The glorious sunflower, beautiful to look at and so easy to paint! One Stroke Painting allows you to blend, shade and highlight all at the same time, making it not only easy but the fastest way to paint.
With just a few minutes of practice, anyone will be able to create a simple sunflower painting following my step by step instructions.
I also include tips for embellishing your sunflower painting with dimensional paint and glitter, and the different looks you can get just by changing paint colors.
This tutorial shows how to paint sunflowers on greeting cards. But you can also paint this simple design on canvas, glass, fabric, wood, furniture, serving trays, items from the thrift store, or any object you may have that needs a new look.
For painting on metal or glass, please refer to my glass painting tutorial. These surfaces require different preparation, brushes and enamel paint.
The sunflower painting
The finished sunflower painting coated with satin varnish and decorated with dimensional paint and glitter.
Supplies used for this sunflower painting tutorial
- Disposable plate (you can also use Donna Dewberry’s double loader carousel)
- Rags or paper towels
- Blank greeting cards, acid free, 5″ x 7″
- Brushes: #12 flat, #8 flat, 1/2″ or 3/4″ scruffy, old 1″ flat
- Plaid Folk Art acrylic paints: Wicker White, Pure Orange (for the background); Grass Green, Jamaican Sea (for the leaves and stem); Maple Syrup, Licorice (for the center); Lemon Custard, Yellow Ochre (for the petals)
- Plaid Folk Art floating medium
- Delta Ceramcoat satin varnish
- Optional: glitter (gold and aqua), Folk Art dimensional paint (Wicker White, Fresh Foliage), brush cleaner
A closer look at the brushes used for the sunflower painting
Most of One Stroke Painting is done with a flat chiseled brush, like the two brushes on the left side of the photo. The chiseled edge makes clean points on leaves and flower petals.
But for the sunflower painting, we also use a scruffy brush, third from the left. This is used for pouncing the center of the sunflower. It can also be used to paint clouds and fluffy animals like sheep, teddy bears and dogs.
The brush on the right is what happens to flat brushes after they’ve been used to death. They’re no good for precision painting any more, but still useful for painting backgrounds. That’s what I used to paint the orange wash on the greeting card.
Watch these One Stroke painting videos
I recommend you watch these two short videos before you start practicing doing the strokes on your own following the worksheets I’ve provided.
Donna Dewberry paints a sunflower
See how Donna Dewberry, the Queen of One Stroke Painting, paints a sunflower. She demonstrates how to load the scruffy brush with paint, how to create the sunflower center, how to double load a flat brush, and how to paint the sunflower petals.
Italian artist Luca Sansone paints sunflowers and pansies
Here’s an excellent demo of One Stroke Painting. There isn’t any speaking, just some background music which is a bit overwhelming, so I suggest turning the volume down or off. Instructions and the paint colors used are provided throughout the video in Italian.
Now it’s time to practice the brush strokes used in the sunflower painting
Get out some scratch paper and begin. Practice each individual element as illustrated in the sections beow.
But remember one very important thing, One Stroke Painting is not about perfection. It’s about expressing yourself, letting go and having fun.
Just spend a short amount of time getting the feel of it and then dive right in!
Practice the sunflower center
Load a scruffy brush with brown and black paint
Always paint the sunflower from the center out. The center makes up about half of the sunflower.
To paint the sunflower center, I used a 1/2″ scruffy brush, Maple Syrup and Licorice paint. Load the brush by pouncing one half in Maple Syrup, and the other half in Licorice.
Sunflower center worksheet
Looking at the top left of the sunflower center worksheet, the center is pounced in a C shape going from right to left starting at the (X). Hold the brush so that Maple Syrup is on top, and that will create a little highlight. When you’re finished pouncing, the sunflower center should look like the one on the top right of the worksheet.
To make a bud, pounce in a semicircle as shown on the middle of the worksheet (starting at A and ending at B). The petals would be added just to the bottom half of the bud, as shown on the lower right.
Practice the sunflower petals
Load a smaller brush with lemon and ochre paint
To make the sunflower petals, I used a #8 flat brush, Lemon Custard and Yellow Ochre paint. Double load the brush and use a tiny dab of floating medium.
Remember to keep the sunflower petals in proportion to the center. They’re roughly half the length of the center.
Petal painting worksheet
The petal worksheet shows how to make some different brush strokes. On the left side is a regular stroke, just like Donna demonstrated in the video. Begin at Start with the brush on the chiseled edge, press and pull, lifting up to finish the stroke back on the chiseled edge (marked End). You’ll see some of the petals going at different angles, like an S shape.
You can also paint petals that look like they’re folding over the center of the sunflower. On the top middle and right of the petal worksheet I tried to show the two parts of a curved petal. It’s basically a C or U shape.
The petal starts the same way but toward the middle you lift the brush and pull the other way. It’s a little difficult to explain; you’ll just have to try it. When you put the two sections together, the petals should look like the ones on the bottom middle and right of the worksheet.
Practice the sunflower leaves
Load the brush with green and blue paint
For the leaves I used a #12 flat brush, Grass Green and Jamaican Sea paints. You can use different colors if you like. Most of the time Donna uses Thicket with Wicker White or School Bus Yellow.
Load the brush as demonstrated in Donna’s video. You’ll also need a little bit of floating medium to dip your brush into as you paint. This will keep the paint flowing and prevent dry edges in your strokes.
Leaf painting worksheet
Looking at the leaf worksheet above, the top left shows the two parts that make up an open leaf.
Begin at point A with the brush on the chiseled edge, then press and wiggle the brush “like you’re scrubbing the floor” as Donna says. When you get to point B, you release pressure and stand the brush up on the chiseled edge. Flip your brush over and repeat for the other side. When you paint the strokes together, you’ll have a leaf like the one on the right side of the worksheet.
The bottom left of the leaf worksheet shows the two parts that make up a curled leaf. It’s done the same way except that you don’t flip the brush over to do the second half. It’s the same stroke done twice, one just below the other.
Painting a sunflower from a different angle
While it’s not in the sunflower painting we’re doing today, I wanted to show you how to paint a sunflower viewed from the side.
The difference here is that the center is pounced in an oval shape, as shown on the right side of the picture. The finished sunflower is on the left. Curved petals and a stem complete the illusion of a sunflower viewed from the side.
The sunflower painting step by step, including optional embellishments
You’ve done enough practice, now it’s time to get started!
Painting the background on a blank greeting card using a wash of Pure Orange and Wicker White paint
After it’s dried, the card tends to curl. My solution? Paint the inside also, let it dry then flatten it out more by curling the other way with your hands.
Paint the leaves and stem. You can lightly draw the flower center in pencil first to help with placement
Paint the sunflower center and immediately start adding the petals. Ideally you should be picking up a little of the dark paint. Notice that I’ve left a little space in between petals.
Paint a second layer of petals in between the first layer. Because yellow paint does not have full coverage, you might want to go over the petals again when the paint is dry.
Pounce the center again to clean up the edge after the petals are touched up
This is the sunflower after the petals and center have been touched up
Add a light highlight to center. Dip scruffy brush lightly into Yellow Custard paint, remove the excess by pouncing on a rag, then lightly pounce the center of the flower on top of the Maple Syrup paint. Seal the card with a coat of satin varnish.
Embellish with dimensional paint (optional). Hold bottle at a 45 degree angle, squeeze and drag across the paper. Dust with glitter if desired before paint dries. I used Wicker White on the petals with gold glitter, and Fresh Foliage on leaves with green glitter.
The finished sunflower painting. Dots of iridescent glitter were added to the center.
Other sunflower paintings by Lynda Makara
Sunflower greeting card
The same sunflower painting has a different look when you change the paint colors.
Sunflower greeting card by Lynda Makara
Here’s the sunflower painting with a brown background. The center and petals are the same color, just outlined in white dimensional paint with clear glitter. The leaves were painted with Grass Green and School Bus Yellow, then outlined in black dimensional paint.
Sunflower painting in purple frame
Here’s a yellow sunflower painting with a lime green center. I went beyond basic One Stroke Painting and added shading.
A couple of tips for painting greeting cards
Impress your loved ones by giving them hand painted greeting cards. When you buy a pack of cards, you’re going to have at least ten. So here are a couple of tips to streamline the process of painting multiple cards.
Tip 1: You can paint the backgrounds (and the insides) in advance. If you have any leftover paint from a project, make a wash with it and use it on the blank greeting cards. You can paint the envelope flaps too.
Tip 2: If you have a design that you’re going to be repeating, line up all the cards and do each step at the same time, assembly line fashion.