Step-by-step Oil Painting Flowers on Canvas


Artists often select flowers as painting subjects. Fresh flowers are not only beautiful, creating natural opportunities for colorful, organic compositions, but they keep for several days, enabling you to start and finish your oil painting at your leisure. Flowers are simple subjects for beginners who want to get a feel for oil painting. There's really no wrong way to paint a flower.

Things You'll Need

  • Oil paints
  • Paint thinner
  • Oil brushes
  • Canvas
  • Gesso
  • Easel
  • Floral bouquet
  • Viewfinder
  • Pencil

Prepare Your Workstation

  • Pick your flowers. Choose a bouquet that has a few different colors or find a place outside that has natural light and an interesting view.

  • Prepare your canvas. A true-to-size representation of your subject is good for beginners. Gesso and sand your canvas if it isn't already primed. Use an easel to paint while you are standing. This method frees your elbows for big strokes.

  • Gather your brushes. Work with several sizes of flats and rounds. Select at least one bigger brush for big areas and a few detail brushes of varying shapes and sizes for small areas. Clean your brushes with solvent, rinse with water and pat dry.

  • Set up your palette. Keep a thick watercolor pad nearby to test your colors. Natural greens and browns will be necessary for the leaves and stems. Blues and purples are needed for shadows. The blooms of your flowers will range from yellow to red to violet. Pick your colors accordingly and don't be afraid to mix and experiment.

Plan Your Composition

  • Set up your easel close to your subject. If you're having trouble deciding on the angle from which to paint, make a simple viewfinder from a few strips of cardboard. Frame the view you like. Attach your viewfinder to the easel so you can look through it as you paint.

  • Make a light sketch of your composition with a pencil. It doesn't have to be exact. Know where your composition "breaks the page," and determine which elements of your composition will be in the foreground and which ones are less detailed in the background.

  • Lay in light areas of color with a larger brush. Paint your background colors, which are usually cool, receding colors, but also can be warm, neural colors. Backgrounds should not distract from your floral arrangement.

Paint Your Flowers

  • Start with the flowers that lay in the background, behind the blooms that are the main focus of your painting. Use light tones, mixed with white ,to make tints. Don't be overwhelmed by the overlapping petals and leaves in a composition. Concentrate more on light, color, shadow and shape. Leave the areas of the larger, closer blooms blank. Resketch them with your pencil if necessary.

  • Add your green areas. Lighter greens with less range of color are in the background. Stems and leaves that are part of your main blooms are more detailed with shadows and highlights.

  • Lay in a medium-toned color for your closer blooms. Concentrate on the shape of the entire bloom at first. Overlap your background flowers and greens where the foreground stands out.

  • Mix your medium tones with darker blues, browns and purples to create shades. Lay the shades near your medium tones where you see shadows.

  • Mix your medium tones with white to create tints. Apply them to the areas of your flower petals that are picking up light.

  • Gently blend the transitions of your shaded and highlighted areas with the medium tones with a soft, clean bristle brush.

  • Add details like anthers, stamens and petal designs. Highlight and shade where needed. Use detail brushes for small areas.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always keep a rag handy for drips on your canvas or around your workstation. If you don't like to use solvents and thinners, consider purchasing a water-based oil kit.
  • As a beginner, it is easy to get caught up in the details of an image and spend too much time on one part of your painting. Lay down the overall tones of the painting first. Move to detail work after your entire canvas is covered with pigment.

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