Painting white subjects – or coloring them in any medium – is challenging! Our EYE tells us it’s white. No color. But how do we handle the shadows? There are shadows – we just need to look very very carefully! Each shadow also has a hue – and assessing that can help make shadows look realistic …. the secret is in glazing.


Tutorial: Watercoloring a white rose (layering tips)

At the end of the video feel free to “scrub” through different stages to see the differences created during each adaptation with paint color. Sometimes through wet-in-wet color charging and sometimes wet-on-dry glazing.

Watch the video below and scroll to the end to leave comments or questions — or click HERE to watch it on YouTube and leave comments over there. I read both dutifully!

No true “first” pass

Unlike the peach rose, I didn’t create an overal first pass. I could have for sure – but I wasn’t sure where color was heading. With some subject matter you’ll really WANT to create an overall light wash first, but with so many clearly divided sections I opted to begin with the part of my reference that fascinated me most: the warm yellow glow inside the center of the rose.

Building out from around that center led me to yellowish and yellowish-green colors, experimenting with adding a little brown as well; the palette had puddles of several colors I could keep pulling from.

Once the center area was ‘set’ I added a very pale Paynes Blue Gray wash for the outer petals. Yes they have color in them!

In this case, I chose to charge a little of the warm colors from my palette into the wet wash – giving me subtle blends I’d never get when creating a glaze on top.

True glazing! After the paper was completely dry, painting over the blue gray covers and re-tones the petal underneath. Don’t scrub with your brush – or you’ll lift colors underneath and sometimes that creates pure mud.

Always check that your hues and contrast go with any extra elements added to the painting – like the leaves here. They were so dark that I decided I needed more contrast in the flower.

In the final painting you can see the center is clearly the focus of the painting; even though the green leaves are powerful, they’ve been kept soft and non-detailed so they take a back seat to the star of the show!

Paintings for sale

As usual i’ve added works to the fine art shop – the peach rose went right away but you can see others there. If you didn’t see all my roses this week it’d be because of poor reach lately on Instagram and Facebook…there’s some mighty pretty roses that never survived the algorithm but you can check my page directly.

What white subjects do you struggle with?

I’d be happy to add some suggestions to my list for subject matter you might need some help with or examples for. Shout them out in the comments!


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1 Comment

  1. Gab

    Just gorgeous Sandy


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