3 Tips for Painting Realistic Flowers in Acrylic – Marianne Vander Dussen

3 Tips for Painting Realistic Flowers in Acrylic

I can safely say that creating and releasing my first ever digital course, Painting Flowers in Acrylic, has been one of the proudest moments of my artistic career.

Since the course’s launch on September 29th, 2023, I’ve had the sincere privilege of teaching, coaching and supporting artists in the program from all over the world, including England, France, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Canada, and the US. The work they’ve produced as a result of the course has been remarkable. It’s been a true joy to witness.

This course will be available as a permanent offering on my website, but keep an eye on your email for discount codes that will be mailed out periodically. All new email newsletter subscribers automatically receive a discount code, so be sure to read the welcome email in full! If you're interested in joining now, you can use the code LAUNCH50 to save $50 off. You can learn more about the course here.

If you’re interested in learning to paint more realistic flowers in acrylic, but aren’t ready to dive into the full course yet, here are a few tips to help you get started while you’re practicing on your own:

  1. Don’t expect the petal to look realistic on the first layer. Acrylics often dry transparently, and much darker than you initially intended. Prepare yourself mentally to build layers on each and every petal.
  2. If your colours are too bright and saturated, tone them down using their complementary opposite instead of black. For example, if you want to paint a purple petal but your colour is too intense, try adding a bit of yellow. If your petal is way too orange, add a hint of blue. I often use reds in my greens to help them look much more realistic, since green can be a very tricky colour to work with.
  3. Use older brushes for better blending. I like old, scruffy brushes to get soft, feathered edges on my petals. If you are considering throwing out a brush because it’s completely lost its shape, consider keeping it in a jar especially for ancient brushes and put it to work on flower petals instead.

Another tip that I use for all paintings is to not think of your subject in terms of lights and darks, but instead try to only see colour. For example, if you had to isolate the one colour that you were looking at in the flower petal, what would it be? Forget how it looks in relation to the colours surrounding it…is it blue, purple, etc.? Even shadows and highlights have a colour undertone and are never black or white, they’re usually soft colours that our eyes perceive as being black or white. 

Seeing your flowers as only possessing colour and not darks and lights will soften your paintings and help your petals look much more realistic. Colours have inherent values (purples are darker than yellows) so the shadows, mids and highlights will emerge on their own.

I hope these tips help you in your painting practice, if you have any questions, feel free to leave them below! If you’d like to watch the full peony timelapse, you can watch the YouTube tutorial below. Happy painting!

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