My parents live in a small village and my mom still has white, pink, and dark peonies that are just gorgeous! When I was growing up they were my favorite flowers and they still are. Yet, when you think of how to paint a peony you probably are nervous – so many petals, how to make it easy way?!
The buds are really big and the petal colors are so gentle and translucent that you need to have some skills to paint peonies in a realistic way. But you can easily draw and paint peonies with acrylic, watercolor, and gouache within 15 minutes if you know some tricks.
The best way to paint a peony is to start from the bud, create the inner circle with other petals in the shape of a round cup, and keep adding more petal layers opening them up more and more so the last layer is practically laying down. Add the stem and leaves last.
This selection of the most beautiful peony painting tutorials includes videos on how to paint white, pink, yellow, and multicolored peonies in gouache, acrylics, oils, and watercolor. And it works for any level! There are also videos on how to paint peony leaves and how to sketch or draw a peony just with a pen or markers.
Let’s get some inspo!
Table of Contents
My tips on painting peonies upfront
To successfully paint something from nature, I highly advise studying how it grows and looks in nature. If you can – buy a peony bouquet and watch it open up and die over time, and take pictures.
You will learn how the petals are “glued” to the stem, how they are grouped in a sort of cup-shaped bud, and what different colors they have within. What is in the middle of the flower, etc. You can even get a leaf, flatten it and make a stencil.
Can’t buy fresh flowers? Find photo references: close up of flowers in different stages of blooming, bouquets, stems with leaves. When I paint, I print the reference sometimes to make it easier for me. Especially when I work with oils.
Keep in mind that nothing in nature is perfectly symmetrical – beauty is in imperfections!
Printing can also help if you will want to transfer the drawing using transfer paper. In that case, you’ll get a ready-to-paint outline for your peonies.
Ready to paint? Let’s do it!
How I Paint Peony with Gouache (or Watercolor)
The easy way to paint cute peonies is to use watercolor or the watercolor technique with other mediums.
Total Time: 10 minutes
Step 1 – Paint the inner petals
Mix red and white to get a light pinkish tint. With a wet round brush, get a little bit of paint and place 3 inner petals. One large on the left, one small on top, and one medium on the right. Let them dry.
* Dry the paint
If you think it is too much color/water, just remove it with a paper towel.
Step 2 – Add red
Dip just the tip of the brush into the red and add darker spots at the bottom of the peony.
Step 3 – Draw the stem
With a small brush paint the stem and leaves around the flower and on the stem. Let it dry. The peony is done!
If you are curious about the giraffe you can spot on the right, the tutorial is here: 16 Great Easy Giraffe Painting Tutorials for All Levels to Try.
Alternatively, if you want to paint an open peony, you can try this:
Step 1 – Paint inner petals
Paint 3 inner petals with a round brush. They form the oval-round bud.
Step 2 – Add petals
Add open large petals on the sides and one large at the bottom. Dry excess paint with a paper towel if needed.
How to draw a peony (with markers, Pen, or sketching)
We can not only sketch the peony before we paint, but we can also combine markers or pens with watercolors or acrylics. The black marker creates amazing smooth outlines, and while drawing with pens you can add so many tiny details to your flower petals.
Tutorial for kids and adults:
Easy abstract peony for any medium
- Paint: Any (watercolor, gouache, acrylic)
- Level: Beginner
As the creator suggests you can use gouache, watercolor, or acrylic to repeat this tutorial on easy peonies. They are easy because they are quite abstract and have less detailed petals, but it doesn’t make them less impressive.
As you can see in the tutorial for this easy peony painting, the painter doesn’t follow the standard steps and doesn’t start with the central bud. Instead, she directly paints large petals keeping some distance between them to add the central part later. It is like a free-hand technique.
Another note is that she also does very sturdy and quite large strokes first, and only last she will add details. So at first sometimes your painting will go through the ugly stage but don’t worry, it is normal, have some patience.
You will need:
- watercolor paper (or any heavyweight paper, like mixed media paper)
- any paint of your choice (gouache, watercolor, acrylics)
- round brushes
- a palette for mixing colors and thinning them
Easy Peony Acrylic Painting
How do you paint a pink peony With Acrylic Paint
- Paint: Acrylic paint
- Level: Intermediate
One of my fav acrylics is Winsor and Newton for advanced paintings. With professional acrylic paint, you can mix pink light and dark colors for peonies, and you can work both with brushes and palette knives.
- acrylics of your choice, me and the creator of the tutorial are using Winsor and Newton
- flat brushes of different sizes
- paper or canvas
- paper towel, or just an old towel ( I’m using old cloth as I’m used to it since oil painting)
In this tutorial we move from background to painting flowers, nicely blending the underlying colors and moving towards more and more detailed flowers. We paint leaves after we are done with flowers. Last step we add lighter and darker accents.
How to paint a peony bouquet Acrylic
- Paint: Acrylic (but can be oil or gouache)
- Level: Beginner
This painting looks very pro, but in fact, it is easy to recreate as you are sort of do it free-hand not minding the petals. You just paint the base color of the peony – pink, and then layer different colors over it, as acrylics are perfect for layering.
Same with peony leaves. To paint the leaves you first paint the whole leaf a darker green color and then add light green accents.
The last thing you can add is the background, the vase, the table, or nothing 🙂
Please follow the creator’s tutorial:
one stroke painting peony in Blue
- Paint: acrylic, gouache. Paints with good flow in general
- Level: Beginner
This is a beautiful technique of double-loading the brush with two shades of color and painting a peony in one stroke. Creative, easy, amazing result!
The painter also chose black tinted paper and the blue peony just reigns on it! But of course, you can do just fine with regular white paper. A flat brush is the most appropriate for the one-stroke painting of peony flowers.
With a one-stroke painting, you can start from the outer circle of petals and move to the central bud. Leaves come last as always.
One-stroke peony painting on rocks
- Paint: Rock painting
- Level: Easy, beginner
We don’t only paint on canvas and paper, right? Amazing one-stroke tutorial (and super quick) for nice blue peony on a dark grey rock.
It is true that this is one stroke painting but as always, you will still have to stop and load the brush again to keep the coverage great.
how to paint peony leaves
Sometimes we paint just the peony flower without the leaves, but what if we need to paint leaves as well? Peonies have dark green elongated leaves, the inside part is lighter and they also have quite long stems and several leaves on one stem (usually 2-3 groups of leaves).
We need darker and lighter shades of green and we will always add the leaves after we painted flowers.
how to paint peony in watercolor
Easy watercolor painting of peonies starts with washes. Round brushes are the most comfortable to work with watercolors.
how to paint peony Chinese style
In China, peonies symbolize prosperity and were often used by emperors. Chinese painting culture has a distinct style in peony painting: in art, peony trees represented female beauty and were used in painting and pottery.
To paint a peony with the Chinese brush technique you will most likely use watercolor, round elongated brushes even those for calligraphy will work. This technique leaves a lot of “air” in between petals.
Easy Watercolor Peony
- Paint: watercolor
- Level: beginner
It is also easier to start by painting the inner petals and then adding more and more petals. Loading brush with the dominant color you can create edges and depth. That easy!
Loose peonies watercolor
If you like light painting with lots of “air” you should try painting with watercolor. Just a few stories with a wet lightly loaded brush – and you have a peony.
Light thin line – you have a stem and leaves.
Coloring Outlined Peonies with Watercolor
- Paint: Watercolor
- Level: Beginner
Another tip in painting with watercolor is that we mostly use the wet-on-wet technique, meaning we wash the paper with water first.
You can first draw the sketch and then wet the paper. Then you are good to color your sketch 🙂
how to paint a white peony With Watercolor
- Paint: Watercolor
- Level: Intermediate
White peonies are such an impersonation of something pure and divine. They are perfect bridal flowers to me and they are simply stunning. But painting them is tricky! How do we paint a white flower on white paper?!
Well, the trick is in shades and using not only white but also yellow and grey, sometimes even blueish or pinkish colors to create the underpainting layer before painting the flower, shades, and depth.
But also think of creating a colored background (green, grey, black, blue) to make the flowers pop on the white paper.
These beautiful peonies look white, but they were made with different colors…mostly grey!
Peony bud with watercolor
Peonies are not always wide open and blooming, like all flowers, they come through different stages and they are all beautiful. Most tutorials focus on peonies that are already blooming, but I found one cute peony bud painting.
It is also much easier to paint a bud 🙂 You need to paint the main round shape and create leaves and petals within it:
how to paint peony in oil
For more advanced artists I collected a few amazing peony tutorials with oil paint: white, yellow, and pink peony.
White Peony with Oils
As we know already the secret to painting a beautiful white peony is to add more colors (grey or yellow).
Follow this tutorial by Matthew Tarini:
- outline the flower and apply the underpainting grey layer
- make the flower pop by creating a dark background
- Progressing with more and more layers of petals add more and more white accents
yellow peony Oil Painting
This yellow peony is created with oil paint using the wet-on-wet technique. Working with oil don’t be scared to paint underlying layers with pinkish or darker colors. Layering will create depth and nice nuances for your outcome.
Oil pink peony
If you love large paintings and working with close up, this pink peony tutorial is right for you. The amazing big flower will look great on the wall.
Working with large canvases is challenging in itself. You need to scale the reference, you need to keep proportions, and constantly check on by standing back.
The first step will always be rough sketching, starting from the center of the peony and marking important parts.
Painting peony with gouache
Easy gouache peony in 15 minutes
I am a very impatient painter lol! I love when more experienced artists come up with easy tutorials that you can do in 15-30 minutes.
Most of my markers or gouache art I tend to do in under 30 minutes and that’s why I picked this guide by Much Ranido.
- a sketchbook or a paper sheet (white or black doesn’t really matter), and
- gouache paints
- round brushes
As you can we start by painting the outer petals and then adding each petal individually. We apply pink and shades of pink mixed with white.
Paint Gouache peony with Lena Rivo
Famous painter Lena Rivo has a tutorial on painting peony with gouache that look to me like a stunning oil painting!
It is a relatively easy tutorial as you are painting rather abstract peonies using a round brush. It is recommended to first sketch the flower.
To make the painting look more pro – paint the shade of the flower!
Peony with gouache or markers
To make something different we can draw and paint more markers art syle peony with markers and paint them with acrylics, watercolor, gouache, or the same markers.
It is easy to draw the outlines with the dominant color like red, pink, or yellow and then add lighter shade for the petal body. Same works for leaves.
In this tutorial, Boelter uses:
Multicolor Gouache peonies
The beauty of art is that it has no limitations. No matter what color is peony, you can make petals any color you like as well as leaves. The shapes of petals and leaves will translate that this is a peony.
And multicolored peony will def stand out!
You can use any paint medium: gouache, watercolor, oil or acrylics.
Peony painting on paper with tempera
- Paint: Tempera (but will work with gouache and acrylic)
- Level: Beginner
Many overlook tempera paint, but it is great for both painting and pouring. You can create nice peonies with tempera colors.
You will need round brushes and a few colors of paint. You definitely need white, and then you can choose yellow/pink/purple main color and mix shades of it to create a peony of your color of choice.
- First, paint the flower outline and color it with one single color ( dominant color, pink, yellow, purple)
- Premix lighter shades of your dominant color with white and using your round brush one stroke, create petals.
- Create petals at levels moving to the outside of the flower.
- Paint the stem and leaves
peony pouring painting on canvas
Vintage Peony Pouring
You can do a peony with pouring and balloons or plastic bags. The colors can be realistic or abstract.
For a more abstract style, you can use one cup technique and pour the whole canvas first and then use balloons or a piece of plastic bag to create round peonies:
Realistic Peony Pouring
Using more realistic colors and bloom or dirty cup, or ring technique, and even swipe and strainers techniques, you can create large peonies on canvas:
Best Paint by numbers peony
Not confident in your painting and drawing skills? No worries! You can get a peony paint-by-number kit or even try to create one from a picture of the peonies you have.
How to do your own peony paint by numbers:
- Peony paint by number kit from a store – no hassle solution with ALL supplies included but costs around $20. More peonies paintings by numbers are actually on the GoPaintByNumbers website.
- Upload a photo of the peonies you have to a paint-by-number generator (results are not always super great) and download your SVG, png, and even palette file! I found a picture on Unsplash that used this service and I was impressed with the results.
- Get a picture you like and buy transfer paper. Transfer the outlines of peonies onto the paper or canvas and draw them.
How do you easily paint peonies?
The easiest way to paint peonies is by painting with watercolors or acrylics. It is easier to start by painting petals than paint leaves and backgrounds, but more advanced artists start by painting the peony bud and then adding layers of petals. Dark and light details come last.
The more details you add, and the more different shades of colors, the more realistic the flower will look.
What colors are peonies?
You can paint white, yellow, pink, orange, purple or dark red peonies as they all occur in nature and gardens. There are also different groups of peonies so you can choose and paint a variation: Single, Japanese, Anemone, Semi-Double, Bombe, and Full Double, with Bomb peonies being one of the most common and double peonies having lots of sub-categories.
Did you try one of these tutorials and want to share your art? Please send it to me and I will be happy to post it! I hope this list of easy-to-paint peony paintings inspired you to try different mediums like gouache, watercolor, acrylic, or oil and made painting peonies really easy!
Masha Eretnova, born in 1991, is a Buenos Aires-based certified teacher, artist, and member of the Professional Artist Association with 20+ years of personal painting journey.
She started painting and drawing very early and is now an international abstract artist and educator passionate about acrylic painting, gouache, and crafts.
Her works are part of international exhibitions and contests, including ArtlyMix (Brazil), Al-Tiba 9 (Spain), Exhibizone (Canada), and many more.
Besides her artistic pursuits, Masha is also skilled in SEO blogging and digital marketing, running several niche websites. She also holds a post-grad diploma in Teaching Film Photography and 2 music school diplomas: piano and opera singing.