How to Draw & Paint Water Lilies

Written by carl hose
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How to Draw & Paint Water Lilies
Water lilies (water lily image by Tomasz Pawlowski from

French impressionist Claude Monet did a series of about 250 paintings featuring water lilies. The name "water lily" is used to describe a number of aquatic plants in the Nymphaeaceae family. There are more than 70 species of water lilies the world over, including the lotus, which is one of the most recognised. Water lilies are beautiful flowering plants that make an ideal subject matter for painting peaceful scenes in oil or acrylic.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Pencils
  • Eraser
  • Acrylic or oil paint
  • Brushes
  • Canvas

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  1. 1

    Sketch the water area of your drawing first. Don't worry about adding details. You'll add those after the water lilies are in place. Right now you want to set up the composition. Sketch in a few water lily pads. Use a reference photo if you need to. The pads should have a shape resembling a kidney bean. Place them sporadically in the borders of your water. Draw as many pads as you want. Water lilies are often clustered.

  2. 2

    Sketch the flowering folds of your lily on each pad. Layer the folds so that there are six or seven across, starting at the bottom, then five on the next layer, three on the next. Add these layers until you reach the flowering fold at the tip of the lily. Stagger each fold of the lily to give the flower a more natural look. Add shading to the centre of the lily at the top by applying light pencil strokes at a 45-degree angle. Lilies vary in size and shape, so you change the number of layers you want to draw as you become more familiar with drawing lilies.

  3. 3

    Draw ripples in the surface of your water and use the eraser to smudge the lead for texture and depth. Smudge some of the edges of your water lily pads to bring them together and help bring out the cluster effect.

  4. 4

    Paint your water with a dark blue acrylic or oil paint, then add touches of white paint to give the surface a reflective appearance. Paint each of your water lilies using white, yellow and even pink paints. Try for the Impressionistic look of Monet's work by avoiding definite lines when you paint and letting your colours mesh. Combine shades of green on the lily pads, layering light and dark green to create the illusion of shading and depth.

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