How I draw a Rose – Preparing the Line work for a Colour Pencil Piece

Recently I have been working on a new beginners colour pencil tutorial featuring a simple red rose. ( It should be really fun!) As I was drawing up the outlines it occurred to me that this is a much more complicated shape than the pear and mango tutorials that I have already created, and it may be a little tricky for beginners who do not wish to trace the base image.

So here is my attempt at teaching you how to draw a very simple rose. This tutorial has been a little tricky to create, as I have never really considered my “methods” when I am drawing. So I have spent the last week drawing, and re-drawing this rose to break my process down as simply as possible. No doubt there are better tutorials out there, but this is how I approach drawing a simple rose. Hopefully It helps you too!


  • a sketchbook – I use a cheap, student grade sketchbook from the local newsagent, nothing fancy
  • A soft graphite pencil. I like to use an 8b which is very soft. I like to be able to really move the graphite around on the paper, but this may be a little too soft and messy for some, a 4 or 6b will certainly do the trick
  • A kneadable eraser.
  • A blending stump or tortillion  (or the tip of you finger will do in a pinch, just don’t blend graphite with fingers for “finished” pieces as the oils in your fingers will case you issues)
  • Tracing paper. ( or kitchen wrapping paper – Its see through, cheap and it works!) to get a clean tracing of your final image ready to be used on your final paper.

Reference photo

Here is the reference image for our rose, A very simple rose, with only a few petals and only a few curls… you can do this!!

Step 1.

The first step is to define the size of the rose we wish to draw. Sometimes when drawing, it can be very easy to find one area getting much larger or smaller than intended, or perhaps you start at the wrong place on your paper, meaning you run out of space later. I find it helpful to lay down a circle to define the area in which I intend to work. In this case I have circled the area I want the petals to fill.

Step 2. 

I Find the center structure of the rose and start there. In nearly every rose, there is an area in the center of the flower which is more densely packed than the petals around the outside. I always start with this piece, as I find that I can use this core area as a good place mark against which I can measure the rest of the flower.

In this photo, the tightly coiled core makes up the majority of the rose. This makes for a much simpler drawing.






But no matter how complicated, or how many petals, I always look to draw that central structure first


Using the circle as a guide I start drawing in the shape of the center petals. I draw these lines in a very light, sketchy manner. I am using a very dark, soft pencil, and If I press too hard, I may create lines which I cannot erase easily. Much like when using colour pencil, a light hand it best!!





As I work, I try to imagine the other side of that shape which is hidden underneath the overlaying petal. Thinking about how this rose is constructed helps me to better understand the shapes I am seeing.

This also allows me to draw in the next petal more accurately, as the second petal lays over the top of this core petal and will follow its shape pretty closely. You can draw this is if you wish and erase it later, but personally I find too many guide lines distracting.


Step 3.

Keeping that underlying structure in mind, I then draw the first petal wrapping the flower. I make soft sketchy lines so that i can easily erase and/or smudge out any lines that go astray.

I continuously check with my reference photo, and compare to what I have on my page. Some things you may need to keep an eye on are: is the top of you petal tall enough in comparison to  the top of the center petal ? does the petal wrap over enough of the center petal? Are your curves correct with a nice rounded curve to the inner side of the petal, and a reasonably gentle curve to the outside?

Keep comparing and checking, you will be surprised how much information your brain will *think* it sees and if you don’t take the time to look and compare, you will find you have drawn some very different shapes!

Step 4.

Drawing in the first outer petal. I start by drawing the basic rectangular like shape of the outside of the petal.

Then I study the values on the petal and draw myself a guide line for where the petal goes from the shadowed area into a much lighter one. This change of value will be very important when colouring or shading to show the 3 dimensional shape of the petal, so I want to make sure I have it down to guide me.

Lastly I draw in the curve of the underside of the petal

Step 5.

Next I draw in the larger petal to the left. Using the circle as a guide to how large this petal needs to be. Once again, I draw in a small guide line to show me where the petal curves at the very top. While I am drawing these petals, I am ignoring any of the smaller details, such as bumps and ridges along the edge. I want to get the placement of these petals down first before I worry about adding the details.


Step 6 .

I then draw in the somewhat misshapen petal between the outer petal and the core petal. Much of this petal quite heavily shadowed, so It can be a little tricky to see the details. Just take your time and keep checking your work against the reference photo.

I then draw in the stem and leaves at the base of the rose. I did not like the way the leaf on the right covered up my flower, nor how long it extends away from the rose, so in my version I have left out one of the curls in the leaf and shortened it overall

 Step 7.

I start my shading by finding the darkest areas of the rose. In this drawing they are closest to the central structure and underneath the misshapen petal. I find shading much easier if I define my darkest values first. The super soft 8b pencil means that this will blend out very easily, and I will have to deepen these shadows further as I work


Step 8.

I work on adding shading to the rest of the rose. This is almost always where I find all my mistakes- when the shadows don’t fit as they should, I know my line work is wrong!! I study my reference photo and using a blending stump and a kneadable eraser, I add the rest of my values to the rose.

I Use my blending stump to smooth out the transitions between areas of light and dark, and my eraser to pull graphite back off areas that need to be lighter. Take your time and really look at that reference! Where is the light hitting the most? which areas are in the deepest shadow? Are there areas which blend together in the darkness? Is there a shadow under the curl of a petal? Studying values like this can be very surprising, and you may find highlights and shadows in places you never expected.

This gives me an excellent opportunity to study the lights and darks (or more correctly, the values) in my rose, before I start with my colour pencils.

Sometimes when drawing in these changes in value you will see where the line work is incorrect and this is a good time to make any final changes to the overall shape of those petals. The soft pencil and sketchbook paper generally make the graphite very easy to move around at this point, so as long as you don’t press to hard with your pencil, you can shade and blend and erase until you get it looking right. If you are find it difficult to see the values, you may find it easier to switch the reference photo to black and white.

I have added in a couple of lines to show myself the direction of the veins on the petals and how they wrap around the flower. As this is a guideline, and not a finished graphite drawing, I can add in any details that I feel may help me when creating the final colour pencil drawing. This is a road map! so feel free to make notes however you wish!!


Step 9.

I add shading to the leaves at the base. You can see it this point I have also changed the direction of that left hand leaf, as I feel it was sticking out at an awkward angle.





Step 10.

The final touches! Now that I am happy with the overall shape, I go over the edges of my petals, adding in any of those small bumps and imperfections that I deliberately ignored earlier. I find that If you try to draw in those details first it is very easy to misjudge the overall shape of the object you are drawing.  It is much easier to get an accurate drawing when you get the major shapes in first and THEN add the small details.


Step 11.

When I am happy with my drawing, I use tracing paper ( or kitchen paper) to trace over the outlines of the piece. This gives me a nice clean drawing that I can transfer onto my rather precious water-color paper, ready for me to begin the colouring process!

Creating my line drawing in this manner allows me the freedom to make mistakes and make any changes that I wish long before I ever set pencil onto my delicate ( and rather expensive) water-colour paper. All of my mistakes have been made and erased without damaging the tooth of that fancy paper with my eraser or stray graphite lines, and I can start my final work with a nice, clean slate.

Perhaps because I was a graphite and charcoal artist long before I picked up the colour pencils, I find that having already made a small tonal study like this  can help greatly when it comes time to colour, as sometimes determining changes in value can be difficult in when working in colour.

I hope this helps! Of course I will be providing a traceable line drawing in my next tutorial, where we bring this rose to life with colour pencil but I encourage you to give drawing it yourself a try! Much like the mango and the pear, all roses are different, and yours doesn’t have to be perfect! (I can assure you mine isn’t!! ) I would love to see what you can do!








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