In this easy step-by-step guide on how to draw a realistic sunflower, you’ll be learning how to make your own sunflower. Whether you want to illustrate in colored pencil, graphite pencil or paint, first you’ll need to sketch a realistic sunflower. Here we go!
1. Mark the perimeter of the sunflower
The first step is to roughly sketch in our bounding box. Bounding boxes are shapes that represent the size of our object. By drawing these shapes we estimate how big we want our subject to be. This way you won’t draw too big or too little.
Take the size of your canvas into consideration!
Start by sketching a circle that represents the flower and a line that represents the stem. This can be done roughly.
Next, sketch a few circles where your leaves are going to be.
2. Draw circles to represent the flower
Now that we know the approximate size of our sunflower, we draw a circle. This circle is what the outer tips of the petals are going to touch.
Next, we draw another circle but this time it will be smaller. This circle represents the brown centre of the sunflower. The key characteristic of sunflowers ar their big centres. Don’t make it too small, or it will look like a daisy.
3. Draw guidelines for the pedals
A sunflower has layered petals. To evenly space these petals, we draw guidelines. Start by dividing the circles horizontally and vertically in half.
Next, divide the newly created spaces in half again (green color).
And yet again we divide these new parts in half (blue).
One last time we divide the remaining space in half (purple). The guidelines don’t have to be perfectly in the centre each time. Since we are going for a realistic flower, the lines can be slightly off.
4. Drawing the petals of the sunflower
Now we are ready to draw the petals. Sunflower petals are long, elongated and rounded. The ends taper but are still (slightly) round. The middle part is wider than the base and top.
Another distinction of sunflower petals is that they slightly crease.
Let’s draw petals on the red guidelines. Remember, if you’re going for realism you want to vary in length and thickness. Make the petals imperfect.
Next, draw petals on the purple and blue guidelines. Whilst it looks great as an illustration if you make your petals too uniform it looks less realistic (like how I’ve done below).
Lastly, we add petals to the last remaining color: green.
Let’s now add a row of petals below our current row which I drew in orange for clarity. Same here, differ in size or even skip some.
You can erase your guidelines to avoid messiness. Now we are going to add some lines to indicate the flowers are wrinkled. This instantly gives a sunflower effect.
5. Drawing the centre of the sunflower
The centre of a sunflower exists out of little strands. It’s up to you whether to represent it accurately or if you are going for something less accurate but easier to draw.
For a realistic drawing, draw the outer part of the centre which has the longest strands. Make them wiggly.
Next, we continue adding strands closer to the centre. This time, make your strokes shorter.
Lastly, we draw the centre which consists of dots because we are looking right at it. Fill in the remaining open spot with even shorter strokes than before.
Make sure to not add too many strokes: this part of the sunflower has the lightest value.
6. Drawing the stem of the sunflower
Follow the guideline that you created for the stem. Add thickness to it. Branch out to the leaves and round the bottom of the stem.
Since the stem of a sunflower has fuzz, we add short lines. Give them random directions.
7. Drawing the leaves of the sunflower
To know which way and how the leaf curves, we add a centre line. This centre line also represents the biggest vein in the leaf. Give it curvature or keep it straight. You can do anything you want.
Now we add the leaves themselves. Follow your centre line and imagine how the leaf would curl. Use reference if needed. I darkened the side of some leaves to keep things clear.
Now branch out the veins. The curves of the veins help shape the leaf, so make good use out of it.
8. Shading of the sunflower
Now that our sketch is finished we can use any medium we want to— watercolours, acrylics or gouache paint, colored pencils or pastels, anything really. We’ll explore two other mediums later. But for this step, we are going to use simple shading.
First, draw a clean outline. I erase every guideline and tidy up as much as I can. This is where you can make small adjustments. If you think something looks too uniform, you can make it more realistic by making it imperfect.
For my illustration, I made the petals less uniform.
Then I’ll add shade to the centre of the sunflower. which is the key characteristic. The centre is the darkest, as well as the outer ring. In between them, it gets lighter.
Then I add some light dots to it. Not sure what it is, but some sunflowers seem to have it. Perhaps pollen?
Next, we draw the petals. I start with a base color (mid-grey) and then add shadows. The centre of each petal is lighter. This way it looks like they curve backwards.
I also add shadows below the petals so it seems like they’re layered. I also add some creases. This is all about creating contrast. You can come back to it any time.
Now it’s time to shade the stem. To make it look like it’s a tube, we need to add a highlight to either side. In the middle, I darken the stem. I also included the fuzz. Don’t only include fuzz on the sides, but all over it. I now see that I forgot to do that.
For the leaves it’s the same: add shade and highlights. Use reference photos for this! I’ll later explain how to create a nice sunflower leaf. It’s a mini-tutorial in itself.
Our sunflower is done! To add that extra oomph I added a background. I also added some grain so that the illustration doesn’t look as digital. I played with the light: I lightened the petals on one side to create an interesting light effect.
I also added some sparkles because I can! Et voila, a realistic sunflower:
Custom lapel pins
Sunflower Artwork: When you finish drawing the sunflower picture, you can consider making it into stickers, pins, patches, and other artwork. Imagine what a great idea it would be to use these items in your daily life. You can use sunflower stickers to make the diary and put sunflower custom lapel pins on clothes and hats as exquisite accessories. Customized gifts are available at GS-JJ.com. If you are interested, you can click here.
How to draw a sunflower video step by step
Here’s a video by AmandaRachLee that shows how to draw a sunflower:
How to draw a sunflower leaf
To draw a sunflower leaf you:
- Draw a shape that resembles a heart
- Draw the centre vein
- Create jagged edges by using the original shape as a guide
- Draw two sub veins on either side
- Draw smaller veins to cover the rest of the leaf
The shape below looks like a heart that has been turned upside down. Except where the top of the heart turns inwards, we now go outwards again. Draw a centre line to create a symmetrical shape.
Next you draw the main vein.
Depending on the style you’re going for, realistic or simpler, the following step is optional: draw jagged edges.
Next your draw two sub veins.
Now let’s add smaller veins to the main vein.
Do the same for the subveins.
My biggest tip is to look for references when you draw sunflower leaves. You can find free-to-use references on Pexels. The color of the leaf should be dark green, and the veins should be a slightly lighter color.
Vary in hue when coloring the green. This means that you should use a base green, and then slightly shift towards the yellows or blues to create an interesting color. Also, play with the values.
Realistic sunflower drawing tips
Here are 7 tips to draw a realistic sunflower:
- Avoid uniformity
- Petals and leaves that look exactly alike look unrealistic but more like a stylized illustration
- Add wrinkles to your petals
- The bottom (near the centre) of the petals slightly crinkle
- The centre of a sunflower has different values
- The centre is the darkest, the middle is the lightest and the outer part is slightly lighter than the centre
- The stem has fuzz
- Don’t make the centre too small or it will look like a daisy
- Play with the height of each petal
- Don’t make them all the same length
- Add leafs that curl into different directions
- Avoid uniformity with the leafs as well
- Use the centre vein to guide the leafs direction