Roses make excellent still life subjects and have been the artist’s muse for millennia. They first appear as art in frescos on the walls of the palace at Knossos, on the island of Crete, which dates to around 1,700 BC.
Roses can be as simple as a five-petaled flower surrounding a central pistil, or as intricate as layers upon layers of swirling, overlapping petals. They are elegant and timeless, and their lingering fragrance has made them a popular gift for special occasions.
In this tutorial, we’ll guide you through how to draw a rose step by step, and show you how to construct the form of a rose using curves, before building up the detail and adding shading. We’ll be drawing a traditional garden rose, and it’s an ideal project to practise if you’re keen to get outside and start sketching from life.
If you’re new to drawing, we think you’ll also enjoy reading our guide to pencil drawing for beginners as well as browsing our expert selection of the best drawing pencils, to help you out with the basic techniques and best kit from the off.
Perhaps you’re looking for more inspiration to help you create your own botanical art? If so, we’ve got a lovely selection, right here on Gathered:
Art editor Sarah Orme shows you how to paint watercolour flowers with just a single shade of paint, or how about following this tutorial on how to paint a watercolour cactus? We’ve also rounded up the best (easy) watercolour leaf painting tutorials from around the web, or if you’re looking for something a little different why not try your hand at painting a wildflower meadow on a glass tumbler with our beginner’s guide to glass painting? There’s even a free template for you to download, print and trace.
Top tips for rose drawing:
- Practise drawing roses using real flowers, fake flowers or even photographs. The more you practise, the easier you’ll find it. Keep your sketches organised in a sketchbook if you can, and makes notes about what worked for you and what didn’t. This provides useful reference material as time goes on.
- Study as many specimens as possible. Take time to study the flowers’ form, posture and details.
- If you’re working from fresh, cut flowers, keep them fresher for longer by placing them in deep water (deep water encourages capillary action that draws water up the length of the stem to the flower).
- Having a basic knowledge of the botanical form of the flower will help you understand what you’re drawing. It will also help you to understand the plant morphologically, and create a more accurate final piece.
- Use curves, ellipses, and triangles to roughly map out the main features of the flower.
- Use loose lines to make your initial sketches as you plan out compositions and plant positions.
- Look at the way that the petals are arranged. Are they arranged in a spiral? Or are they radially symmetric, arranged evenly around the middle of the flower?
- If your drawing becomes scuffed, or you end up with too many nearly erased pencil lines, trace and transfer your drawing to a new piece of paper using a lightbox. Discover the best lightboxes for artists with our handy roundup.
- Experiment with different types of paper. Using toned paper takes advantage of its colour, and this becomes one of the values in the drawing.
- If you want to take your botanical drawing further, try using pen and ink. It’s traditionally associated with such drawings, and by mixing lines, stippling and crosshatching you can achieve beautifully rendered 3D images. Check out our beginner’s guide to ink drawing for everything you need to get started.
To draw a rose, you will need:
Lightly sketching the rough shape of the rose is a great way to build confidence in sketching the overall form of the flower. You can use any pencil to get started, but if you want to get the most out of pencil drawing, we recommend getting a set with a selection of different hardness.
Hardness refers to the type of line the pencil will draw; B-pencils will draw a darker, thicker, but softer line and H-pencils will draw a lighter, thinner, harder line. An HB pencil is right in the middle, and you’ll most likely have used them at school or in the office. This 12 sketching pencil kit from Faber-Castell is a great place to start and includes all pencil hardness from the very soft 5B to the very hard 5H.
Sketchbook (or paper)
You can use any type of paper for this drawing tutorial, but we recommend something with a smooth grain. This makes erasing the construction lines easier, as well as tinkering with the piece throughout the process.
This 13 x 21cm sketchbook from Moleskine has lightly pigmented paper, so the pages are a softer, cream colour, rather than the traditional bright white, which is great if you’re only using pencil or ink in your artwork. If you’re keen to add colour, we’d recommend using white paper if you’re starting out – just to get an accurate feel of the colours you’re using.
If you use a softer paper, or something with more of a grain, you’ll risk damaging the structure of the fibres the more you use your eraser, and the final result will not look as neat. Experiment with different colour paper, why not try white pencils on black paper for something a bit different?
Sometimes, leaving construction lines in your work can create a loose, fun and messy vibe to your art. But if you want to be rid of those lines completely, then I recommend using a hard, angled eraser, like these ones from Derwent, to go with your smooth paper.
These ergonomic erasers are impressively smudge-free and shaped for a better grip (there’s a dimple in the back where your thumb goes). They last for ages and are certainly some of the best universal erasers on the market at the moment.
If you want to branch into digital art, then the iPad Pro is a great option for drawing, especially when paired with the Apple Pencil. But don’t be put off by the cheaper, ‘regular’ iPads; they are just as good for the casual artist, it just boils down to how much storage you need and the types of apps you want to run.
As operating systems are taking up more and more space on your tablet than when they first came out, it’s important to keep this in mind if you’re looking to buy an iPad. As time goes on and you install more updates, the new OS will gradually take up more and more space – and you’ll have less storage for your digital art. So, it’s worth opting for maximum storage from the off, if you can afford it.
Check out our round-up of the best drawing apps for iPad if you want to browse our recommendations.
The 2nd generation Apple Pencil has an added function when compared to the first generation. With a simple double-tap, you can switch between the tools you need, which is very useful when alternating between sketching and colouring, or when working on different layers.
The upgraded apple pencil magnetically attaches to the iPad Pro, and charges wirelessly. If you do happen to put it down on a flat surface, like your craft desk, the flat edges of the 2nd Gen Apple Pencil mean it’s much less likely to roll away (the original 1st Generation Apple Pencil is round).
How to draw a rose
Follow this easy tutorial and learn how to draw a rose.
Scroll down for our in-depth rose drawing tutorial, where we take you from constructing the overall form of the flower using basic shapes and curves, to adding details and shading.
For the purposes of this easy rose drawing tutorial, we have used red to show where you should put the construction lines, then lightened them when adding the detail on top.
Ready? Let’s go!
You Will Need
- Drawing pencils
- Sketchbook or drawing paper
- An iPad, if producing a digital drawing
- An Apple pencil, if you are using an iPad
First, draw an egg shape near the top of the page. This will form the inner part of the rose, but be sure to leave room below to allow for the stalk and leaves. If you’re drawing just the rose head, then make this egg shape larger and more central to the page.
For reference, this is the proportion of the egg shape to the page:
For the rest of the tutorial for the head of the rose, we have zoomed in to help you see the details more clearly.
Draw a small spiral at the top.
Draw two short lines on either side of the inner circle of the spiral. These will help to define the shape of the tight inner petals.
Next, build up the inner part of the rose by extending a line from the top of the egg shape along the left side of the spiral.
Add another line from the back of the spiral to the right edge of the egg shape.
Add a wavy line at the bottom of the spiral, as demonstrated.
Add a curve behind the main shape, making it slightly heart-shaped. This is the first of the more open petals that surround the tighter inner petals.
Build up the more open petals to the front, by drawing a curved line from the top right, down into the centre of the egg.
Draw a double curved line from the left-hand side, meeting the other line at the end.
From the bottom edge of the widest right-hand petal, draw a short diagonal line down, so that it meets the edge of the egg – this adds ‘body’ to that petal and help it look more 3D.
Join up the end of the wavy line (that you drew in step 5) with the curved line, to help structure the inside of your rose.
Draw a side-on petal across the whole of the rose. Make it wider on the right and taper it to a point on the left-hand side, almost like a backwards Nike tick.
As we get further out from the centre of the rose, the petals start to open up more and more.
Starting from the top left-hand side of the back petal, draw a curve that extends down to the centre of the bottom of the rose, as shown.
Draw two more side-on petals at the base. Don’t worry too much about getting the exact shape right, just try and draw them slightly oval. I’ve made one pointed (left) and one more rounded (right).
If you’ve made it this far – then this is the hardest part done!
Time to add the larger petals!
First, draw a large curve that encircles the left-hand side.
Draw a slightly smaller curve on the right-hand side. Add a little dimple in the middle of this line.
Add another curve on the left.
Add a curve to the bottom-right.
Add a curve to the bottom-left.
Add a curve in between the two petals on the right-hand side.
Finally, add a small curve at the back of your flower.
That’s all your petals planned out!
At this point, I decided I wanted to erase the parts of the egg shape that wouldn’t be seen. Doing this now helps to avoid confusion when you’re adding the details, but it’s up to you.
Draw two thin, pointed leaves at the base of the rose head. These two leaves make up the rose’s sepal.
Draw a vertical line from the bottom of the rose head to the bottom of the page, and roughly mark out where you would like the leaves to be.
Add in the approximate position of the individual leaves.
Roses are thorny, so add in the approximate position of the thorns, alternating the direction they face as you go down the stem. We’ve gone for four.
Using the lines as a guide to inform where the centre of the leaves are, draw a rough leaf shape around each of these lines.
Repeat on the other side.
For the curled leaf, draw a semi-circle shape.
If you want to add a bract to your rose (a small, specialised leaf that sits below the flower but above the leaves), draw a small, squashed curve that extends to one side. That’s all of the planning steps done!
If you want, you can leave it there (or simply go over these lines with a thicker pen), or you can add a bit more detail.
For the next part of this tutorial, we have lightened the construction lines so that you can more easily pick out the detail on top.
Like planning the shape of the rose, when adding detail it’s easier to start in the middle and work your way outwards. Inside the middle of the spiral, draw in some baby petals using a harder pencil (or a fine liner).
If you’re struggling with the size of this (it’s quite small!), then draw a tiny spiral in the middle.
Start going over the main shapes of the petals, building up your rose drawing as you go.
Continue going over the construction lines with your pen or pencil of choice. Neaten up the shapes if you need to.
As you start to move further outward, add some waves here and there to shape the edge of your petals.
Petals come in all shapes and sizes, but it’s very common to see petals with a dip (or a peak) in the middle at the petal’s highest point (the point furthest away from the stem).
Continue following the construction lines until you’ve outlined all the petals.
Draw over the construction lines for the sepal at the bottom of the rose head, adding a second line along the base to make it appear like the leaf is rolled up slightly.
Add in the stem.
Rose stems are not perfectly straight; they bend at the intersection with leaves.
As you’re drawing the stem, angle it slightly towards one set of leaves, then angle it slightly the other way, towards the other set of leaves and resulting in a slightly crooked stem.
The thorns are just simple spikes, curved slightly where they join onto the stem.
Most species of rose have serrated leaves. As you go over the construction line for the leaves, use a zig-zag motion, and angle the tips of your zig-zags towards the top of the leaf.
Repeat for the other group of leaves on the other side.