How to Draw Texture in Pencil: 7 Tips for Realistic Results

How to Repair Drawing Paper: 9 Ways to Rescue Your Artwork Three examples of drawing texture.

No one taught me how to draw texture in pencil, I discovered it by trial and error. Back in the day, there were no online lessons, only books, and most were useless. It’s not much better now, and that’s why this post will help you get results faster.

Drawing texture is easier using soft B-grade pencils on grainy paper. Use erasers to lift-out textures by dabbing. Sketch fur and hair in the direction of growth and use your eraser to rub out the highlights.

There is a lot to cover and this post is an overview of techniques to get you started. As with everything else to do with drawing skills, nothing beats practice. So with that in mind let’s get going.

(I get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. However, I only promote products I like and recommend)

1. How to Draw the Texture of Rock

If you want to show off your skill at drawing realistic textures, there’s nothing easier than drawing rocks and stones. It’s so easy to draw interesting texture, it’s almost cheating.

It was while I was playing around with graphite stumps and Blu Tack that I realized the potential to draw rock texture without ever having to copy it.

How to draw the texture of rock. Example of a leopard standing on a rock boulder drawn in pencil.
‘Leopard Rock’ by Kevin Hayler

Here’s a case in point. I saw this leopard in the Singapore Zoo and that rock was concrete in real life. The form and basic shapes were easy enough to draw. There are only three simple shapes with some basic shadows on the left. The light source is coming from the right.

I shaded the rocks initially using a 0.3mm HB Pentel Mechanical Pencil. If I had used a 0.5mm or 0.7mm lead, the texture would’ve been too coarse. I wanted a gentler, almost smooth texture, so 0.3mm was fine. I didn’t attempt to draw detail at this stage.

If you need help with pencil grades read: What Do Pencil Numbers Mean? Pencil Grades Explained + Charts

When everything was blocked in nicely, I took a small ball of clean Blu Tack and rolled it at random across the rock face. The graphite lifted off in natural patterns, leaving a unique texture.

I refined the patches by redrawing the lost shadows and adding some dark areas. Now the blotches stood out. I could envisage some natural-looking cracks and fissures and I exaggerated them to create a 3-D effect.

It’s all serendipity. I made random marks and capitalized on the outcome. It could’ve gone wrong, in which case you would simply shade over the mistake and try again. Nothing lost.

Drawing a natural organic texture couldn’t be easier.

Having got the bold light and cracks looking good, I dabbed a point of Blu Tack onto the paper to create further textures. You can see how I lifted more graphite on the right side of the leopard.

I took advantage of any anomalies I saw in the paper tooth and where the grain looked interesting I dabbed out the lighter patches. These small raised patches look very real. I could raise or soften them at will with shading.

The cracks look real because the darkest areas are bordered by lighter edges. Look closely at the central slab. The crack on the left has a light reflection running along the edge. That makes the rock look much more rounded.

Rock texture detail showing reflected light

Notice how the rock on the top right, just below the leopard, is lighter in the middle and darker on the ridge. It’s a soft and uneven transition. a more solid shadow would look less convincing.

Shadow usually contains reflected light from other surfaces. Even if I can’t see anything I usually draw shadows with reflected light anyway. They look more interesting.

There is another way of drawing rock texture or boulders.

Draw a boulder shape and determine the direction of the light. Now take a 6B graphite stump (affiliate) and drag it randomly across the surface, twisting it as you do so. You will create very grainy speckled spots and rings.

Join up some of the spots and rings with a sharp 3B and strengthen some patches with shadow. Before you know it, you’ll have the desired effect, namely an insane amount of detail that looks like it took forever. In fact, it only took a few minutes.

We all have to start somewhere and that’s why Udemy courses are popular. This class is by Brent Eviston, and he has many more. You can see how many people have taken his classes

The art and science of drawing by Brent Eviston on Udemy

2. How to Draw the Texture of Tree Bark

I draw bark texture in a similar way to rock but with more finesse. It is all about lifting off texture with Blu Tack or a Kneadable Eraser.

This leopard cub in a tree is a good example of bark that was drawn with a good drawing technique rather than trying to copy it exactly.

Leopard cub in a tree. A drawing example demonstrating how to draw tree bark
‘Curious Cub’ by Kevin Hayler

The bark on the tree trunk is a series of random elongated shapes following the line of the tree trunk. All I had to do was create the illusion of texture, I didn’t try to copy the bark exactly.

I shaded the tree trunk with a 0.3mm B grade mechanical pencil and darkened both sides. The light is coming from behind the viewer.

Then using a Tombo Mono Eraser Pen, I dragged it gently down the trunk leaving random crossing broken lines. If you look at the bark shapes in the middle, they are slightly wider than those on the sides. It’s a subtle gesture and gives the impression of a curve in the trunk.

I had to be careful because I wanted to retain the crispness of the bark texture. I didn’t want to lose the speckled grain by smudging the surface.

Close up detail of tree bark drawn in pencil
Tree bark detail

With the random shapes marked down I could shade one side of each bark shape to make them appear three dimensional

The shadows on the right, are all on the right, and on the other side, they’re all on the left. That’s because the light is coming from behind me.

To create depth, I’ve outlined each piece of bark with a dark line where the shadow meets the light grove. Note that there are no very sharp lines.

These are great tips: How to Create Depth in Your Drawing: 7 Expert Techniques

Where I’ve removed some bark, I have erased the mid-tone. I’ve lightened the edges to the right and darkened the edges on the left side.

The smaller tree limbs are smoother in texture, but you can see how I’ve drawn gashes and wounds into the bark by using the same high contrast technique. They are dark lines with white ridges, for want of a better way to describe them.

A tawny owl perched in a tree. How to draw the texture of tree bark and shading a textured background
‘Tawny Owl and Chestnut’ by Kevin Hayler

You can see the same technique in this drawing of a tawny owl sitting in a tree. The highlights and lighter patches along the main trunks were lifted out by gently brushing them with a kneadable eraser

The scaley patches on the left branch were created by pinching the putty eraser and rolling it along the stem. I drew around the marks and created a crusty texture.

3. How to Draw Textured Backgrounds

I find drawing textured backgrounds quite challenging, and that’s because I have a tendency to obsess with detail and produce tight drawings. This habit conflicts with drawing in a loose and interesting way, hence my backgrounds can appear stilted.

The two styles are so at odds that they are difficult to combine.

Ideally, I should sketch the background first. This almost never happens. I spend days on the detail and try to add a textured background at the end, by which time, I’m so afraid of ruining the drawing I can’t risk any artistic flourishes.

I know what I should do. I should block in all the tonal work and cover the whole picture from the start. I should flip between areas and build up every area of the drawing in gradual stages. I should never add detail too early.

It’s a mistake to distract myself with detail early on, and I know it’s a mistake even as I succumb to weakness and do it anyway!

Drawing a sketchy background is only practical when it’s laid down at the sketchy stage. Backtracking not only takes more time but it also tends to look less assured. I end up contriving spontaneity with varying degrees of success.

Try these hacks: How to Make Your Drawings Interesting: 14 Ways to Improve a Drawing

The Tawny Owl above has a shady background and it’s a perfect example of adding the background as an afterthought. I drew a very smooth and controlled tone, and erased the edges with a kneadable eraser to give the impression that it was random – it wasn’t.

I shaded and erased several times before settling on the final look. Even now I look at it with disappointment.

I drew another Barn owl (below) and again the textured background was far too timid. In the end, I was so annoyed that I drew over it.

Drawing of a Barn owl flying. Two examples of background texture
Not entirely successful attempt to repair the background

My textured backgrounds are usually made by cross-hatching. It looks random, and it is, within a set of guidelines. You can see the hatching lines and how they criss-cross. I like to vary the angles and draw each patch side by side.

wolf drawing with loose textured cross hatching
Textured background shading. Fast and loose.

The wolf drawing (above) is far more successful. The pencil strokes are loose and that brings the shading to life.

My technique was the same, but this time I managed to refrain from drawing everything in detail and keep to a sketchy style. The result is far more pleasing to the eye.

A few swipes of a kneadable eraser were used to break up the cross-hatching.

Drawing a Smooth Black Background

I can take cross-hatching to the extreme and use it to lay an even black background. Very few artists use this technique. It’s time-consuming but the silky speckled texture is wonderful.

People think it’s a series of dots, but that’s not the case.

The trick is to have a hard support to bring out the paper texture. I use cartridge paper taped to an acrylic plastic sheet and use 0.3mm Pentel Mechanical Pencils

If you are not using these already: Can You Draw With Mechanical Pencils? Yes, and Here’s How

Starting on one side, you must hatch diagonally in one direction in close parallel lines and in one continuous tone. It doesn’t matter if there are some anomalies because they will get covered up as you go back in the opposite direction.

Start with an HB or B, and go back and forth, in layers, until you reach the darkest value. Do not press harder to darken the tone, simply go over it again using the same method, with a 2B pencil.

Any blemishes along the way can be corrected by brushing the surface very lightly with a strand of Blu Tack. Just enough graphite will lift off to smooth the blemish away and make it disappear.

Cockatoo drawing with a flat background texture
Flat Background Texture

This takes time and a very steady hand. Most people will get too frustrated and give up, but if you have the patience to persevere, you will create a textured black background that ‘ZINGS’. There’s no other way to draw texture with that speckled effect.

Another way to draw texture is to shade a background area with a soft pencil, something like a 6B, and erase it again using a Kneadable Eraser.

It will not remove all the graphite. The grainy stain will remain and it gives your drawing a charming atmosphere. It looks almost like a grey wash.


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4. Drawing Grass Textures

I use two different ways to draw grass texture, in-focus, and out-of-focus. The out-of-focus method gets the most reaction.

I look at photography to get my ideas. When a photographer zooms in on a subject it tends to blur the surrounding features. The subject stands out as the only element in focus.

I use the depth-of-field method to draw grass that was never there or was there and I decided to ‘lose’ it for artistic effect.

tiger in the grass. How to draw grass texture using depth of field technique in pencil
‘Tiger in the Grass’ using the depth-of-field method

The tiger drawing (above) was an early attempt to use depth-of-field in a drawing. I only drew the tiger’s head in detail.

I spent very little time drawing the tiger’s head so I didn’t feel precious about the work. I felt liberated to draw freely and experiment.

I shaded in the background with a 3B Derwent Graphic Pencil and when the background texture was roughed in, I took a kneadable eraser, rolled it into a ball, and erased random dashes in the foreground

I had no references. This was all guesswork.

The eraser removed the graphite, leaving marks with soft edges, making them look like out-of-focus grass stems. I knew that the closer stems had to be bigger and more blurry and I had to guess the appropriate size and tone.

I’m not sure I got it right, even so, it was one of my bestsellers for years.

The smaller leaves were made by pressing a small knob of Blu Tack into the graphite. I drew the single grass stems by placing two pieces of paper together and rubbing out the line between them.

I used very basic drawing techniques and it just goes to show that you really don’t need any fancy kit or tricks to draw texture and still achieve an acceptable outcome.

Drawing grass in focus simply means drawing individual blades of grass. The easiest way to draw convincing grass is to draw a background and erase crisscrossed lines with an eraser pen.

You don’t copy grass exactly, you copy the style, and run with it.

Drawing realistic grass texture.

Look at how I’ve drawn hay in this drawing. This is a detail that shows my working method. I shaded the ground and drew in the straw piecemeal. Some stems I drew in, and some I rubbed out. You can also see how the stems are interweaving over and beneath each other.

The dark values are in the gaps between the stems and you need that contrast to create depth.

The stalks also cast shadows. Where they overlap, the shadow appears darker and sharper, and where there’s distance, the shadow appears lighter and less defined.

If you want to know: How to Draw Realistic Shadows in Pencil (All The Best Secrets)

Have a look at this course by Steven Zapata on Proko

There are very few straight lines to be seen. You can see how the grasses are in fact, all shapes and sizes, they bend, twist, and kink.

I had my own reference photos, but this drawing was a montage of different images stitched together. The hay was mostly improvised.

This will interest you: Is Drawing From Reference Photos Bad? Are You Cheating?

5. How to Draw Fur and Hair Textures

Let’s face it, drawing the texture of fur is a nightmare. It can be hit-and-miss. I find drawing long black fur with a sheen to be the hardest texture to get right.

Spider monkey drawing demonstrating how to draw black fur texture
‘Out on a Limb’ Spider monkey drawing

The rules are simple. You draw crisscrossed lines in the direction of the fur growth, regardless of its length. That’s it in a nutshell. That’s how I drew the spider monkey above.

The difficulty is in adding depth. Some lines must be darker than others if the fur is to look real. You’ll notice that some lines produce small triangles where two strands of fur meet.

Detail showing how to draw fur texture. Close up section of the spider monkey drawing
Spider monkey fur detail

They appear by serendipity as the fur lines cross while others emerge when you erase random areas with an Eraser Pen. You have to use your imagination to some extent.

Shorter fur is drawn in the same way, by crisscrossing shorter lines. I created texture on the monkey’s head by stippling the top with Blu-Tack.

Detail of the head of a spider monkey drawn in pencil
Spider monkey detail of the head

The eyebrows were flicked out using the sharpest edge of a Tombo Mono Eraser. The hairs in the top lip were picked out using a Jakar Battery Eraser.

If after doing everything you can to make the fur texture look realistic, it still lacks something, it’s often the stray hairs that are missing.

Look at the chin and side-whiskers on the monkey’s head. There are dozens of whispy hairs sticking out. These small touches are all that were needed to make the fur look real.

I’m going to mention one more technique that works if you do it right and is ruinous if it goes wrong.

You can draw fur by indenting the surface of the paper using a blunt point or indenting tool.

You draw the fur lines by following the growth pattern as if you were using a pencil. With the paper scored by dozens of thin lines, you use the side of the pencil to shade over the top.

The indents remain pure white and stand out against the shading. The effect is immediate, sharp, and looks impossibly complex. As far as I know, there’s no other way to get such razor-sharp white lines.

The drawback, and it’s a big one, is there is no going back if you change your mind.

Once it’s done, you have to live with it. You can’t repair indented paper, so if you draw a wonky line you’re in trouble. The best you can do is to draw inside the grove with a very sharp pencil and try to disguise it.

This post explains: How to Draw White Lines in a Pencil Drawing (Without Going Mad)

Pig and piglets drawing. Image demonstrating the indented fur texture
‘Motherhood’ by Kevin Hayler

I used the indented texture technique on the hogs back above. I used a toothpick to make the grooves. You can use any point as long as it is clean and not too sharp. If you don’t want pure white lines you can use a 9H pencil to indent the paper instead.

This trick works, but in truth, I seldom use this method anymore. I prefer to use a battery eraser for drawing thin white lines, that way I can erase and repair anything.

There is another way of drawing hair and fur which is much quicker and arguably more effective.

Two street kids in India. Drawn on smooth paper. Mix of drawn textural effects
Two Indian street Kids in pencil

This is a detail of two Indian kids I drew way back in the early ’90s. It was drawn on very fine-grained cartridge paper. I didn’t even attempt to draw strands of hair. There was no point. I blocked in the shape and with a few flicks of the putty eraser, the hair looks fine.

I seem to have lost the knack of abbreviating my style in the last few years, something I’m determined to remedy.

I like these quick techniques: How to Draw Faster: 14 Expert Tips For Sketching at Speed

6. Drawing Skin Texture: Wrinkles

I’ll use the leathery texture of elephant skin to demonstrate this last technique, but the same principles apply when drawing creases and wrinkles with any subject.

An elephants eye and wrinkles in a textured grainy drawing.
An elephants eye and wrinkles

Drawing a wrinkle is straightforward. First of all, you draw the line. Then you figure out where the light is coming from, in this case, it seems to be from above.

The space adjacent to the dark line reflects the light, so you have lights against darks. A smooth transition blends away from the light strip and into a mid-tone and darkens into the next wrinkle line.

You can erase the wrinkle highlight with an eraser pen or draw around it if you’re a glutton for punishment. If you need a clean line, use the sharpened tip of a battery eraser. If you chose to indent the line, you’ll get a sharp white edge with no transition.

There’s no difference when drawing human wrinkles, the method is the same, only the smoothness is different. Human skin needs more finesse and more subtle blending. Use a paper blender, a smooth surface, and/or harder pencils.

The leathery skin texture on the elephant’s hide is all due to the paper grain. Everything was drawn with 0.3mm Pentel Mechanical Pencils (affiliate) and a steady hand.

7. Drawing Texture with Rubbings and Gimmicks

I’ve read other blogs and they talk about taking rubbings over wood, brick, and other rough surfaces, to create a variety of different textures. They work to some extent but in all honesty, they have little practical application in a real drawing.

For one thing, you have to have thin enough paper to bring out the texture while not using too much pressure that you damage the paper surface. These techniques don’t work at all if you draw on board or heavy paper.

Choosing the correct paper will bring out the type of texture that you want to create. It’s your drawing skills that matter.

Be consistent. When you are hatching in one direction don’t spoil the effect by getting lazy and losing your line. It doesn’t matter if you crosshatch with diagonals or crosses, it does matter how you hatch.

Your pencil lines should be roughly parallel and equidistant. Imperfections are fine but a mish-mash of lines will always look amateurish. If you want to hatch in a random zigzag pattern, be neat and tidy. Scribbling seldom works.

Smudging is fine, but don’t use your fingers. It’s all too easy to leave a grease stain on your paper. Use a paper blender, a soft brush, or even a cotton bud. Experiment with them. Try tissue paper, cotton wool, and chamois leather too. They all blend graphite.

If you want to: Prevent Your Drawings From Smudging: The Ultimate Guide

How to Draw Texture in Pencil: Final Thoughts

You can draw cool textures using very basic art materials. We all want to know the simple techniques that will take our drawings to the next level but sadly, there are no magic wands or secret sauce.

It’s all about old-fashioned application and practice.

These 7 techniques will help you to draw texture with a simple pencil, but they’re not a substitute for good drawing. You must get the proportions, perspective, and composition right first.

Now you’ve read this and got a few ideas, get your kit ready and start experimenting.

You’ll soon be drawing texture like a pro.


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