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How to Paint Flowers with Acrylics: A Beginners Guide

A Spray of VioletsPainting can be a little frustrating but it is definitely a fulfilling activity. Some people find it therapeutic and relaxing while others use it as a medium for self expression or as an outlet for their artistic energies. Though it might seem difficult and even a bit overwhelming at first, panting really is something that is enjoyable and satisfying once you get the hang of it.

If you are just starting out, painting flowers can be an effective way to familiarize yourself with the different skills and techniques needed for nearly any kind painting. For beginners, it is recommended that you use acrylic-based paints first before moving on to other mediums like oils, pastels, etc.

So, how to paint flowers with acrylics? Well, just follow these instructions and you will be painting like a pro in no time!


Gather your Materials and Equipment

You will need a canvas, acrylic paints, a pencil, an eraser and paint brushes of different sizes. Always start with a small canvas. When you feel confident enough for the added workload, you can move on to bigger canvases. For novice painters, you can start with a 12×16 canvas or a 16×20 canvas.

Acrylic is a great type of paint because it dries relatively quickly compared to other painting mediums such as oils.

It is not mandatory that you buy a whole set of paints. If you are just starting out, you can just buy the primary colors (red, blue and yellow) and mix them to get the other colors you might want.

Pencils and erasers are optional, but very useful, equipment that can be used for sketching your subject before you apply paint on the canvas.

Brushes come in many sizes but a beginner only needs the basics – a 1” wide brush, a 2.5” to 3” wide brush, and a 3” to 3 3/4” wide brush. You may also want to get one small brush for detail work.


Pick a Flower to Use as a Subject

Tulips, roses and sunflowers seem to be the flowers of choice for beginners to use as models for their first flower painting. But whichever flower you end up selecting, you will need to decide how many you are going to paint and how they are going to be arranged… Incidentally, the key to successfully arranging flowers for most beginners is to severely limit the number (ie. the less the better)! If you find the “arranging” process to be too time consuming, you can always just print out a picture of your chosen flower and use it as the key element of your arrangement.

pink flowers

Sketch the Outline

Sketch out a rough outline of the flower onto the canvas before you start painting. Make sure that you use light lines so that you can easily correct any mistakes you make.

Once you are finished with the rough sketch, stand back at least 3 to 4 feet to see if you got the overall picture of the subject right. Use the pencil to fill in any holes you might have missed and prepare all the colors you will need afterwards.


Paint the Flower

Let’s use a sunflower as an example. Most beginners tend to paint the stem first. Although this is not wrong, it is advisable that you start with the florets (ie. the head of the sunflower) to get that layered effect on your canvas. Use a fine brush (1” wide brush) to paint the florets. Then, allow this to completely dry so that the paint will not bleed into the next colors you are going to use.

Paint the petals next. Start with the darkest shade and use a wide paint brush (2.5” to 3” or 3” to 3 3/4”). Again, let it dry first before you fill in the lighter shades.

To make the petals rounder, here is a trick you can try. When the paint brush touches the canvas, turn it clockwise (or counter-clockwise depending on how your petal is shaped) to create a partial arc or swirl. Repeat this stroke until you get the roundness you want. If you want your petal to look softer and more pointed, just paint in the opposite direction using a thinner layer of acrylic paint.

Here’s a superb demonstration of loaded brush techniques by Susan Abdella.

After the dark colors dry, you can add highlights and accents to make your painting look more alive. The simplest way to make a lighter shade is by mixing the original color with white. Once you get the hue you want, apply the paint thinly to add depth and richness to your flowers’ colors. Since these are highlights, you do not have to apply them very thickly. Overdoing it makes your painting look smudgy and unrealistic. If you want to paint another flower overlapping the one you have already finished, let everything dry first and then repeat the steps above.

Of course, no flower is complete without its stem and leaves. For the stems, you can use a 1” wide brush or a 2” to 3” wide brush. Use lines of varying thickness to make a layered effect. Depending on the size of the leaves you will make, you may or may not need a wider brush to paint them. If your flower is in a vase, do not forget to paint it too.

Finishing Up

After everything dries, you can choose to apply varnish over your painting to protect it and make it last longer. The great thing about varnishes is that they are removable. So you can easily take it out if it gets dirty and replace it. This is more cost-efficient than having to repaint the whole canvass if it gets damaged. Also, varnishes add gloss to your paintings to make them look more appealing.

Do not be afraid to experiment with acrylics. Try as many techniques as you can. Do not get frustrated if you are not able to get it right the first time. Painting takes a lot of time and practice. Just be patient and persistent. And above all, have fun!


Additional Resources

Check out the video HERE demonstrating how to use the one-stroke technique and a double-loader to quickly create beautiful flower petals and leaves.

Finally, here’s a fun program that has helped many artists learn how to paint flowers. (Click on the green banner below.)

How to Paint Realistic Flowers

written by How to Paint With Acrylics staff

© GO International Enterprises.
All photos, images and text are copyright protected and not to be used without permission.

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