How to Paint White Roses

Flowers seem to present themselves to watercolor painting naturally. They can be painted in a loose, supple style or with precision. When painting flowers, choose a type that feels natural to you as you prepare your composition.

Roses are such well-loved flowers and are a favorite choice for watercolors. To paint roses:

  1. Sketch your vase and flowers.
  2. Decide ahead of time how you will check your background. When painting white flowers, it is good to have a dark background that will help your roses stand out or “pop.”
  3. Show in your pencil value sketch where your brightest whites and darkest darks will be placed.
  4. Plan your starting focus point, placing this area off-center to add more interest.
  5. Do the same with your vase. If it is in the middle of your paper, it will be less attractive.

Once your value sketch is completed and your subject has been penciled in on your watercolor paper, you are ready to paint. If you want to use masking fluid to protect some of your white paper, this is the time to use it. Remember to wet your brush, then coat it with soap before plunging it into the masking fluid! If this step is ignored, you may not be able to eliminate the masking fluid from your brush, and it will be ruined.

Once it has properly dried, you will paint right over it. When your painting is finished, it can be removed with your finger or using an eraser, revealing white paper’s preserved area.

Some of the white roses that you sketched on watercolor paper need not be white! A diluted wash of rose madder genuine on some petals and baby yellow on others will give your picture some depth. Mix these two colors, and use them as a light wash to add more interest to your painting.

Vary your stems and leaves. Have some leaves curl and twist. Show more detail in your front view (foreground) and let a few of the paint fade off into the background. Understand your light source properly throughout your painting and paint the shadows in the same manner. Give your stems a delicate curve; don’t use direct straight lines. Use a variety of greens, both warm and cool—practice mixing greens.

Paint picture highlights on your vase, but don’t overdo them. This is a typical case of less is more. One or two well-placed highlights are much more useful than many. One additional thought; a fallen petal or two can add a nice subtle touch.

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