How to Paint a Poppy

Updated April 04, 2017

Poppies are known for their vibrant colours, papery petals and black centres. Poppies come in a variety of colours, including orange and red. Generally, they have four or six petals. Poppies can be painted into landscape scenes using a variety of paint mediums such as watercolour, acrylic or oils. Dedicating your time to practicing the craft of painting flowers, you may be able to achieve a masterful piece of artwork featuring realistic looking poppies.

Choose a clear reference photograph. Select the paint medium you wish to work with for your project. Choose watercolour, oil or acrylics. Lay a tarp or newspaper down to protect your workspace.

Trace or sketch the poppy from your reference photo onto your canvas.

Paint the petals of your poppy with a light wash of colour. Select the wash colour based on the main colour of the flowers, such as red, for example. This forms your foundation upon which you can layer colours and details into the painting. If using acrylics or watercolours, this wash can be created with water. For oils, use a thinner to water down the paint.

Add layers of paint to the poppy. Reflect where the light hits the poppy with lighter and darker colours. For example, poppies with a base colour of red can be augmented with shades of yellow, orange and pink. Typically, the edges of a poppy is slightly crinkled. Use darker complimentary colours to capture the small lines and grooves to make the flowers appear three-dimensional on the canvas.

Adjust the colour of the poppy based on your reference photo. Generally, poppies get lighter in colour on the outer edges where the petals are the thinnest. Reflect this on your canvas by using a light-coloured paint, such as yellow or pink. Brush the paint from the outside edge inward to suggest this detail.

Paint the centre of the poppy. Give the poppy dept by softly painting a dark variation of your main colour from the centre outward. Use an appropriate colour like black to paint the stigma.

Choose additional colours to be used in your painting. Select these based on what is seen in the background of your reference photo. Try to capture the warm and cool shades in the environment. For instance, use various shades of dark green for the stems and shades of light blue for a sky. Use a thin paintbrush for the leaves and sweeping strokes with a large paintbrush for the background.


Create different effects by using a combination of mediums, such as acrylics and watercolours with pastels.


Wash your paintbrushes immediately after use. Wash acrylic brushes with soap and water and oil brushes with turpentine or a nontoxic substitute. Keep the lids sealed tightly on your primers and paints when not in use.

Things You'll Need

  • Newspaper
  • Paint
  • Pencil
  • Palette
  • Paintbrushes
  • Poppy Photograph
  • Canvas
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About the Author

Mary Corbin began her career writing for online and print media in Indianapolis. Since 2004, she has covered subjects such as home and family, technology and legal issues. Working in the broadcast industry, Corbin created articles for marketing, public relations and business matters. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Indiana University.