Tips and techniques on painting white flowers

White flowers, they’re white, right? Not really. White picks up and reflects the colors of objects surrounding it. They are affected by the warmth or coolness of the light. Essentially, they are anything but white.

Watch the time lapse or skip down for more.

White, or the lack of color

White, such an interesting lack of color. White reflects the full visible spectrum of light and thus appears white. But it is also influenced by all other colors being reflected around. So the problem is how to represent the lack of color. And while the paper I’m working on appears to be white, it does have a slight yellow cast to it. But no matter how much white I used, it would never show up on the paper.

Lily of the Valley

lily-1I found a lovely picture of the delicate looking, yet poisonous, Lily of the valley flower and was taken by the flower. The little white bell and the delicate green stem. Such a beautiful little flower. And seemingly white.

Picking the palette

lily-2Determining the colors from a picture is easy. The picture can be imported into most image programs and the color picker used to pick out colors. The picture I used didn’t show too many colors so I stuck with cool the cool grays. I built up the depth and shape with the grays and added just a touch of green to show the reflected light from the stem.

Grays made this white

lily-3For the most part, this flower came together with several shades of cool gray with a touch of green from the stem. It is the contrast between the darker grays and the lighter grays that gives the illusion of being white. This contrast is key in also bringing objects to life. This flower would have been easier if I had put in a background that would have better defined the edges of the flower but I love the simple, clean backgrounds of botanical work and wanted to have no background.

Supplies Used

  • Fabriano Artistico hot press 140# watercolor paper
  • Faber Castell polychromos
  • Caran D’arche luminance
  • Gamblin Gamsol

What is next?

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube. I’m currently working on a pear with a leaf. Let me know in the comments if you’ve worked on anything white and what colors you used.


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