Nov 20, 2008

how to paint a sunflower

last week i painted an ikea malma mirror with sunflowers. a couple of ladies asked me to take them through the steps. i thought that it would be clearer if i drew up a rough instructional guide. i would like to share this instructional guide here. hope that it will help anyone who wants to try and paint a sunflower :)

the techniques i use :
> one stroke painting - round brush #6
> stipple work- stippling brush (or any old, stiff, flat top brush)
> dots work - stylus

the colors are from jo sonja, you will need a color converter chart if you are using another brand.
petals : yellow oxide, yellow light, warm white, yellow orange (orange cadmium), pale gold (optional)
center : brown earth, burnt umber, yellow oxide, yellow light, warm white, moss green

how to paint the petals :

click to enlarge

step 1 :
- draw a circle to represent the center of the flower
- proceed to paint the first layer of the petals. do this sparsely
- painting stroke is from out to in as shown by the arrow
- fully load round brush with yellow oxide. using the tip of the brush, start with a little wiggle then press (and spread) the whole brush down as you approach the flower center. that's how you get the thin to thick stroke of the petal (as shown in the picture below)

wiggle with the tip of brush

and press

step 2 :
- using the same stroke technique, paint the 2nd color : yellow light
- occasionally half load the brush with yellow oxide to give the petals a 2 dimensional color

step 3 :
- add the 3rd color warm white
- maintain yellow light as main color. fully load brush with yellow light, and *tip* the brush with warm white. use the same stroke and you will get the variegated look on the petals

*tip* - tipping is to fully load the brush with one color and then adding a dash of another color just at the tip of the brush



step 4 :
- add the 4th color yellow orange or if you want a more dramatic look, cadmium orange
- by this stage your sunflower petals are almost done. therefore the orange is used just for tipping and a little variation.

*experiment with full loading, half and half loading and tipping, and your petals will be alive with variegation :) my art teacher told us to keep the brush somewhat dirty, that means don't wash the brush clean when you go from one color to another. when the colors mix, that's when the magic happens :)

now for the center of the flower :

click to enlarge

step 1 :
- base the center of the flower with a medium brown color. i use brown earth here

step 2 :
- use the *stippling* technique to stipple the outside of the circle a darker shade of brown: burnt umber
- stipple the inside of the circle with yellow oxide and then in the very middle, a little moss green
- blend the colors so the shade goes from dark to light

*stippling is done with a flat stiff brush (any old brush will do). load color on a rather dry brush and start pounding the brush on the place you want to stipple. the effect will be an uneven scruffy looking layer of paint. usually used to create a fuzzy effect like teddy bear fur or the center of a flower.


step 3 :
- use a stylus, or any round tip apparatus
- add dots in yellow light, warm white, moss green to the center of the flower

stylus and dot work

and you are done!

here is an example of the mirror i painted :)

for the extra glow, as this is going to be a christmas gift, i added an extra color and tipped some of the upper petals with pale gold. i also *spattered* the flowers with diluted pale gold to create the stardust effect.

*spatter - loading the paint on a toothbrush and running your thumb through the brush to create little spatter dots. like we did as kids in school :)

hope this is enough information for those of you who wants to try painting a sunflower :) but in anything, practice makes perfect!

happy pimping! :)


  1. Luthien,

    You are a beautiful artist.

    You have a great eye. You are correct. The shade is a blue and white toile design.

    Have a great day.


  2. oh melissa :) that's so sweet :) thank you!

  3. Oh, what BEAUTIFUL flowers! You are so very talented! I think sunflowers are so happy too, and just recently realized that I have incorporated quite a few of them into my decor, without even realizing it! They just make me smile! :-)

  4. thanks jen :))) yea... sunflowers are so happy! you know... you can actually try to paint some, following the instructions... they are not very difficult :)))

  5. Wow! This is amazing! I think no matter how simple the instructions were, matching your beautiful technique a sheer talent for painting would be impossible. You're a truly gifted artist!

  6. oh sharon! what a compliment! i'm blushing already... thank you very much! :)))))

  7. You make it look so easy. Mine would never ever look half as good. I love your work. Thanks for sharing.

  8. of course it would! just needs a bit of practice. i would also say that i'll never make tote like you :))))) but i guess in anything we do, the double "p" is most important... practice and passion :)

  9. this is beautiful. even the application of the sunflower on the mirror is mind blowing. i wish i had this amazing ability. but i will definitely try this out. guess what? will try out this design on my kurtis. let u know the outcome!! thanks a million!!

  10. shweta :)
    thank you for your lovely comment! do come back and visit and yes!! keep me posted on your work ok :)) i'm so glad you found this tutorial useful :))
    luthien :)

  11. Hello!
    Thanks for the great tutorial. Easy to follow. Congratulations for sharing.
    Mrs. Dulce De Leon

  12. this is a wonderful tutorial and you really have many gifts, don't you?
    love your sunflowers here -


thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post :) it makes my day!!
Luthien :)