In today’s tutorial, I want to show you my favorite way to draw grass. I’ll show you step-by-step how to draw summer grass using the direct method of drawing, and blending by layering to create lush, green grass.
I’m excerpting this tutorial from the new in-depth tutorial from Ann Kullberg, Grazing Horses.
The drawing is on Bristol vellum, and I used Prismacolor Premier Soft Core pencils, but you can use any type of paper and any brand of pencils. The color names will differ, but you can easily match colors brand-to-brand by using online color charts.
How to Draw Summer Grass
I like to establish pictorial depth (the illusion of distance) as soon as possible by using stroke quality, stroke, and value.
In the foreground, strokes are darker, longer and more varied. In the middle distance, strokes are shorter, lighter in value, and more uniform. Use circular or very short directional strokes in the far distance.
Since most of my work uses the umber under drawing method, Light Umber is the color I usually begin with.
Outline major shapes first. The shadows don’t need to be outlined; simply draw them with directional strokes.
Then shade the shadows with light pressure and very sharp pencils. It’s better to draw value layer by layer than to use heavier pressure, especially with a smooth paper like Bristol.
Glaze Sand over the grass. Use light pressure and a sharp pencil to apply vertical strokes; longest strokes in the foreground and getting shorter as you work into the middle distance. Overlap strokes to avoid creating unwanted edges because once they appear, they’re difficult to conceal.
Next glaze Chartreuse over the same areas, using the same strokes and light pressure with a very sharp pencil.
Darken the darker values in the tall grass by layering Marine Green into the shadows around the horses and into some middle values. Again, use light pressure and overlapping, directional strokes.
You should not be able to see individual strokes as clearly in the background as in the foreground. Using directional strokes around the edges between values is enough to suggest the look of grass.
Next, layer Chartreuse into some of the lighter middle values. Use the same type of stroke you used for the darker colors, but don’t cover every area of dark color with Chartreuse and add Chartreuse in some areas where there are no darker values.
Take your time. Colored pencil is a naturally slow medium. It takes less time to work carefully and get the drawing right the first time, than to have to cover or correct a mistake made because you were in too much of a hurry.
But don’t beat yourself up if you get careless. I’ve been using colored pencil for nearly twenty years and still have to make myself take a break. Step away from your work when you find yourself rushing or getting careless. You won’t regret it!
Layer Olive Green over almost all of the meadow. Work around the brightest highlights. Use a combination of closely spaced vertical strokes and circular strokes with light to medium light pressure. Remember: Longer strokes in the foreground; shorter strokes in the background!
Use medium pressure and circular strokes to darken the shadows and darker middle values with Olive Green.
Next, layer Peacock Green over the meadow, starting at the bottom with directional strokes and medium-light to medium pressure.
Layer Jasmine over the meadow with light-medium pressure. Use whatever stroke allows you to get even coverage (I used a combination of circular strokes and closely-spaced vertical strokes.)
Follow that with a layer of Olive Green over all of the meadow except the area immediately in front of the horses. Next, add a variety of short, vertical strokes to create the look of grass. Make sure to keep your pencil sharp, vary the length of the strokes (longer in front, shorter in back), and also vary the amount and direction of curve.
TIP: Don’t try to draw every blade of grass. That will drive you to distraction in no time! Instead, draw tufts of grass by varying the pattern of lights and darks. Also draw the most detail in the foreground, and in the edges between distinct colors or values.
In the area immediately in front of the horses, stroke in clumps of grass with curving, fan-shaped strokes. Use sharp pencils and light pressure. You don’t want dark marks, but you do want them dark enough to show. The detail below shows the sort of stroke I use.
Don’t cover every bit of paper with these clumps. Also put the darkest marks on the shadowed side of each clump of grass, either by pressing a little harder on the pencil, or by placing strokes closer together.
I glazed alternating layers of Jasmine and Olive Green over the meadow to finish drawing the grass and to warm up the green.
Darken the foreground with a layer of Dark Green applied with medium to heavy pressure. Alternate between directional, vertical strokes to mimic grass and tight, circular strokes for even coverage.
Follow up with a layer of Dark Brown applied in the same way over the same areas, then add Indigo Blue and another layer of Dark Green.
Keep the darkest areas at the bottom of the drawing and gradually lighten values as you move upward in the composition.
Darken the cast shadows from the horses if necessary.
I’ve also described how to draw more detailed autumn grass. That tutorial shows you how to draw tall, more detailed grass. That method will also work if you want to draw summer grass that’s tall.
This tutorial is excerpted from the Grazing Horses In-Depth Tutorial from Ann Kullberg. The kit also describes step-by-step how to draw the horses, and the background.
I always read your posts with great enthusiasm. I have learned so many techniques. Thank you for doing these and sharing. I have a question. I have been enjoying putting an under layer of watercolor and then using colored pencil. It really speeds the process. I wonder do you that no this could work well for summer grass? What would you suggest for this first layer?
A watercolor under painting would definitely work for drawing summer grass. You might want to do some sample swatches with different colors to see what gives you the best result, though. A golden or slightly red earth tone, for example, would help tone down the brightness of the greens.
Just make sure your paper is 100% dry before you start using dry pencils. Otherwise, you might damage the paper.