Colouring a Red Rose -Beginners Colour pencil tutorial

In my last post I talked about how to draw the outlines for this piece; today we are going to add the colour. In my previous tutorials, I covered how to apply the pencil to the paper and how to smoothly blend your colours. In today’s tutorial, we are going to focus on building a nice deep color saturation with some darker colours, including black, by continually building light layers of colour.

Once again, here is the reference photo we will be using:

and a traceable line drawing if you just want to get to the fun stuff.

I used my polychromos in the colours:

  • Deep Scarlett
  • Dark Red
  • Walnut Brown
  • Black
  • Chrome Oxide Green
  • Earth Green Yellowish
  • Fuchsia (optional)

For prismacolors I used:

  • Permanent Red
  • Crimson Red
  • Tuscan Red (dark and warm it makes a decent substitute for Walnut Brown in this piece)
  • Black
  • Olive Green
  • Lime Peel
  • Process Red (optional)

I have used odorless mineral spirits (OMS) to blend my colour pencils in this tutorial, and used  a 3/10 oval, and a 1/8 oval taklon brushes to blend.

I used an A5 piece of Arches Hot press in my video demo, and fabriano accademia for my practice runs, which are extremes of an expensive and a budget paper!  When choosing your paper, look for a nice sturdy paper with a slight tooth to the surface.

Once you have you line drawing on your paper it’s time to start the colouring!


Step 1.

Have a good long look at the reference photo and try to identify the darkest ares of the rose. These are mostly seen in places where the petals are curling in and casting shadows towards the centre of the rose. The petals on roses are often tightly packed and you can often identify some really nice dark shadows even on a lighter coloured flower. In this photo the rose is quite a simple shape, so the darkest areas are easy to identify. Lay down a light layer of Walnut Brown (or Tuscan Red) in these areas.

Step 2.

Now that you have identified the darkest areas, it is time to look for the lightest ones. Unlike my previous tutorials, where we coloured in small circles, today we are going to add a little texture to the solid red by lightly colouring in the direction of the veins of the petals.  Look closely at each petal before colouring, you will notice that the direction of these veins changes on each petal, and they help show the roundness and fullness of the rose.  Using these as a guide, use your lightest red to colour the lightest areas of the rose.

Step 3.

Colour the remaining area of the rose with your dark red pencil. Once again, applying your pencil in the direction of the petal textures. Colour over the top of your Brown/Tuscan Red areas, these colours will blend together to create a really nice deep red colour.

Step 4.

It is time to blend our pencils for the first time. Dip your brush in the OMS, then remove the excess on a piece of scrap paper until the brush is mostly dry. Start blending your pencil, being careful not to accidentally spread that dark red onto the surrounding white paper, as it will be impossible to remove! The smaller brush comes in very handy for those tight spots. We want to take every opportunity to build upon the texture of those petals, so wherever possible, blend your pencil in the direction of the petal veins. Paying close attention to these textures will really prevet your drawing from looking flat when we are finished.

When you are happy that you have blended the entire surface, allow the OMS to dry completely.

Step 5.

With the first layer down, we have established where our lightest and darkest areas are in the drawing, but the coverage is still very patchy and light. We will fix that by adding additional layers of colour. Start by adding another layer of dark brown to the deepest shadows.

Step 6.

Use the dark red pencil to cover the mid tones, once again, going over the brown areas to create a deep rich shadow colour. Remember to work in the direction of the veins wherever you see them.

Step 7. 

Use the lightest red over most of the rose (except for the very darkest areas) this will help to bring all the colours together and help the rose look like it is just gradients of a single colour. Make sure you are still only colouring in light layers at this point, while it looks like there is a lot of pigment going down onto the paper in the video at this point, it is just because the pigments are starting to build up on the page. The point of this tutorial is to build our depth of colour slowly and we really don’t want to be pressing hard at any point of this piece.

Step 8. 

Using a very dry brush, we will be blending out the pencil again. Remember that as the colour builds up on the surface of the paper, the drier our brush needs to be. A wet brush will start to lift colour off the paper, which is the opposite of what we want to see. Once you are satisfied with the blending allow the thinners to dry before moving onto the next step.

Step 9 (optional)

At this point we can take a moment to add a little touch of that pinky tone to the base of the center petal. It is a small detail, but adding some different tones to the piece can help add to the realism and interest of the drawing. Adding some slightly different tones to our rose along with adding  the petal texture will help this piece be more life-like and less flat and solid.

Step 10. 

With our colours building up nicely, we can start to add a little touch of black to our shadows. I have held off from adding the black until this point. because I didn’t want to overshadow that vibrant red by mixing it with a straight black. Black itself can be too dominating to most colours to use directly as a shadow colour, so I used the Walnut Brown (or Tuscan Red) as a bridge between or red and black. The shadows of this rose however are very dark, so we can add just a little hint of black in the deepest shadows to add contrast to our rose. Be sparing, but brave in this step! If you feel you have put down too much black, you should have enough pigment on your paper to be able to lift off some of the colour with your brush wet with OMS. Usually you don’t want to lift colour off your page, but occasionally it can be a helpful trick if you have gone too far and need to take pigment back off. As long as you haven’t squashed the tooth of your paper, you can always wait for the thinner to dry and re-build any colour lifted off later. 

Step 11.

The piece is almost done. At this point go over your colours once more to make sure the paper is completely covered. Add the Walnut Brown to the shadows, then add more of the darkest red and top it off with a final few layers of the lightest red. At this point you should have a lovely strong red colour and some nice dark shadows on your paper. And its all been done with nice light layers.

Once you feel like you have a good amount of colour down, blend the rose with OMS for the last time.
(If you reach this point and you still don’t feel like you have a strong enough coverage, feel free to add more layers, as long as you have kept a light hand, you should be able to keep adding layers of pencil until you reach a nice saturation.)

Step 12.

While you wait for the rose to dry. Add a layer of your lightest green to the entire stem and leaf section of the rose, once again following the direction of any textures you can see on the stem. Then you can add some of the darkest green in the areas of shadow, such as, under the leaves, where one of the leaves are curling over and down the right hand side of the stem. Look closely at the reference photo to find these shadows. Finally you can add a touch of Walnut Brown or Tuscan Red ( remember that red and green are complimentary colours, so they will blend to a darker and less saturated colour, perfect for a shadow!) to the very darkest shadow on the stem.

Step 13.

Blend out the stem with OMS on the smaller brush, some of those tight little curls may be a little tricky, so take your time! Luckily the green pencils don’t seem to spread as easily as the red, so you are at less risk of accidentally pushing them too far outside the area you want to see them. Allow the thinners to dry.

Step 14.

Repeat the colouring process with the stem. Even though this is a much lighter colour that the red of the rose, the stem should have the same saturation of colour as the rose, so you will need to add multiple layers in this area too. Go over the stem in the same manner as step 12, and blend once again.

Step 15.

The final touches! Using your dark red pencil, carefully add a few of the veins on the surface of the petals. You have been following their shape throughout this piece, so a few light lines should finish this off nicely. Be careful to only add these lines very lightly, they will look too artificial if you press down to hard. Just use a light touch.

Then, if you wish you can use your dark red to add a little red to the tips of the rose leaves and use your darkest green to add in a few of the little spurs on those leaves as well. And your all done!!

I hope you find this tutorial helpful and you give this a go!! If you do I would love to see how you go! feel free to tag me on Instagram or post to my Facebook page. You guys have done some wonderful work with the pear and mango tutorials, I am sure I will see some beautiful roses too.





2 thoughts on “Colouring a Red Rose -Beginners Colour pencil tutorial

  1. Debi

    Omg THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I’m so happy you are doing this. You have no idea how this is helping me. I look forward to doing all of the projects. People with illness benefit greatly from this.



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