TUTORIAL: How to Paint a Rose in Watercolor

My mother’s name is Rosa and for her last birthday, I painted a rose honoring her name. Today, I’m happy to share the steps on how to paint a rose in watercolor.

Step 1 I take many of my reference photos for painting. These photos were taken in Bogotá, Colombia, where roses can be seen growing in many front yards. As you can see, the final rose is a composite of two different photographs, one for the flower itself and one for the leaves.

Rose in Watercolor Reference Photo For Painting

Step 2 Using the photos as a reference I do a line drawing on a regular printing piece of paper. Once I am happy with the drawing, I scan it so that I can use photoshop to rotate it and adjust the image within the format of the watercolor paper I plan to use. Then I print it out.

Line Drawing of Rose for Watercolor Painting

Step 3 I place the printout on the window, put the watercolor paper on it, and trace it by drawing a very light line.

Step 4 To paint a successful watercolor, preparation is crucial. The first thing I do is to mix and prepare enough color on my palette.

In this case, for the flower, I mixed quinacridone rose with a tiny bit of a warm yellow for the petals. For the leaves, I prepared different greens by mixing pthalo blue with a lemon yellow and/or a warm yellow. I touch the green with a little bit of its complementary, red, to tone it down and turn it into a more natural green.

Many times, to relax into painting, I work on two pieces at a time. That way, whatever might not go well with one, I can do better on the other. In the following photo, you can see different versions of the same rose. 

Studio setup of painting a rose in watercolor

Step 5  I apply the first layer working wet-on-wet, which means that first I apply a layer of clean water and when it is still wet, I touch it with the color. The consistency of the paint is diluted, but it is applied more charged with color on the left to begin evoking a sense of volume.

Rose in Watercolor Painting Step 1

Step 6 The first layer of the leaves is applied, also working wet-on-wet.

Rose in Watercolor Painting Step 2

Step 7 I mix the rose color with carmine and a little ultramarine blue to make darker tones. The previous layers are completely dry when I wet the paper with clean water and apply details of shadows to each section of the petals area. The highlights of the rose are left untouched, they show only the first layer of color.

Also, a second layer of green is applied, making sure to suggest the veins by leaving them unpainted. This means that the color of the veins is the green applied on the first layer.

Rose in watercolor Painting Step 3

Step 8 The previous layer has to be bone dry. I work mostly wet-on-wet but section by section adding contrast on the leaves and stem.

Rose in watercolor Painting Step 4

Would you like to paint more flowers in watercolor?

I hope you enjoyed this lesson on how to paint a rose watercolor. If you would like to take a FREE online class on How to Paint a Pansy in Watercolor in Five Easy Steps (Videos Included) click here!

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Leyla Torres is a World Watercolor Month 2019 Artist Ambassador!

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