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How to Draw a Rose, a Simple Step-by-Step Guide

How to draw a rose - a step-by-step guide
Rose drawing studies by Gvaat

In the tutorial, we are going to go over a simple way to draw a rose – step-by-step. This process of drawing a rose is complete in just three steps and will work for any skill level.

You can draw a rose by following this guide: 

First, draw the outline of the rose by carefully illustrating the petals from the outside to the inside of the flower. Then fill the flower and the stem portion with local colors. Finally, add shadows with darker colors to complete your rose drawing.

Process overview. From left to right, first draw the outline of the rose, then fill the outline with general local colors, finally add shadows to the rose.

Drawing a red rose – step-by-step

In this first example, let’s together follow the three step process to draw a red rose. 

Various parts of a red rose drawing. Drawings by Gvaat.

Drawing a red rose, step 1: creating line art

There are two difficult stages in this process, one of them is creating well-drawn line art for your rose. (I will cover the other difficult part of the tutorial in the coloring stage).

Drawing the stem and placing the flower onto it is not technically challenging and can be done by any beginning artist. However, drawing the flower itself can be difficult given the number of petals usually present in real-life roses.

Line art for a rose drawing by Gvaat

A large number of petals makes for a busy and difficult drawing. You do not many petals to create a beautiful drawing of a rose. There are about sixteen total in the drawing right above.

Use artistic license and see which petals you can omit from your drawing to simplify the task of drawing a rose for yourself. I used reference for the drawings in the tutorial. I changed many things to suit the feeling I was going for. I cut out about half of the clearly visible petals from the original image. 

In the next step, we will color our outline of the rose.

When drawing your line art of a rose, think about how the petals weave into each other and make sure their overlap is represented properly in your drawing.

Losing the way the petals overlap in the final drawing is a sure way to make the drawing of a rose less effective. So spend extra time making sure you are making clear in your drawing how the petals overlap each other. 

The line art stage should take the most time in the three-step process of drawing a rose.

Here is how to draw your line art:

Line art for a rose drawing by Gvaat

Start with creating an outline of the general shape of the flower, then start filling in the petals from the outside to the inside, making adjustments to the overall outline shape of the flower as you go along.

Drawing a red rose, step 2: finding local color

Drawing of a red rose and color roadmap, study by Gvaat

Let’s not talk about adding the local color to the flower and the stem.

A local color is the natural color of the flower in average daylight, or a natural color of the subject matter as it would appear in the lighting conditions that you create in your drawing.

In our drawing, we are adding a simple base of light red. It is on the lighter side because the shadows are going to be represented by a darker red. Our goal is to achieve a pleasant contrast between the two colors.

Picking a good color is a bit of a learned art. Picking the right color combination for the base local color and the shadow color is key to making our rose drawing look pleasant to the eye. The hue, value, and saturation of both colors has to be just right for the drawing to read well. As I mentioned above, this is the second most difficult task in drawing a rose.

I’m going to link to a tutorial I created on color theory that can be helpful in choosing good color combinations. See it here. Thorough understanding of color will help immensely with your art, so definitely check it out.

If you don’t feel too confident about picking colors, feel free to sample the same colors I used in this tutorial, or pick the same colors and change them slightly to your taste.  

Color guide to drawing a red rose:
  • Base local rose red: f49095
  • Base step green: 76ac81
  • Shadow rose red: e95156
  • Shadow stem green and outline of stem: 33623e
  • Base outline color: ca4858

In this step we are only coloring the rose and the stem with a base colors. If you are using digital painting software, you can add the color on a multiply layer. If you are using traditional tools you can fill in the outline with the colors you choose. Make sure that the outline is visible when you are done. 

Drawing a red rose, step 3: coloring the shadows

In the final step we are going to add the shadow portions to the local color we established in the previous step. We will end up with the outline, the local color, and the shadow sections of the drawing. 

Shadow section of the flower drawing isolated on the right. On the left, both the local color and the shadow color grouped together.

Direct your attention to how the flower is lit. The first step is to ask where the light of the major light source is coming from in the composition. 

Look at your reference and determine which direction the main light source is coming from to light the flower. In most images of flowers the light source will come from above since, in nature, the sunlight lights the flower from that direction. 

Armed with the knowledge of the location of a light source, we can determine where the cast shadows are to be placed. 

A cast shadow is a falling shadow that is established once an object is lit. That object will cast a shadow that falls onto the surface underneath or behind the lit object. In the case of the flower lit from above, petals will generate cast shadows that cast onto other pedals underneath them. 

If you are confused about the terminology or about how to draw light and shadow, check out this tutorial on exactly that subject.

If you are confused by cast shadows and the discussion on lighting in general, check out this tutorial I posted on drawing volume and light.

Identify all the dark areas in your reference that are cast shadows and identify the petals that are casting them onto the surface. Having this knowledge will help to make your drawing realistic and plausible.

Once you identify the shadow areas, draw them in with a red hue that is darker than the local color.

Drawing a red rose, the result:

To solidify what we have learned so far, let’s try to replicate our three-step process by drawing a pink rose.

Drawing a pink rose – step-by-step

Rose drawing by Gvaat

Above is an overview of our drawing plan for the pink rose. In the middle is the line art from which we are going to start. On the left, you see the color of the drawing, including the local color and the shadow colors. On the right we see all stages combined together. 

Drawing a pink rose, step 1: creating a line art drawing of a rose

Lineart drawing of a rose by Gvaat

First, let’s start by drawing the line art of our pink rose drawing. Again, direct careful attention to the shape design of your drawing. It is important to pay attention to the overall shape of the flower, as well as to pay attention to the shape of individual petals, the stem, and the sepals.

Start by drawing the overall shape first, then work your way from the outside to the inside by drawing in individual petals. Don’t forget to use a good reference image.

The outline does not have to be perfect, but at this early stage of the drawing, it should already look like a drawing of a rose. If things look off at the line art stage, the color steps will not fix your drawing. 

So if you are looking at the line art and it just doesn’t feel like a beautiful rose drawing, try to go back to the reference. Look at roses in real life, and try to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with your drawing. Then fix it!

Potential issues in a drawing of a rose:

  • Are you drawing too many petals, or too few? 
  • Is the shape of the petals not references from nature?
  • How about their arrangement, how do petals overlap?
  • Is the overall shape of the flower not referenced from nature?

What do I mean by ‘referenced from nature’? Observe the general shape of a rose in many instances – use lots of reference! There is a pattern: the flower is wider at the top than the bottom in a blooming rose. Is your drawing communicating this properly, or should it be adjusted?

Ask yourself these and similar questions to try to identify your mistakes, and then try to fix them! Too few petals, try to add a few more. Is the shape wrong? Identify which section is messing up the shape design and redraw it, and so on.

Drawing a pink rose, step 2: filling in local colors

Above are the colors we are going to use to fill in the stem and the flower of our pink rose. 

I first fill in the rose local color. Notice that my outline color is a darker green for the stem and sepals, and a darker red for the flower.

An outline of the rose with local colors filled in. Study by Gvaat.

Above is an example of what you should have so far. An outline of the rose with local colors filled in.

Drawing a pink rose, step 3: drawing in the shadows

Shadows of a rose drawing isolated for reference.

Above we see an image of just the shadows of the rose. When these shadow shapes are applied to the local color, they will help us finish the drawing.

Image of the local color and the shadows combined.

Drawing a pink rose, the result:

Final drawing of a pink rose by Gvaat.

Finally, in the drawing above, we see all three stages combined: the lineart, the local color and the shadow stage.

How to draw a rose, final thoughts

Rose drawings, studies by Gvaat

If I had to guess, I would say that many of you like the pink rose more than the red rose in this tutorial.  

This has nothing to do with color, and everything to do with the way the roses are shaded. If you pay close attention to the shadows placed on the roses, you will see that in the pink rose the shadows all morph together into one large mass that travels through from the outside to the center, while in the red rose the shadows are scattered about here and there. 

This disorganization of the shadows in the red rose looks busy and creates unintended tension or unease. 

If I had to do it again, I would change up the way the red rose is colored. I would string together the shadow areas as they travel from the outside to the center of the rose. Try organizing the darker areas in your drawing to better guide the eye to the focal point, and let me know how it goes.

We went over the very basic way of drawing a rose. We started by creating line art of the rose by creating the general outline of the entire drawing and then filing local colors. We then drew in the shadows on top of the local color to finalize the drawing. And we did it twice, first, we drew a red rose and then a pink one.

It is now time to try it for yourself. Get a nice picture of a rose, or better yet, find one outside, and observe the way petals overlap each other. Create a basic sketch and apply the three stages to your own drawing. Good luck!