Thank you in advance for your patience if the pictures I’ve posted below take a while for your computer to load. I have uploaded over 100 for this tutorial!
Today, I was trying to think of what would be a good subject matter for teaching a tutorial on this blog, and I finally decided on a simple rose.
I found a free stock image of a rose on Pexels:
I would love for you to follow along with me as I draw this rose. Also… it would make me so happy to see your results!
I decided to freehand this because I want to demonstrate that with certain subjects, such as flowers, trees -or most anything in nature really- can be drawn without worrying about exact proportions.
You’ll notice my finished drawing is not precisely accurate to the photo (if you were to compare them side by side) but still looks like a rose.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re following along and wanting to draw this if you do it freehand you might get frustrated with yourself if you find that your rose doesn’t look exactly like the picture- or maybe it doesn’t look ANYTHING like the picture.
If you find yourself feeling this way, please remind yourself that you’re learning, and people don’t learn everything overnight!
I’ve had students who have sometimes managed to throw away perfectly good pieces of work because they couldn’t look past the imperfections (what they deemed failures) to see the beauty they had captured and expressed in their drawing.
I can understand why they feel that way because I remember when I used to get so frustrated with myself when I would try to get the measurements right and no matter what I did, I just couldn’t get it to look like I wanted it to. And there were those times that I would tear it up and throw it in the garbage, regrettably.
But then, later, I would think…wow, wish I could see that drawing today. I would like to see how I’ve progressed since then!
And as for the ones I hated at the time but actually managed to hold on to, I’ve been able to look back and think to myself, “you know, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was at the time!”
There’s a lot of emotion that is behind the way we feel about our drawings. So today let’s just try to draw this rose together for the fun and enjoyment of it!
Now, I cannot begin a sketch without having a cup of coffee. My daughter, Bonnie, actually made me a breve latte yesterday when I drew this rose (using the espresso machine for my birthday last year), and it was absolutely delicious. You may want to start with your favorite beverage as well. 🙂
My other materials include:
- 1 sheet bristol smooth paper
- 1 mechanical pencil
- 1 drawing pencil, 4B
- 1 cap eraser
- kneaded eraser
- blending stump
When I began the outline, I chose one petal to focus on and began sketching it out, using a very light pressure on my pencil (a Bic mechanical pencil).
And as you can see from the picture below, this is the way I looked at my reference picture- through my iPhone. I do this often because of the fact that you can see everything bright and clear, and can also enlarge as you wish.
If you are a beginner though, I would recommend that you print the picture on a full-size sheet of paper and use that as your reference. It’s difficult to enlarge sizes by eyeballing it when you’re first starting out.
Or you could also trace your image onto tracing paper, and then transfer it to your drawing paper (I use Bristol smooth) using graphite paper (which can be purchased at stores like Hobby Lobby or online at Amazon).
Below, you can see that I am continuing the outline of the petal I started with. It takes practice to get the angles right so don’t worry if yours isn’t exactly right. It will be ok!
If you look at the reference picture, you can see that many other petals are connected near the base of this petal. I have put some guiding lines on it that can help you know where to start the next petals in your drawing. By doing this, it is simpler to know where to begin with the rest of the drawing.
I am also adding some of these guiding lines on the bottom, where the stem and base of the flower is.
Next, I sketch out the stem. If you’re following along, remember to keep your pencil lines light, so that you can erase if you make a mistake.
Next, using the guiding line to begin, I draw the first sepal…
…and the next sepal.
I use this same process to sketch out the rest of the petals. However, when drawing them, you must not think of them as petals, but as simple shapes. When we think of a petal, we might think of something like this:
What shape do you see? Does what I’ve drawn below look like a petal? If you notice, it looks more like a polygon with a rounded edge…very angular and not what you think of as a petal, right?
But at different angles, different parts of the petal will have different shapes, and once we learn to see those things as simple shapes and not as the object we imagine them to be in our mind, we will have learned to sketch anything we ever want to sketch!
This is why I stress so much the need to SEE. That’s the most important part of drawing; learning to really see and comprehend what you are looking at.
Next, I draw a diagonal divide in the petal…
Then I draw the outline for the shadows where the curves are on the petal. Later I will fill them in.
As I draw the next lines, I am again using the guiding lies and making sure I pay close attention to the direction of the lines.
The next several pictures are a repeat of the same process. I will let you see step by step how I’ve done it.
‘At this point, I had to erase a line where I had misjudged the angle of one of the petals. This is why it is very, very important to begin your sketches with really light lines. Erasing is very simple that way.
Most of the students I have taught begin with the same mistake of putting lots of pressure on their pencil when they’re sketching the outline, and when they try to erase, there is no possibility of removing the mark from the paper. It’s a very common mistake.
At this point, I felt ready to begin shading the flower. I do notice that I forgot to draw one of the petals to the left of the flower, but later in the drawing, it will be added in.
Now, contrary to what I’ve just explained before, I am pressing much harder with my pencil, along the line where I’ve begun. I draw as dark as I can without breaking the lead, using a back and forth motion.
Now I have filled in this spot, and will continue to seek out all of the darkest shadows that I see on the rose photograph.
That is how I usually do it. I find every single dark shadow, and fill it in first.
I want you to notice that I am drawing this line very dark, however, on this petal, the shadow is not all over, so I will be creating a gradient effect by using the back and forth motion on the dark line (using very hard pressure at first) then moving downward and continuing the back and forth strokes but easing the pressure until it’s very light (about halfway down the petal).
This is what I’m talking about…see how the pencil shade is lighter as I go down?
Now I continue filling in the shaded areas.
If you have a difficult time achieving a nice dark tone with your mechanical pencil, you can use a 4B or even 6B pencil, which will help a lot.
Earlier I mentioned that I left out one petal on the left of the rose. I have added it back in at this point and am shading it with the others.
On this petal, I want you to notice the way it’s shaded. If you look at the reference picture again (which you should be continually doing as you go) you’ll notice that this rose petal has the shadow in the middle of it, as opposed to one side or the other.
This is because the petal is curved in such a way that it allows light to hit it on both the top and bottom.
Sometimes when we are new to drawing, it might seem like we should add the shadow all the way to the edge, but if we do that, it won’t look right.
Make sure to keep the shadow in the middle of the petal, where it belongs, and the drawing will end up looking great when you’re finished!
Now I am nearly finished doing the first layer of shading.
I continually look back and forth between my drawing and the reference photo and to ask myself these questions:
- How dark is this section?
- Is it dark all over, or is it lighter in some areas?
- What does the shape look like at this point?
- Have I left out any shapes within the drawing that I need to add in?
- Are there any places where might be a shadow that I have missed?
- What do the edges of this petal look like and does it look similar to mine?
Constantly asking these and more questions and referring to the photo time and time again ensures that I can correct any mistakes and continue to learn about the rose as I draw it.
Now, for the next part, and I love this part because it causes everything to become very smooth. I get out my blending stump and start the process of smoothing everything out.
You can tell my blending stump is well used, can’t you?
I use my blending stump and smooth each section of the drawing with it, using a back and forth motion, and sometimes a circular motion. I smooth over everything, even the parts I just shaded. This pulls graphite from the shaded areas and drags it onto the rest of the drawing.
Don’t worry about it if you get out of the lines with it…it can very easily be erased.
If you notice you can still see lines where the shading is, you will want to use a little elbow grease and keep smoothing (in circular movements) until it looks smoother.
Till it looks more like this:
When you get finished, it may look sloppy, with pencil lead all over the paper.
Just take your cap eraser and go around the edges of each petal until it looks clean again. It requires almost no effort.
Now, we take out one of my favorite tools, the kneaded eraser. Knead it until it is pliable.
Then, looking at your reference photo continually for guidance, lift off all of the spots that are lighter with the eraser. You can tap the eraser on the paper, then knead it and tap again, or you can tap and drag softly. This will lift the highlights nicely. If you lift too much, you can always go back over it with your blending stump, which should have plenty of graphite to spare.
You can also shape your kneaded eraser into a point, for finer areas.
I like to use a cap eraser to draw the lines on the highlighted edge of the petals.
Just like this:
It’s very easy to do and makes a big difference in the drawing, giving it a more three-dimensional appearance.
After you’ve spent some time erasing, it should look something like this (remember, if yours doesn’t look exactly like this, that’s OK!).
Depending on your skill level, you may decide that you like it just like this and call it done. That’s just fine!
However, if you want to add a little more detail and refine some more, here are some ways to do that. If you’ll look at the reference photo again, you’ll notice that the petal with the shadow in the middle also has some texture to it. Lines that curve around. You can make an impression of this by using your eraser to “draw” soft lines around the top and bottom edges. You start at the light side and “wisp” your pencil towards the middle.
You may also want to add more highlights all around the different areas of the rose:
Now is the time that I would enlarge the photo on my phone screen so that I can see more details.
I go to all the places where I had darks, and I make them darker again. This is because when you smooth with the blending stump, a lot of times it lessens the intensity of the darks, so you just want to add them back again as another layer.
Now I am going around the edges and drawing details on the outside of the petals.
More details along the edges of the petals…
More erasing to lift off highlights…
Repeat again and again until you are satisfied with the final result.
You can always add more details if you like, but it doesn’t have to be overly complicated!
When you like your rose, stop at that point and go no further!
Voila! You now have a beautiful rose drawing to enjoy. Isn’t that exciting?
If you have learned something from this tutorial, please let me know in the comments below. I am also happy to answer any questions you have!
Also, if you liked this post, please share on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or whatever social media you like the most… and please follow me for more tutorials and other information on how to become the artist you’ve always wanted to be!
Have a wonderful day and keep drawing!