Draw An Open Rose

Increase Contrast

“Tip of the pencil” shading gives you more control over details than the side of the pencil shading taught in Beginning Shading, Combined with side of pencil hatching, this technique creates a finer texture that can be used to draw any subject if the texture is kept the same over the entire subject.

When you shade the rose in this exercise, with attention to creating uniform hatching, the texture steps backward and the beautiful form of the flower becomes the most important aspect of the drawing.

Side Of Pencil Shading C. Rosinski

Side of the Pencil Shading
The shading to the left was created with the side of a soft pencil, held in an overhand grip and at a low angle.

Tip Of Pencil Shading C. Rosinski

Tip of the Pencil Shading
The second example was made with the dull tip of a soft pencil. This time, the pencil was held in an underhand grip. That’s the way a pencil is normally held when writing.

You can see that it creates a smoother texture than that created with the side of the lead.

Additionally, this type of shading is easier to control so you can use it to shade small areas and to create finer detail.

Combined Shading C. Rosinski

Combined Shading
The third example combines both of the shading techniques explained above.

When “tip of the pencil shading” is added over “side of the pencil shading,” the texture looks smoother and darker.

Value Scale

Value Scale

I talk a lot about value in the final steps of this lesson, so you’ll need to know what that means. Simply put, value refers to how light or dark something is. Sometimes it’s extremely important to get the values in a drawing right, however your values don’t have to be exact for this drawing to be a success! Just think in terms of “lighter than” or “darker than” when adjusting your flower petal values.


The paper’s texture will effect this type of shading tremendously, so make test hatches on a few different kinds to find a texture you like before you begin. I used Canson’s drawing paper. It’s listed in the supply list at the bottom of the page.

Supply List

Basic shape of an open rose C. Rosinski

Step One – Draw The Flower’s Basic Shape
Use this  finished flower as a model.

Use a 2H pencil for this step.

The line drawing should be light, so use a gentle pressure on the pencil.

Measure the height and width of the flower, mark those dimensions on the paper, and extend those marks into lines that form a loose rectangle.

Draw the largest and simplest shape of the flower within the rectangle. This flower’s shape is an angled oval.

Contour outline of an open rose. C. Rosinski

Step Two – Draw The Flower’s Contour Outline

Use the a 2H pencil for this step.

Draw a more detailed outline using the oval and rectangle as guides.

Start with one prominent petal shape and then use either of the following techniques to finish the outline:

Continue drawing the outer shape in one continuous line, one petal after the other.

Or draw the prominent petals first, and then less important petals.

Notice some of the petal edges extend beyond the oval and touch the rectangle.

To help get the proportions right, compare the sizes of the petals to each other and to the oval as you draw.

Line drawing including inner petals of open rose. C. Rosinski

Step Three – Draw The Interior Petals And Stem

Use a 2H pencil for this step.

The petals in the interior of this flower look a lot like a jigsaw puzzle, and your job is to put the puzzle together.

Each petal touches another petal, so they’ll build on each other as you work.

Work your way across the front and up through the interior of the flower, drawing one petal at a time.

When you’re done, add the stem. Notice how wide it is and at where it connects to the flower.

You don’t have to draw the flower perfectly. Drawing “miscues” are organic and part of the drawing process, so relax and enjoy this step.

Beginning the shading of an open rose. C. Rosinski

Step Four – Shade One Petal At A Time

Use a 2B pencil for this step.

Using the “side of the pencil,” fill a each petal with hatching.

The darkest part of each petal is usually nearest where it connects to the flower. Start shading there and then work toward the tip with gradually lighter hatching. Each petal is slightly different though, so look at the finished drawing as you work.

Tip the pencil up on its point to hatch the small areas.

Squint your eyes to help see shadows and highlights. Quickly move your eyes between the flower and your drawing to see how dark the shadows are, however it’s always easier to darken pencil hatching than it is to lighten it, so consciously keep all the shading a little too light in this step.

Entire rose shaded with mid values fully darkened. C. Rosinski

Step Five – Refine the Hatch and Fully Darken Values

Use 2B and 2H pencils for this step.

Refine the shading over all of the petals with tip of pencil hatching.

Work for a unified texture, while darkening the petals to their true value.

This type of hatching can darken very quickly, so switch to a dull 2h pencil if it starts to get away from you. Compare your work to the model over and over again to check for true values

Highlight detail tip: Leave the petal edges free of shading and darken the petal behind it.

I made the stem longer at this point. After the flower was shaded, it looked “heavier” and I felt that a longer stem would balance it well. Make any final decisions about your composition now too.

You can lighten the hatching by lightly tapping it over and over again with a kneaded eraser pinched into a point. You might have to refresh the point a couple of times. The tapping lightens but doesn’t disturb the texture too much. Alternatively, completely erase the hatching with the vinyl eraser and try again.

Rose shaded with shadows darken and shaped. C. Rosinski

Step Six – Shadow Adjustments

Use a 2B pencil for this step.

Now use a dull pencil tip and a kneaded eraser to adjust the shape of any shadows that need it.

Keep squinting your eyes and comparing the drawing to the model as you work.

If the pencil tip becomes to wide to work with in the small areas, you can make the tip smaller again by holding the pencil on its side and stroking back and forth across scrap paper while turning it.

A lot of drawing is about adjusting your work until it matches reality. It’s nearly impossible to get shapes and values right the first time, so constantly compare your drawing to the model and take the time to bring your drawing closer to what you see.

Graphite shaded rose with contrast adjusted to punch up impact. C. Rosinski

Step Seven – Increase Contrast and Add Final Details

Use a 4B pencil, a kneaded eraser, and a vinyl eraser for this step.

Sometimes graphite pencil drawings of flowers need a little help to look as bright and beautiful as the real thing. A great way to do that is to create more contrast.

First, with the dull tip of a 4B pencil, begin to darken the very darkest shadows even more. Pay special attention to the shadows in the creases between petals.

Next, use the kneaded eraser to lighten the lightest highlights. To do that, pinch the eraser into a wedge shape and stroke the thin edge along the petal edges to lighten them. Then, lay the edge of the eraser along the petal edge and gently pull it down into the petal to blend the highlight in a natural looking way.

I darkened the shadow edge of the stem so that it matches the contrast of the flower too.

To add even more interest, add the three downward angled bud casings at the bottom of the flower. (Practice on a scrap piece of paper first.) Draw them “loosely”, with the side of the pencil, in just a few quick movements. If you lay down the marks so that one side or the other is a little darker, the casings will look shadowed and realistic. To make the middle one look bent, tap a highlight across its middle with the pinched tip of a kneaded eraser.

Finally, erase any left over lines and smudges.


The links below go to Dick Blick and I’m their affiliate. If you buy from my links I get a some money, so if you do that thanks! I’ve been buying my supplies from Blick for over thirty years now, but even if you don’t, please do try these brands. They’re inexpensive, good, and they might save your drawing sanity.

Derwent Graphic 2H Pencil
Derwent Graphic 2B Pencil
Derwent Graphic 4B Pencil
(If they are out of one, get the next softer grade.) These are good pencils. True to grade, not gritty, and the leads hardly ever break.

Faber-Castell Kneaded Eraser
– Not too oily or sticky, just right.

Alvin Vinyl Eraser
– Erases lines the kneaded eraser can’t.

Kum Long Point Pencil Sharpener
– Two holes. One sharpens the wood, the other sharpens the graphite. Very sharp long points. Extra blades in back.

Canson Classic Cream Drawing Pad
– A good tooth for graphite. A cream color that goes will with graphite. It does dent, so draw carefully until you’re used to it because you can ruin the grain if you’re too heavy handed.

Draw well, draw strong, and never stop!