How to Paint Carnations

The carnation is one of the most popular cut flowers and is native to Eurasia. The ancient Greeks and Romans named it "diosanthos," or "flower of the gods." The flowers are 2 to 3 inches across and come in white, pink and red. Carnations can also be tinted to other colours. In European art history, especially Christian painting, carnations are a symbol of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Carnations are often found in portraits where the subject uses the flower to symbolise virtue. Paint your own carnation, but start by first drawing its wavy petals.

Draw a small wavy line into a circle shape about 1 1/2 inch across with your HB pencil. A HB pencil is a type of medium-dark drawing pencil.

Add another wavy lined circle around your first circle about 1/2 inch out from the first one. It does not need to follow any pattern. Let your wavy lines be organic and freeform. These are the wavy petals of the carnation.

Draw four more wavy circles around your first two circles, or until your carnation is roughly 4 inches wide. These wavy circles will help capture the petal formation of the carnation.

Add a long stem coming out from underneath the flower head. Use two parallel lines about 1/3 inch apart. Draw a thin oval-shaped leaf coming out perpendicular from the stem.

Squeeze your paints into small plastic cups. This will prevent waste because acrylic paint dries quickly, and once it dries you cannot use it.

Mix one part red and one part white paint for a subtle pink. You may add more white or red paint to achieve the colour you want.

Dip your brush into the paint and paint the wavy lines you created. Mix an almond-sized amount of white with your mixed pink colour. Add this paint the areas around your wavy lines to fill in the flower. It should add a subtle highlight to your carnation.

Paint your stem and leaf green with the green paint. Mix one part blue to one part white to create a light blue colour. Paint the background behind your flower with this colour.


Experiment with the carnation painting and place a bunch of carnations in a vase to paint. Try different colours and sizes of carnations. You can add shadows by mixing a little blue to your paint.


Use a dust sheet on your floor to prevent paint splatters.

Things You'll Need

  • Prepared canvas
  • HB pencil
  • Acrylic paints in white, red, green and blue
  • Small plastic cups
  • Paint brushes
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About the Author

Charong Chow has been writing professionally since 1995. Her work has appeared in magazines such as "Zing" and "Ocean Drive." Chow graduated from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. She also received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts.