How to Color Beautiful Realistic Flowers in 5 Easy Steps
Learn simple techniques to create realistic flowers for awe-inspiring floral coloring pages.
By Thea Voutiritsas
Flower and leaf-filled patterns commonly adorn many adult coloring pages (including a huge portion of our very own!). But sometimes it’s tough to know what to do with those pretty petals, especially if you’re going for a more realistic look. Take your flower coloring pages up a notch by learning to fill in those petals, leaves, and stems with realistic coloring techniques. A few simple tips for perfect shading and some attention to light source and texture can take your flowers from boring to blooming.
Coloring Tip #1: Pick the right coloring tools.
One of the keys to creating perfect flowers is blending, so you’ll want to choose a coloring medium that will allow you to blend and layer, as well as get into small corners. In our opinion, colored pencil is the best medium for precision and blending (and they’re beginner-friendly, too!). Some markers may also be a good choice, as long as you opt for a set that is made to blend with. (Alcohol-based Copic markers or water-based Tombow Dual Brush Pens are two good options.)
Also be sure to pick the right kind of paper for your tools. If you’re blending with colored pencils, you’ll want to opt for a heavier paper with some tooth/texture, like this Strathmore Series 400 Sketch Pad. If you’re going to use a wet medium like markers or watercolor pencils, consider watercolor or multimedia paper that is designed not to warp from moisture. (We like Canson’s Paper for Wet and Dry Media.)
Coloring Tip #2: Identify your light source.
The key to creating a realistic-looking piece of art is to imitate the way the items appear in real life. (We know — easier said than done.) Identifying your light source is an important step. Look around: Every object you see is being hit by light right now, whether it be from direct sunlight, sunlight through a window, or from a lamp. To make your art more realistic, you need to identify where you imagine light coming from in the scene you’re coloring. Maybe you imagine the sun in the top left corner of your page, or maybe you’re coloring an indoor scene that gets its light from a lamp featured in the image itself. Be sure to color with the light source in mind so your flowers have consistent, realistic highlights and shadows. (Our tutorial on hatching and cross-hatching can help you learn to identify your light source by drawing a simple arrow in the corner of your page.) The Cliff’s Notes? Keep areas of each object closer to the light source lighter, and darken the areas farther away from it.
Coloring Tip #3: Select a color palette.
Most flowers are really only made up of a few shades of one or two colors. In this example, we chose three shades of dark purple and two yellow-orange hues. Start by studying some pictures of the flowers you’re trying to emulate and notice what colors occur in nature. Pay attention to how the colors flow and interact with light. Try to identify a dark, medium, and light shade of each color in the flower so you can create highlights and shadows more easily. Then turn to your tools and see what hues you can use to closely mimic the example images you studied.
Coloring Tip #4: Add shadows and highlights.
Adding shadows (aka darker areas) and highlights (aka lighter areas) to your flowers is key to achieving a realistic look. The shadows will appear to recede, while highlights come forward, making the flowers on your coloring page appear to pop and almost look 3D. Highlights are easy — just leave the areas of your page that you want to be lighter white. You can even lightly outline those areas with a light-colored pencil to remind yourself to leave that area blank. Then, gently fill in the petals with your lightest color, and slowly build up your layers to create darker shades. Remember: shadows are never black, they’re often just a darker version of your main color. For example, a blue flower may graduate from powder blue, to cerulean, to navy. If you don’t have darker versions of the same hue, try alternating pressures to create different intensities. Press harder for a darker color payoff, and shade lightly for soft hues. Once you have the rest of the petals or leaves colored, you can go back and add some light color to the highlight areas if needed to create a more seamless look.
Coloring Tip #5: Blend, blend, blend!
There are many ways to blend colored pencils, but the general idea remains the same: Lay down a base color with your lightest shade and slowly build on top of it with darker colors to bring your image to life. Use light pressure and color in tiny oval shapes to avoid creating harsh lines or scratches on those delicate flowers. Be sure your blending strokes are nearly invisible so colors change seamlessly from one to the next like they do in nature. There are extra tools like blending pencils, Gamsol, and even baby oil that can help you create an even more seamless image, but no blending technique can replace the age-old trick of taking your time —creating smooth gradients takes patience!
Between the delicate petals and detailed shadows, creating realistic flowers is no easy feat. With a little determination and some elbow grease, your realism skills will blossom. Practice your newfound coloring techniques and your floral coloring pages will me Instagram-worthy in no time!