Hallingdal Rosemaling

Traditional Art – DIY Hallingdal Rosemaling

Norwegian Rosemaling is the style of traditional painting very popular in parts of America, where it is a favoured style of interior decorating, especially amongst those folk with Scandinavian heritage.

Each region, or ‘fylke’, in Norway, developed its own individual interpretation of traditional Rosemaling style and design, which initially appeared around the 18th century.

Hallingdal style on a cupboard in Geilo

History of Rosemaling

As early as the 17th century, itinerant painters brought new ideas and artistic trends from the cities of Europe into the mountains and Valleys of rural Norway, painting Renaissance and Baroque motifs on the walls of the wooden Norwegian Stave churches.

The relative geographic isolation in the Hallingdal, Telemark and Vest Agder provinces led to further development and evolution of this peasant folk art form into a highly distinctive and unique art.

Reaching its zenith in Norway during the 18th century, Rosemaling was then revived by the Norwegian peoples during a fiercely Nationalistic decorating movement in the 19th and 20th centuries, following the country’s political separation from Sweden.

A similar resurgence in Norwegian traditional painting began amongst Norwegian immigrants, living in the American Midwest, in the mid to late 20th century, and this trend continues to flourish there today.

Read more here

Hallingdal style of Rosemaling

The Halling Valley, itself, is situated in an area of southern central Norway, covering towns such as Gol, Ål and Hol and this is where one finds many examples of Hallingdal Rosemaling, appreciated and loved, even today.

Elements of Halling style can be found in the Embroidery on the Norwegian women’s national costume, (called the Bunad), in Norwegian wood carving, on hanging cupboards, and on wooden objects around the Norwegian home.

Features of this Style:

  • Hallingdal Rosemaling colours: rich, varied, exuberant and strong
  • Background colours: red/orange-red, in later years, blue and green
  • Black appeared as a background colour following influences from Telemark
  • Flowers colours: – Blue, White, or Gold on Red grounds; Red and gold on blue/ green backgrounds
  • Early Hallingdal Rosemaling had more floral elements; scrolls were minor. Over time, scrolls became a frame around which the flowers were placed, in order to achieve a sense of balance, either side of the design’s vertical axis. Scrolls still maintained a simplistic form, with little or no shading, and were heavier than the lyrical scrolls seen in the Telemark area
  • Motifs: symmetrical in round/rectangular design shapes, often depicted in mirror image split along the vertical axis
  • Round floral patterns could also be segmented into 4, 6 or 8 divisions, typically with blossoms of four or more petals
  • Leaves: large, often surrounding a central flower,  or mirror image split vertically
  • Design elements are sometimes filled in with fine, cross – hatched lines.
  • Flower shapes of Hallingdal are classified into 3 groups: circles, triangles or half circles.
Claudine Schatz

Circle Flowers

  • A circular centre is painted first and then concentric bands of colour added
  • Petals are added around the central circle in an even number, four or more, with petal length limited by the sectional diameter of the circle, and defined with liner work.
  • Ball flowers are circular flowers painted as a series of round balls surrounding a centre circle.

Triangular Flowers

  • Simple flowers with three petals, similar to a tulip; usually painted in strokes from the outside tip down to a base at the centre.
  • Blooms with more than three petals can have an oval centre, similar to a daisy.  Are  also combined into more elaborate and complex floral designs.
  • Triangular flower petal strokes can double as leaf forms.

Half circle Flowers

  • Usually are seen as larger elements within the Hallingdal design.
  • Comprise a semi-circular band of colour around a base.
  • Adorned with over strokes and details that illuminate the flower in a new way.
  • Half circles can also become petals of a flower form.


Two types are seen in Hallingdal Designs

  • Stroke – work leaves, similar to the triangle flower petals
  • Shaded leaves, which are large and heavy and used in conjunction with large round central flowers. They do have some liner work stems.


  • Scrolls may represent leaves, but take the form of C and S shapes.
  • They are not shaded or blended in Hallingdal designs.
  • Used as a frame around flowers or as a cartouche border in a band that circles a round floral motif.
  • Painted in one colour; the light source is indicated by over strokes of white/ lighter colour on the top side of the scroll.
  • Scrolls are quite tight. They are not airy and lyrical, as in pieces seen in Telemark regions

Hallingdal Rosemaling even had some features borrowed from Oriental art forms. It was although typical in many ways, also malleable to outside influences. These characteristics overlap and interlace with other Rosemaling styles, and as such, should not be used as limits or boundaries, in one’s own Rosemaling journey, but merely to establish guidelines when one is starting to study this beautiful art form.

Free Hallingdal Rosemaling Designs

Why not get a feel for Hallingdal Rosemaling by painting or colouring in this design:

Free project

Something to Ponder About

[Parts of the description of features of Hallingdal style was taken from Rosemaling in the Round by Pat Virch, 1976] 
Norwegian Rosemaling

Telemark Rosemaling Tutorial

Rosemaling Bjorn Pettersen

Rosemaling is the traditional painting of Norway.  Originating in the mid eighteenth century, Rosemaling reached its zenith in the early 20th Century. Renewed interest in everything considered traditionally ‘Norwegian’, popularized the art form, and created renewed interest, without which, it may have been relegated to history.

What first began as a form of peasant painting, developed into a highly stylized and exquisite form of religious art, based on the acanthus leaf motif, rose and tulip forms. Itinerant artists travelled the countryside painting the not only the walls of the local Stave churches but also the living areas of  farmers, who enjoyed the decoration on their walls and everyday objects.

Bykle church

In the isolation of the Norwegian countryside,  this new art form continued to develop further, resulting in a variety of individual styles that differed according to the valley or regions, from whence they came. Examples include: Telemark, Rogaland, Hallingdal and Os (from Bergen area).

Telemark rosemaling
My Telemark Design
Halling folk Museum
Hallingdal style

To find out more about Hallingdal Rosemaling, try out a free design for yourself, go to the free Hallingdal project design found here.

Norwegian Rosemaling
Os Rosemaling

Telemark style appeared in the Telemark Valley, is characterized by free flowing, dynamic scroll work, and asymmetrical designs.  It is this style this tutorial will focus on here. Some knowledge of folk art comma strokes is necessary to paint this. If you are not familiar with basic stroke technique – there is a video on this post.

blue trivet handle 031

Telemark Rosemaling Tutorial

faux finish tools


Acrylic paint in the following colours – (choose a good quality gouache, not transparent student quality paint, as this will help you with this technique)

Prussian Blue or the main colour

Smoked Pearl

Warm White

Filbert or flat brush, about 1/4- 1/2″

Liner brush, – not too long, a size 1 or a Quill liner

Sandpaper #400 – #600

A wooden piece, canvas or object to paint

Base paint – flat, matte or low sheen paint. Stay away from glossy finishes for base paint, otherwise your paint may not lock, or key, to the base colour.


I make a disposable palette for acrylics, by wetting some ordinary kitchen paper towel and squeezing it so it is just damp, and  not wringing wet, and then wrap this in  grease proof paper as one would a sandwich.


Step 1.

Base paint your  piece or prep your canvas, in a chosen colour scheme. It is more economical to purchase a larger pot of base paint, but you can use tube gouache fro this purpose as well if you water it down a little.  I picked Jo Sonja’s Prussian blue and lightened it down with a creamy colour (Jo Sonja acrylics Smoked Pearl) Two coats. Allow this to completely dry.

Step 2.

With non- powdery chalk or chalk pencil, chalk in some guiding points, like the root of the  Telemark design and outside border. If you don’t want to paint freehand, you could chalk or mark in the main scroll lines, with transfer paper, and use a outline for the flowers. Later, when you get the hang of the shape of the flowers, and what your brush can do, then you can simply mark an x for where the flower will go and its orientation.

Norwegian painting
Telemark Rosemaling


To make your own transfer paper using chalk:

Draw up your design on tracing or grease proof paper, using a lead pencil. Rub a stick of chalk, (held parallel to the paper), over the BACK side of the penciled design. Carefully lay the tracing down on the wooden piece and secure with tape. Now just trace over your design again, and you will have a chalk tracing imprint on your piece. Voila. Easily removable once your painting is finished and dry.


When designing, keep in mind balance of shape, size and element.If you divide the design in quarters, it will appear balanced if there is a major element, or part thereof, positioned, in each quarter. Each quarter should also have an equal measure of positive and negative space.

Tip: Look at the design upside down to distract your left brain from interpreting as you normally would, giving you a fresh eyes to see any design faults.

Telemark Norwegian painting art

Painting Technique

Step 1. Load a filbert ( flat with rounded tip) or flat brush in size appropriate to the width you want the scroll to be in darkest value, on ONE EDGE ONLY. In this case: Prussian blue. On the opposite edge, load Warm white or your lightest value. Flatten the brush on the palette so that the colours mix. Repeat this on your palette a number of times so that the colours gradually blend across the bristles.

Step 2.  Begin painting the scroll from the top down, applying pressure as you go, so the brush widens, and releasing pressure as you near the end of the scroll, as this will narrow the stroke at the design root.

Step 3.  Repeat the stroke if needed for coverage then add more of  the darkest value on the outside of the scroll, to enhance the contrast. Be careful: Acrylics dry quickly and you may need to use a retarder medium to slow the drying time, giving you more time to play with the design. Retarder can be added to your brush or brushed on to your piece. This gives you good practice at stroke-making prior to laying down the paint.

Step 4. Paint remaining scrolls in the same manner.  Try to have them all merging towards the one root point.  This is a very important part of making Rosemaling eye catching. Vary the length of the each scroll to add interest.

Step 5.

Begin to block in the flowers using shape following strokes, comma, or leaf shape (S and C strokes) as appropriate. These can be quite casual and double load your brush again with light value on one side and dark value on the other to give your project a natural blended look. Don’t worry too much about shaggy edges here, as the liner work will tidy that up.

This is also a free style of painting, it is not Fine Art, and the peasants that originally painted these pieces had little or no training in artistic techniques. So don’t stress trying to make it perfect when it is not meant to be so.

Try to achieve a balance of colour as you go. If the brush has blended really well and the light value is lost, add some extra warm white to your dirty brush (ie. don’t rinse it clean in water, just wipe on paper towel to remove excess colour.)

Once you have blocked in the flowers, and are happy with the distribution of colour, you can begin the liner work.

Warning: Liner work is very addictive, and it is easy to get carried away with the embellishments and make the design too busy. Beware! You can always add an extra stroke, later, but rubbing out can ruin a design.

You may also like to try adding something like flow medium to your paint to do some liner work. This will help a beginner. Practice a little on scraps of wood or paper first to get the hang of the brush to save wiping out mistakes.

Step 6. Scroll Details

Begin by adding enough water to your paint puddle to ensure an inky consistency. Load the brush in the paint and pull it through twisting it gently a little before you lift it from your palette. Place tip on project and gradually increase the pressure allowing the brush to widen the stroke, then release the pressure as you direct the brush tip towards you.
N.B. For best results, liner work should vary in thickness. The last thing you want is for all the outlines to be the same thickness. Variation creates interest in the design.

Outline all the scrolls in a casual manner. Try to move your arm as opposed to just your hand. This helps to create a sense of movement. Be confident. You can clean up any errors, carefully with a cotton bud or Q-tip.

Step 7. Flower details

Outline flowers in same technique with your liner brush.

tutorial rosemaling

Be individual and don’t follow the same outline each time.

Step 8. Embellishments

Add some small detail strokes with a quill or liner brush. They are completed similar to a reverse comma. Starting off with very light pressure and pressing fully down on the completion of the stroke. I double loaded this brush in the picture here, first loading in blue and then dipping the tip of the brush in white. This gives a white stroke with a blue tip. This stroke is very typical of what you see in traditional Rosemaling works.

But…. Know when to stop. Overdoing it can make a design look too busy!! I am guilty of this often when I get lost in my liner work and don’t stop to look at the whole piece.

Telemark motif

Step 9. Borders

Now you have it! Almost all Rosemaling works have a border design, which can be as individual as you like. I used ‘S’ strokes around the edges of my box.

Step 10. Finishing

All you need to do is allow time for the paint to dry – which can be anything from 2 days to a week depending on weather conditions, oils can take up to 6 weeks to fully dry.

Rub off any guidelines and 2 coats of water based varnish will seal the deal! If you are wondering what type of varnish to use, that is a difficult question to answer. Experiment with  a few brands and types to see what works. I like to use a matte or a gloss spray varnish for speed. But equally good are the brush on or wipe on varieties. Oil based paints require oil based (non yellowing) varnishes.

Norwegian painting
Telemark Rosemaling

If you have any questions, I am happy to guide you. You can find some of my Rosemaling designs printed on fabric at my online Spoonflower shop here.

Further instruction in painting Telemark Rosemaling using Oils paints visit this post.

Velkommen plaque Rosemaling