How to paint poppies on canvas

Written by natalie chardonnet
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How to paint poppies on canvas
Each poppy reflects light differently because of the extremely thin petals. (David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images)

The poppy is a type of flower recognised by its bright hues, dark centre and thin, paperlike petals. Since antiquity, poppies have symbolised sleep and death and are thus often used in artwork representing those themes. The bright colours of poppies, such as red, orange and yellow, create beautiful palettes and therefore deter viewers from thinking of death. Painting poppies on canvas requires preparation, but your final work will provide colour and beauty where ever the painting is placed.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Photo of poppies
  • Newspaper
  • Canvas, any size
  • Acrylic based primer
  • Acrylic paint tubes in white, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and black
  • Palette
  • Paintbrushes, different sizes
  • Cup of water
  • Rag
  • Palette knife

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  1. 1

    Find a photo of poppies to utilise as a reference throughout your painting project. If possible, find a photograph with great detail, ideally of poppies up-close so that you can gain an understanding of the intricacies of this flower.

  2. 2

    Prepare your work surface by laying down newspaper. Acrylic paint will stain surfaces that it comes into contact with, so protecting your table or countertop is advised.

  3. 3

    Apply acrylic primer to the canvas with a large paintbrush and allow to dry completely. Without this primer, the acrylic paint will not stick to the canvas.

  4. 4

    Draw your design onto the canvas with pencil. This preliminary step will help you perfect the design you will later paint. When drawing the poppies, remember that their shapes are wider at the top and taper when the flowers and stems meet. Refer to your picture if you need help with the layout.

  5. 5

    Squeeze paint from your tubes onto the palette. Use as little as you can in order to avoid wasting the paint. Acrylic paint dries quickly, so only place the paint you want to use at the current time on the palette.

  6. 6

    Fill in the poppies with acrylic paint. Emulate the lighting in the photograph you are using as a reference. As a general guideline, the poppies will appear darker near the stem, and lighter at the top, which is closer to the sun and sky. Since acrylic dries quickly, you can easily add more layers of paint to achieve varied texture and colour. When you have finished painting the flowers, rinse your brush in the cup of water and pat it dry with your rag, being careful not to bend the bristles.

  7. 7

    Paint the background of the image. If you want to achieve a lighter colour than you have, mix white paint with any colour on your palette. Use the palette knife to mix the paint so that you won't damage the bristles on your paintbrush. Alternately, if you want to darken a colour, add a little black to the paint. Be careful with the amount you add though, because black darkens the colour quickly.

  8. 8

    Add highlights or shadows to the painting in order to create a more three-dimensional work of art. Add white paint to create a lighter colour and highlights, and black paint to create a darker colour and shadows.

  9. 9

    Allow the painting to dry completely.

Tips and warnings

  • Protect your clothing by wearing a smock or apron.

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