Easy Watercolor Rose with Shadow

Trompe l’oeil means to fool the eye (in French). In this easy lesson, you’ll use shadows to paint a rose that looks three dimensional. It is a fun technique and makes people take a double look at your painting.

Easy Rose Downloads:


Suggested Colors:

  • Phthalo Blue – AKA Winsor Blue, Joe’s Blue, etc.
  • Quinacridone Red, Pink or Magenta
  • Yellow – Winsor Yellow or any good yellow
  • Opaque white for touch up

Painting Steps

Reference Photo for Easy Watercolor Rose by Deb Watson

Step 1 – Draw or trace

Draw or trace your outline onto your watercolor paper with graphite paper. (Options – You can add curve to your stem or make your rose lying down horizontally.) You can add some shading with your pencil, if desired.

Step 2 – Paint the Rose.

  • Mix a puddle of light red or pink.
  • You can work on dry paper and soften, or wet the petal before painting, so you have soft edges between the dark petal edges and the light inside of the petals.
  • Paint red/pink around the edges of the rose petals, then clean out your brush and soften the edges of the pink with a clean damp brush.
  • You may need to dry the rose between petals. The left petal is dark red/pink.
  • Darken – When dry, make the pink edges and curled petals even darker red/pink.
  • Add a shadow to the right petal on the right side with dark red/pink.

Step 3 – Paint the light green at the bottom of the rose.

  • Mix a tiny bit of blue with yellow for a light yellow green.
  • Paint the green leaves around the bottom of the rose, and the top of the stem.
  • Lift to lighten – Use a damp brush to lift up the lighter areas (top of middle leaf).

Step 4 – Paint the green leaves

  • Mix a very dark green (more blue, less yellow, and a tiny touch of red.)
  • Paint the shadow side of the leaves with this black green.
  • Vary the green color – lighter green where you see it beside the darker areas.
  • Highlights? – You can skip the areas where the highlights go, then soften them with a damp brush OR just paint the whole leaf and add white at the end.

Step 5 – Paint the rose stem.

  • Mix a reddish brown – lots of red, some yellow and add some leftover light green or a touch of blue.
  • Paint the reddish brown bit – paint the stem reddish brown from the green part down to an inch from the bottom.
  • Paint the green bit – paint the bottom of the stem green, painting up into the brown

Step 6 – Paint the shadow.

  • Mix a dark blue gray – mostly blue with some red (turns purple), then add a little yellow or leftover green
  • You want the shadow very dark (black) next to the rose and it gets lighter as it moves away from the rose.
  • Damp for soft edges – For a soft edge, you can dampen the edges before painting, or paint the shadow, dry, and soften the edge with a damp brush.
  • Paint – Start next to the flower with the vey dark, then add a little more water to your brush and keep painting.
  • Also paint the stem shadow – the stem and the shadow converge at the bottom. You can also soften the left edge of the stem shadow, too.
  • There are a few hints of shadow under the leaves, if you want.

Step 7 – Evaluate and Adjust Your Values, Plus Finishing Touches

  • Darken any wimpy darks – Is the shadow side of the rose dark enough? To darken up any area of the rose, you can mix your pink/red with some of the shadow color.
  • Do you want a line of shadow on the right side of the stem?
  • Opaque white –
    o Use opaque white to add a line of white to the left/middle of the stem.
    o Also to add white highlights to you leaves or lighten the middle of the rose.

Easy Watercolor Rose Summary

Trompe l’oeil can be a fun technique to paint a unique and eye-catching painting. Try painting a penny or coin in strong light with a dark shadow, or other small household item, like a crayon. The sharper your detail, the more the eye fooling effect you’ll get. The darker the shadows are, the brighter the sunlight will seem.

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