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How to paint a flower in acrylic, layer by layer : Hens and Chicks

painting a flower in acrylic with layers

Hens and Chicks

Acrylic on canvas

24 x 24 inches





Acrylic paint dries fast and is semi translucent, that makes it the perfect medium for layering techniques. See how you can use this technique on your own acrylic paintings.

Painting flowers with Acrylic using a layering technique

Here are some of the steps you can take to make this painting:

Acrylic flower painting techniques : Hens and Chicks

Starting with a flat colored underpainting has many advantages:

  • It will unify the colors of the painting by adding a bit of the same underpainting color everywhere
  • You don’t start with a scary blank canvas
  • Some of that underpainting color will show in places throughput the painting.

Red, orange and blue are commonly chosen colors for underpaintings.

Let this first layer dry completely.

Drawing an outline with a pencil crayon.

Then draw an outline of the flower you want to paint with a pencil, on top of the dried red acrylic.

free acrylic painting lesson : drawing on canvas, Then I redraw my outlines with a thin brush and white acrylic paint.

Then, once you are satisfied with your drawing, you can go over these outlines with a thin brush and white acrylic, so your drawing is more visible for the next steps.

free acrylic painting lesson : drawing on canvas, I start to paint with contrasting colors, here white on the darkest areas.

One of my favorite techniques to layer acrylic is to start painting opposite colors, for example the areas painted here in white are going to be the darkest areas in the final painting

Blue on orange areas, this will show later mostly on the edges.

Here I did paint blue where I was seeing orange on my reference picture.

learn to paint flowers with acrylic, Still painting with contrasting colors.

Keep adding contrasting colors until you painted over most of the canvas.

learn to paint flowers with acrylic, Here I add some reds where I see them on my reference picture.

When all the contrasting colors layers are dry, I start painting with the local colors as I see them on my reference picture. Here I did pant red where I was seeing red on my picture.

free acrylic painting lessons: painting flowers on canvas Then yellow and oranges. I took that picture last summer in my backyard.

In the same manner, I am painting yellow and orange where I see them.

free acrylic painting lessons: painting flowers on canvas Still adding layers.

Keep adding layers of the local color. Now the painting is too dark, time to add a bit of light.

glazing white acrylic and medium. Here I add some white, diluted in medium to bring back some light.

Apply a white glaze ( white acrylic mixed with medium) where you want the colors to be lighter.

glazing white acrylic and medium. adding more layers.

Keep adding layers until you are satisfied with the colors and the contrast in your painting.

The finished painting: Hens and Chicks, Acrylic on canvas


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{ 19 comments… add one }

  • mercedes October 13, 2015, 6:54 am

    Thank you very much for responding so quickly and for your so valuable information . respectfully Mercedes

  • mercedes October 12, 2015, 7:37 am

    My point of view about sharing what you know is the same of yours one. Some art teachers feel threatened someone else copy and do exactly the same paintings, and teach it with ambiguity forcing you to resort to books or to wonderful great artist people like you to complete their learning. I agree with everything said by Dearbhla Egan. I would like to ask you if I can apply yours layering technique to the watercolor paintings.
    Thanks for sharing. I love the beauty and texture of your finished painting.

  • anonymous September 26, 2015, 7:01 am

    Wow this is amazing!! Great job!

  • Dearbhla Egan May 13, 2015, 4:20 am

    To Sandrine. There are two things that truly amaze me about you and I am sure I am not alone in this. The first of course is the incredible depth and diversity of your wonderful talent. The second, and this is the really great one, is the most unusual generosity of spirit in your willingness to share and help others learn from your inspired and original techniques. In such a competitive market, very few would be willing to give away their ‘secrets’ as you do. There are no words that can properly say ‘thank you’ for such great kindness. You have brought me and so many others a great deal of happiness in what, for me, would otherwise be a fairly lonely and empty existence. Bless you xx

    • Sandrine Pelissier May 13, 2015, 6:03 am

      Thank you so much Dearbhla for your kind words! I had this discussion with other artists about giving away too much or not. You have different ways to look at it. My point of view is that sharing what you know is a good thing to do as it will help others get better. I don’t feel threatened that someone else will copy me and do exactly the same paintings I do because that would be very unsatisfactory and boring. Painting is self expression so it works only if you make it uniquely yours. So I am happy to share my techniques so other artists can express themselves in their own way:)

  • rk February 10, 2015, 10:10 am

    You make it look easy but you are super talented in not only painting but inspiring and teaching others to paint. I would like to give this a try sometime. What I am not sure about is what random colors to add (pic #6 countring from the blank read background pic). Is it based on the reference pic that you are picking these colors? I understand the orange/yellow reference colors…thanks!

    • Sandrine Pelissier February 10, 2015, 10:55 am

      Thanks rk !
      Here is the logic behind the colors I chose for the underpainting. I started with the red layer then painted each area with a color opposite on the color wheel. Red where there was green and green where there was red.
      After that I am looking for subtleties in the local colors, for example if a green has a bit of a yellow undertone, i am adding some yellow. And finally the local colors, and lots of white.

  • The Hook February 5, 2012, 7:10 am

    You have been truly blessed, my friend. To be able to create such beauty from the void within our souls is a true blessing.

  • mississhippi February 1, 2012, 10:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing such a detailed demonstration of your work. I haven’t done a lot of acrylics so it is really helpful to see how others work.

  • Dawna January 17, 2012, 10:50 pm

    That is super beautiful. So much detail and layering. Not many people realize what goes into making something so beautiful.

  • Anne Gudrun January 17, 2012, 4:50 pm

    Beautiful! Amazing transitions!

  • Yevgenia Watts January 17, 2012, 10:08 am

    Beautiful! Love seeing your process.

  • Holly Herick January 17, 2012, 9:11 am

    You always amaze me!

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