How to Draw a Rose

Think About the Shapes

Learning how to draw a rose, like anything else, is largely a matter of looking at the flower and trying to see the different shapes that make it up. When you break the flower down into a series of simple shapes, it becomes easy to draw a beautiful bouquet.

Roses take on several forms during the period of blooming. In the bud stage, a rose is little more than an oval with a swirl at the top. As the rose begins to open, it becomes fuller and reveals the unique shape of each petal. The petals are not symmetrical and overlap at different places. Don't try to make your rose look too perfect. Perfection does not occur in nature.

Begin the Vase

To begin your picture, you'll need to create a vase for your flowers. The vase is made by adding two gently sloping vertical lines to the sides of a thin horizontal oval shape. You should make your vase roughly 1/3 the total height of your paper to allow plenty of room for your roses. In any drawing, the placement of the elements at the outset is important for balance and composition.

Make Circles for the Base

Make circles for as many roses as you are going to be drawing. Each circle will become the base of a rose. Put each circle on a thin stem, and be sure that the stems are not exactly straight; let them curve a little so they have a natural appearance.

At this point in your drawing you should be keeping your pencil lines as light as possible. You will be erasing them later on, and lines that are too dark will be difficult to remove completely. The lines here are darker for demonstration purposes only.

Giving It Shape

To shape the roses, you'll start to add lines that represent the way the petals are attached to the bud.

For the rose to the left, add the swirl at the top to represent the petals that are not yet unfurled. At the midpoint of the circle, add a couple of lines to show where the bud casing opened and curled back.

For the rose on the right, make two sloping triangular shapes that look somewhat like shark fins at the top of each side of the circle. Add short lines curved under the bud to mimic the opening and pulling back of the bud casing.

These lines should still be drawn fairly light, so they can be erased later if needed.

Start Erasing Some of the Preliminary Lines

Start erasing some of the lines from your original circles. You want to erase anything that gets in the way of a smooth, connected petal shape. A kneaded eraser works well for this task. Kneaded erasers are popular as artist's tools because they can be shaped by hand for precision erasing or used to create highlights in a finished work of art. They are also preferable to other types of erasers because they do not wear away or leave behind messy eraser residue.

Start Adding Petals

You can now begin adding additional petals to your roses. Notice how the petals are irregularly shaped and not perfectly smooth. To create the rose on the left, add one small petal behind the spiral bud shape and one larger petal between the bud shape and the open bud casing. For the rose on the right, add a petal curling around the bottom, make the upper left petal appear to open up, and add two small petals around the highest portion of the flower. These are just examples - play around with the shapes and placement of the petals until they look good to you.

Remember to sketch your petals lightly at first, so they are easy to erase if you decide you don't like their positioning.

Adding Details

Continue to add petals. Use the lines you drew as a guide and sketch in the petals, making sure that they overlap each other. Each petal must be attached to the circle base that you drew at first.

If you are having trouble finding a petal arrangement that looks pleasing to the eye, consider picking up a few roses at a local flower shop to study. Closely observing live flowers illustrates how the variations and stages of bloom in a rose are part of its beauty.

Add the leaves by lightly making teardrop shapes and sketching the jagged edges over top of the initial teardrops. Each stem will have one or two leaves that are attached to a thin offshoot. The leaves will not ever be directly across form each other. Add veins in the leaves for a more realistic appearance.

Balance and Shading

Take a look at your drawing and decide if you want to change anything. Make sure the picture is balanced. In this example, a small rosebud has been added in between the two previously drawn flowers to balance the composition.

You can then begin to add shading to the folds of the petals, the leaves and stem. Start shading lightly at first, then make your lines progressively darker. To blend your shading, use a blending stump or a tortillion rather than your fingers to prevent smudges.

When you're blending, use a small circular motion. Work from the lightest areas of the page to the darkest areas, as the graphite can sometimes stick to your blending tool and create areas that are darker than desired.

Finishing the Rose

For the most realistic looking rose, think about where the light source would be coming from and shade or blend appropriately. In this example, notice how there is a shadow under the petals. This gives the image depth, and indicates that the light source is coming from above and to the right. Imagine sunlight coming in from a window at that angle to get an idea of where to put darker shading.

Practice Drawing Roses

Do not be discouraged if your first few attempts at drawing roses are less than ideal. Artists acquire their skills through persistent study and practice. Keeping a dated sketchbook is a good way to document how your drawing abilities improve over time. Your rose drawings can also be used to make homemade cards or other paper crafting projects.

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How to Draw a Rose