How to paint daffodils

Daffodils are a great subject matter for painting as these bright colored flowers offer great opportunities for using oil paint neat from the tube, most notably yellow. When set against a somber background with interesting shadows, the effect can be dazzling.

Tips on Painting Daffodils

This art demo on painting daffodils breaks down this art project into manageable pieces. For the best painting results, pick a few daffodils from the garden just before the painting session. Set them in water to keep them fresh. Otherwise, they can be obtained from the florists if not in season. The common variety found in most springtime gardens provides all the artistic inspiration needed. 

For this demonstration, I used just one daffodil head. If preferable, take photos. For the best results, place the flower against a plain background. If shots are taken in sun, interesting shadow-shapes will result, which will create contrasting hues to the daffodil head.

Art Materials Required

  • Primed panel measuring 8x10in
  • Oil paints of the following: titanium white, cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, permanent rose, pthalo blue, burnt sienna, burnt umber and viridian.
  • A size 3 and 6 round sable brushes.
  • A 0.5in bristle brush
  • Small painting palette
  • Small pot of artists’ white spirits
  • A soft pencil

How to Darken the Color of Daffodils

The color yellow can be tricky to darken, as adding black or dark grey can create unwanted dirty neutrals. Adding red will create bright orange, not ideal for rendering daffodils with realism. I began the painting by roughly sketching the outlines of the daffodils onto a white art board.

I then worked on the brightest color, which comprises predominately lemon yellow and white. This color was applied only to the sunlit areas of the petals via a fine sable. To introduce variation to these bright areas, I added a tiny bit of viridian to retain freshness within this slightly darker color.

How to Darken Yellow

As can be seen here, yellow can be darkened in a multitude of ways to create interesting ochres and golds. I added tiny dabs of burnt sienna for the warm mid-tones and a little pthalo blue for cool darks. Burnt umber was used for the deepest shadows. View the daffodil head as a series of abstract shapes rather than what it actually is. Notice the darkest hue in the centre of the daffodil head, punctuating the whole area.

Color Mixing Guide for Yellow

Beware of dark colors overpowering the pales, particularly yellow, which need to remain clean in places. Introduce small amounts of the dark color into the pale, rather than the other way round. Here, the junction of different colors was knitted together with a clean sable, creating soft seams. Notice the subtle folds dividing up the centre of each petal.

Painting Shadows on Daffodils

With a wide bristle brush, I sketched in the shadow behind the daffodil by mixing pthalo blue, a little permanent rose, burnt sienna and white. Care was used around the outline of the shadow. Notice how the shadow’s hue softens towards the edges of the art board. The painting was completed by blocking in the remaining background with a paler version of the shadow color, which comprised mainly of pthalo blue, a little permanent rose and white.

Note: This article is an overview only. The full details will be found within my forthcoming book (yet to be titled) outlining simple painting demonstrations in oil.

© Rachel Shirley 2013

See my Youtube clip on painting a Daffodil

YouTube Video