Drawing Realistic Grass The Easy Way: For Beginners

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Kevin Hayler: Professional Wildlife artist, author, and traveler.

Drawing realistic grass is easier than it looks. With the right techniques and understanding of its structure, anyone can create detailed and convincing grass in their drawing. These are the main methods.

Draw realistic grass by sketching short crisscrossed lines for short grass or long curved lines for tall grass. Lines must be random, not uniform. Use a base tone and create texture with an eraser pen and a battery eraser to create highlights.

Everything will become apparent, keep reading.

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Observing Grass in Real Life

Drawing realistic grass begins with observation. It’s about drawing what you see, not what you think you know.

The Basic Structure and Anatomy of Real Grass

Try and put the cartoon version of grass to one side and go outside and look at some real grass.

There are some common structures that most grass species conform to (source).

  • Blades: Grass blades are typically long and thin, with parallel veins running their length. The shape and size of the blade can vary greatly depending on the species. Some blades are flat and wide, while others are more cylindrical or folded.
  • Stems: Grass stems are typically round and hollow, except at the nodes where the leaves attach. Stems are typically subdivided into progressively shorter segments along their length and taper to the top.
  • Nodes: Divide the stems at the points where leaves attach to the stem, and they are usually solid and swollen. Think of a bamboo stem, the tallest grass of all.
  • Seed Head: The flowering part of the plant typically appears as a feathery spike at the tip of the stem and contains the seeds. They vary in shape and size according to the species.
  • Sheath: The sheath is the lower part of the leaf that wraps around the stem. It is usually split open on one side.

Knowing the basic shapes and structure of grass is one thing, but how they grow in the field is another. Grass stems are not perfectly straight lines. Each grass blade curves, bends, and leans in different directions, creating a random pattern and organic look. More of that in a moment.

Basic Techniques for Drawing Grass

Drawing realistic grass requires a combination of different techniques and tools.

Here’s an overview of the basics you’ll need to get started.

Pencil Strokes

The first step in drawing grass is mastering your pencil strokes. Grass is made up of individual blades of grass, each represented by a line. These lines should be drawn in different directions to mimic the natural growth of grass.

Short, quick strokes can be used to represent short lines of grass, while longer, curved strokes can be used for tall grass. Varying the length and direction of your strokes will give your grass a more realistic look.

Tonal Values

Grass isn’t a uniform color or tone. It has light areas and dark areas, which you can represent by varying tonal values. Lighter strokes can be used for areas of grass that are hit by the light or to indicate distance, while darker values can be used for the shadow area or to donate an area closer to the viewer.

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Negative Drawing

Negative drawing is a technique where you draw around an object instead of the object itself. In the context of grass, this means drawing the spaces between the grass blades instead of the blades themselves. This technique can be particularly useful for mimicking patches of grass with a lot of depth and detail.

Reverse Layering

Layering is a technique whereby you typically build up your drawing by adding multiple layers of pencil strokes. This can be reversed. Start with a darker base layer, then erase lighter lines and areas until you add the highlights that appear to pop from the page.

In the next step, we’ll delve deeper into these techniques and show you how to apply them to your own drawings. As with every other skill, the key to drawing realistic grass is practice, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time. Keep trying.

This post is related: How to Draw Texture in Pencil: 7 Tips for Realistic Results

Sketching Grass in a Landscape

For the most part, you can’t see individual grass stems within a landscape drawing. They are typically indicated in an abbreviated form.

How to Draw Short Grass

Grass, in its simplest form, is composed of tiny lines shooting up from the ground in various directions. These lines, or individual blades of grass, cluster together to form patches of grass.

When you’re observing a field of grass, you’ll notice that there are different patterns and tonal values at play. Some patches of grass are darker, indicating a shadow area, while others are lighter depending on the position of the light source.

Grass blades overlap each other, and they don’t all grow at the same rate. You’ll see tall grass standing out among the shorter blades. You might also notice dry grass, which has a different texture, color, or tone.

Break down these observations into simple shapes and lines. You’re not drawing each blade of grass. Instead, you’re indicating the grass texture and the way light and shadow play across the scene.

Although there may well be an observable direction of growth, make sure to randomize the texture and avoid parallel lines at all costs. This understanding will help you to achieve a more realistic look.

Drawing Grass with a Kneadable Eraser

Drawing grass is much like drawing hair or fur. It’s less about drawing the individual strands and much more about the drawing overall shape as a tonal value. In this case, there is no attempt at drawing grass as such.

The only thing required is to highlight some lighter areas with a few short strokes of a putty eraser.

Drawing Grass in Close-Up Detail

There are times when you need to draw grass in a more realistic or photographic form. That could be as part of a botanical illustration, or a set-piece still life study.

How to Draw Grass Stems Individually

Straight lines are rare. each stem is a series of elongated thin rectangles that taper, bend, kink, twist, lean, and curve to the top.

Young Serval Cat by Kevin Hayler. Drawing realistic grass example image. Authentic African grass and foliage
Drawing of a Young Serval Cat by Kevin Hayler

Grass blades grow and sway in different directions. They vary in length and width. Grass dies, snaps, get eaten, peels, and splits. There is nothing uniform. That’s good news because it means there are endless opportunities to add interesting shapes and textures. You can’t go far wrong.

Remember: Grass is thicker at the base and it is never uniform.

Also, consider the light source. Where is the light coming from in your scene? This will affect the shading on your grass study. The side of the blade facing the light will be lighter, while the opposite side will be darker. In turn, the stem will cast a shadow across the stem behind, and the one behind that.

Drawing Out of Focus Grass (Bokeh Effect)

Sometimes, drawing elements like grass out of focus can add depth and interest to your artwork. This is where the concept of the Bokeh effect comes in.

What is the Bokeh Effect?

The Bokeh effect is a term that comes from photography. It refers to the deliberate blur applied to parts of an image. This can be the background, foreground, or a combination of both. A photographer will manipulate the depth of field to create this effect.

Why Draw Grass Out of Focus?

Drawing grass out of focus can help create a sense of depth and drama in your artwork. It can make the grass area in the foreground appear closer, while the grass in the background seems further away. This can give your drawing a more realistic look.

Additionally, drawing grass out of focus draws the viewer’s attention to the main subject The blurred grass becomes a backdrop, or frame, allowing the subject to stand out.

Drawing realistic grass out of focus. Tiger drawing by Kevin Hayler using the Bokeh effect
Drawing the grass out of focus

How to Draw Grass Out of Focus

I tend to use the reverse layering method to draw grass and foliage out of focus.

I draw a loose layer of tone using a softer pencil grade. Personally, I wouldn’t use anything softer than a 3B. The only problem with using a soft pencil is graphite shine. It’s bloody annoying.

So irritating I wrote about it: 9 Ways to Stop Pencil Shine in a Drawing and Save Your Work!

There are two ways to avoid the worst of this effect. You can build your layers using a slightly harder pencil grade. Multiple layers of a harder grade will be less shiny. Or you can try the Staedtler Lumagraph black pencil which contains carbon and dulls that shine.

When you have covered your area take a lump of putty eraser and dash the paper in the direction of the foliage. You can adjust the tone if you erase too much.

Drawing Grass by Scoring the Paper First

Scoring the paper is a technique used to create fine white lines and details in your drawing, making it particularly useful for drawing realistic grass. However, it has its pros and cons and requires careful consideration.

This will interest you: How to Draw White Lines in a Pencil Drawing: Do This…

Pros and Cons of Scoring the Paper Surface

Scoring the paper involves creating indents or grooves on the paper’s surface before you start drawing.

it enables you to create very fine sharp lines that would otherwise be difficult if not impossible to achieve in any other way. When you shade over the scored area, the indents remain light, creating the illusion of individual blades of grass.

However, there is a downside to consider. Once you’ve scored the paper, it’s permanent – you can’t erase or easily repair the indents. Scoring damages the paper. That’s fine if you score the paper accurately, but ruinous if you misjudge it.

Need some help? Read this: How to Repair Drawing Paper: 9 Ways to Rescue Your Artwork

Using an Indent Tool to Score the Paper

An indent tool, also known as an embossing tool, is typically used to score the paper. This tool has a small, rounded tip that allows you to create fine lines without tearing the paper.

I have used an expired Biro pen to do the same thing in the past.

Tools for drawing realistic grass. A battery eraser, Tombo mono pen and an indent tool
Drawing grass with a battery eraser, Tombo eraser pen, and an indent tool

To score the paper, use the tool to lightly draw the lines where you want the blades of grass to be. With the scoring completed, you can shade over the area with a pencil. The scored lines will remain white.

Drawing Grass with an Eraser Pen

An eraser pen allows you to create highlights and finer details in your drawing. The technique involves laying a dark tonal base and then using the eraser pen to ‘draw’ the grass by removing some of the shadings.

Drawing Grass from Dark to Light

Start by shading the area where you want to draw the grass. Use a soft pencil to create a base layer of shading. Don’t worry about details at this stage; you’re just creating a base layer.

Next, use your eraser pen to draw individual blades of grass. The eraser pen will remove the graphite, creating lighter lines against the darker background. Vary the pressure. The aim is to suggest background grass.

Simply add more layers of shading and use the eraser pen to add more blades of grass. The blades you drew in the first layer will appear softer and further away, while the blades you draw in the later layers will appear sharper and closer. This is how you create the illusion of depth in your grass.

Drawing with a Tombo Eraser Pen and a Jakar Battery Eraser

There are different types of eraser pens you can use for this technique. A Tombo mono eraser pen is a good option, as it has a thin nib that allows you to create narrow precise lines.

A Jakar battery eraser pen is another superb option. This is a battery-powered eraser with a rotating nib, allowing you to create very clean lines.

I use the battery eraser in a number of ways. I use it as a standard eraser pen and without pressing the button, I draw faint lines across the graphite layer as I would with a Tombo eraser.

I use a blunt rubber nib to lightly draw thicker lines. I also sharpen the nib on a piece of wet-and-dry emery paper and draw super fine details with ultimate precision.

Creating Depth in Grass

Creating a perception of depth is crucial for drawing realistic grass. The aim is to give the illusion of a three-dimensional field on a two-dimensional surface. This can be achieved by adding shadows, using dark negative spaces, using focus, and receding tonal values.

I devote a whole post on this subject: How to Create Depth in Your Drawing: 7 Best Ways

The Importance of Adding Shadows

Shadows play a big role in creating the appearance of depth. They help to define the shape and form of the grass blades and give the impression of light falling on the grass.

Drawing realistic grass in 3D. A detail of a drawing of a domestic pig and piglets lying in hay by Kevin Hayler
3D effect using shadows

To add shadows, identify your light source in the drawing. The side of the grass blades opposite to the light source will be in shadow. Use a softer pencil to add these shadows, making these areas darker.

This article develops the subject: How to Draw Realistic Shadows in Pencil: Light and Shade

Adding Dark Negative Spaces

Negative spaces are the areas between the grass blades. By making some of these areas almost black, you can create a sense of depth and volume in your grass.

Use a soft pencil to darken these areas. The goal is to create a balance between the light and dark areas.

Using Focus to Create Depth

Vary the level of detail and clarity between the foreground and background. Try drawing the focal point in sharp detail and leaving the rest out of focus. This technique mimics the way our eyes naturally perceive depth.

Using Tonal Values to Suggest Distance

As a general rule, objects that are further away appear lighter and less detailed due to atmospheric perspective. You can apply this principle to your grass drawings by making the grass in the background lighter and less detailed than the grass in the foreground.

If you need some training try this very on Udemy

Drawing the Right Types of Grass

This is an aspect of drawing realistic grass and foliage that is often overlooked.

When drawing realistic grass, it’s important to consider the context. Different scenes will have different types of grass, and drawing the right type can make your artwork more authentic and believable.

Draw Authentic Species of Grass Within a Given Scene

There are instances when you may want to place your subject within a landscape setting or add features to an existing composition for creative effect. I seldom have all the information I need in one photograph.

I take my own reference shots, and as my wildlife subjects are often captive of semi-wild, they are out of their natural habitat.

This post relates to using photos: Is Drawing From Reference Photos Bad? Are You Cheating?

In such cases, I can refer to previous reference photos for more detail or research online and see what I can find.

How to Judge the Right Scale

To judge the right scale, consider the size of the grass compared to other objects in the scene. This is important if you are drawing or painting closeup detail.

Imagine drawing a songbird perching on a reed. It’s vital to get the right scale. If the reed is too small, the bird is a giant. and the reverse is true. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the drawing is if your scale is wrong.

Reaistic drawing techniques. "Lion Country" a pencil drawing by Kevin Hayler
“Lion Country” A pencil Drawing by Kevin Hayler

Sometimes I come across a setting that would be perfect if only it contained a bird or an animal. I will take a reference shot and often add an object with a known measurement, such as a pen or my cap. This is my scale and I can judge the true size of any addition.

When this fails, I will use the out-of-focus technique to disguise my lack of information and pretend to be more arty than I am!

This post discusses scaling up a drawing: How to Scale Up a Drawing in 4 Easy Ways and Save Time

Drawing Realistic Grass the Easy Way: Final Thoughts

I hope this has allayed any fears you may have about drawing grass. Drawing realistic grass is easy.

There is no pressure to be super accurate, you have plenty of leeway for making mistakes. The public will never know.

You can draw grass from memory after you gain some experience and it’s a useful device to add interest to an otherwise dull composition.

Now you have a few ideas, you can use them to your advantage.

If you like the way I draw and want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit

This is how I made a living for over 20 years. You can too, simply copy what I did – No hidden secrets

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If you need more help with drawing, then I urge you to check out
Dorian Iten on Proko. His course is reasonably priced and inspiring

How to draw realistic grass. The easy way for beginners
The artist and Author Kevin Hayler

Hi, my name’s Kevin and I’m a real person!
I’ve been selling my wildlife art and traveling the world for over 20 years, and if that sounds too good to be true, I’ve done it all without social media, art school, or galleries!
I can show you how to do it. You’ll find a wealth of info on my site, about selling art, drawing tips, lifestyle, reviews, travel, my portfolio, and more. Enjoy

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