Tuesday, 9 June 2015

How To Draw: Orchids

Orchids are one of the most popular plant families in the world and in Britain, we have many beautiful species, including several rare ones. Identifying them, though, can cause headaches as some species can look alike. Drawing them can help when you are out there so you can ID them later. When it comes to orchid ID, the shape and colour of the flowers and the leaves can help as well as which habitat you found it in. So how do you draw these plants in the first place? Let me show you.

Stage One
Most of Britain's orchids have many flowerheads clustered together. First, draw the outline of the entire plant. Work out the shape of the orchid. Is it tall? Short? Round? Spiky? If it is spiky don't worry about drawing the 'spikes' yet. Instead, just draw a rough circle or oval for now. The same questions are made when drawing the leaves. Draw the outlines of them as simply as you can. Draw the stem in too.

Stage Two

Next, divide the the flower up into several sections. This wil help you to focus on each clustered area at a time and to use an improved guideline to the flower's shape. Next to the plant, you may notice a circle. I am going to draw a close up of to one of flowerheads here for you, as this is useful for ID purposes.

Stage Three

Stage Four
In each circle that you have divided up with, draw in each flower and spike. Draw simple circles for each flower for now as you are just figuring out where each bit goes where. Once you have done that, you can then work on the detail. I draw the close up flower first and use that as a guide for all the others.

Stage Five

Redraw in pen and rub out the pencil. Work from the bottom upwards to avoid any confusion.

Stage Six

Colour in your orchid. Add in any spots on the leaves. The flowerhead close up shows all the markings you need to ID with. Just look carefully at your subject and work out the pattern.You might need another shade of colour to create each mark or use a pen (though this can ruin the drawing, so be aware).

Stage One

Some orchids have one flower which is used to manipulate it's target pollinator in a particular way. Bee orchids are great examples of this. To draw one, create a circle and add three triangles around it. Draw in the stem, leaves and buds below and above it.
Stage Two

Now you can add the details such as the pattern on the flower, the petals, etc. Start from the top of the flower and work your way down. Give as much space for each part of the pattern as you can.

Stage Three

Redraw in pen and rub out the pencil.
Stage Four

Colour in yor bee orchid. The petals are pink and the stem and leaves are green. The flower centre is a mix of orange and brown with a bit of light scribble of a black pen. Around that is a light blend of green and yellow with red for any spots, lines or edging. The rest of the flower is brown and black pen with two green-yellow spots in the middle.

Drawing Stage

The most exotic looking of the UK's orchid species is the slipper orchid. It is the only one that resembles an orchid from a tropical rainforest. It is also very rare, only to be found in a few locations in Yorkshire. Draw it's slipper-like bulge with an area for the reproductive parts at the top. Then add a large petal above with 3-4 smaller, yet longer petals around the slipper. Draw in the stalk (with a bulge and spike on top) and the curvy leaves which have grooves in it.

Pen Stage

Draw over in pen. Shade heavily around the edges of each petal and then lightly in the centre.

Colour Stage

Finally, colour the orchid in. The slipper is a light yellow and the petals are red with some yellow in the centre. The leaves and stem is green. And there you have a beautiful slipper orchid.

I hope this has helped you. If you have an orchid that you are struggling to draw, ask me and I will have a go in another How To Draw. Until then, good luck with your drawings!


  1. Brilliant drawings again and one of my favourite subjects!

  2. Did you go to Unsprung last night? Think I may have spotted you - wearing a baseball cap, stood behind Laura (think that's her name - blonde social media lady). How was it? Looking forward to your blog post about it!

    1. Was good thanks. Yep that was where I was. Got to show Chris and Martin my diary too.