painting, she also likes to paint with the medium acrylic and, more recently, with gouache. Painting roses has always fascinated Josephine and so at the beginning she dealt intensively with different approaches and developed her own style. Josephine lives with her family in the beautiful countryside of Lower Saxony in a village and her dream is to be able to have her own small studio here one day.