How to Draw and Paint Lovely Lily Pads

A cluster of lily pads on a pond makes a great art subject. These strange water-dwelling plants are one of nature’s sweet wonders and have been an inspiration to artists for centuries.

Follow along and learn how to draw and paint these charming botanicals.

Lily pad and water lily sketch

Step 1: Shape the lily pad.

A lily pad is a little unevenly round in shape, with one slit that goes all the way to its center (figure 1 below). Draw one or a few lily pads.

When you are happy with the shape of the lily pad, draw a few little veins coming out from its center (figure 2).

How to draw a lily pad

Step 2: Add some water lilies.

Did you know that a lily pads are the leaves of water lilies? The flowers or water lilies grow on the end of long stems just like the lily pads. It is easy to see why one might think the flower grows on top of the leaf or lily pad. It almost looks that way because a dense lily pad growth will crowd themselves and they’re flowers on top of each other thus creating the effect of the flower coming out of the lily pad.

Here is a rough botanical sketch to help the visual.

Botanical lily pad sketch

Considering the above information, you can place your flower in the water alone, near a leaf or even on top of the leaf since all these choices will look natural.

Water lily placement near lily pads

Below is a close-up reference for each of the flowers I have added to my water plants. The leaves and flowers are oblong with the leaves coming to points.

Drawing water lilies

Step 3: Adding the stems.

Though the stems join the lily pad at the center of the slit, they are long and sway with the water movement. So it is safe to place them loosely near and around the leaves.

Aquatic plants

Step 4: Paint your lily pad and water lily.

If you are going to add a water background to your plants, now is the time to do so.

It is OK If some of this water background color gets on the lily pad, but best to keep it off the flowers. A masking medium will protect them if needed. Make sure you apply it before you start to paint and let it dry thoroughly.

Paint right over the stems in the water since this will render them as under the water.

Add a light layer of a green shade to the lily pads.

Painted water lilies

Step 5. Add the finishing touches.

Deepen the color of the lily pads and the shade near the center and any exposed bottoms of the lily pads.

Paint the stems a darker shade than the lily pads — I added a little mauve to my mix just to deepen and change the color a little.

Add some more shading to the water right under some of the lily pads.

Shading lily pads with watercolors

Paint the leaves on the water lilies dark green. Paint the centers of the flowers (if open) yellow.

Water Lilies in watercolor paints
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