Today, I want to show you in eight easy steps how to draw autumn grass with colored pencil.
It’s winter, you say? That’s okay. The grass is still brown—if you can see it under the snow—so this method works for dried up winter grass, too!
And it’s a great exercise for drawing any type of grass at any time of year.
About this Project
The original artwork is 5×7 inches and is a study for a larger landscape. The paper is white Bristol 146lb with a regular surface. You can use any type of paper for this exercise.
The reference photo I used (not shown), was used for the basic shapes only. I didn’t want to duplicate the shapes of the grass—I just wanted to draw the “feel” of dry autumn grass.
Don’t worry about drawing every leaf or blade of grass unless you’re doing hyper-realistic drawings. Instead, select a few well-defined groups of grass, and draw them as accurately (not exactly) as you can. Then fill in other shapes around them.
How to Draw Autumn Grass in Colored Pencil
Step 1: Establish the basic clumps of grass
Use a light or middle value color to begin shaping clumps of grass, and shadows. Use long, directional strokes starting at the bottom of the page and sweeping upward. Vary the length, width, and shape of the strokes. The longer the grass you’re drawing, the more variety there should be in your strokes.
Once the basic shapes are drawn, you can either use additional layers or a slightly darker color for shadows.
Step 2: Add middle values to the basic shapes
Use slightly blunted pencils and medium pressure to continue adding color and value to the grasses. Draw with the same type of strokes, but don’t draw over every stroke, so that new strokes overlap the first step.
Keep in mind that you want to maintain a random appearance, while still drawing the overall sense of wind moving through tall grass.
Step 3: Darken values and add a few faint greens
Darken shadows, and add a few faint greens (if there are any.) Keep the shadows toward the base of the grass, since those areas receive the least amount of light.
Also, if the grass you’re drawing has heads of any type, draw them with short, directional strokes that mimic what you see in your reference photo. Use two colors, one light and one dark, to draw shadows, but keep the shadows subtle.
Use very short, vertical strokes and light or very light pressure to add background grass with the same colors you’ve already used. Concentrate color at the bottom and reduce color and value toward the horizon.
Also make sure to shorten your strokes as you draw into the background. In my illustration, I drew very short strokes because I wanted that grass to look a long way away.
Step 4: Continue darkening values and add details
Darken some of the shadows and add additional blades of grass and shadows with a very sharp pencil or a brand of pencil that’s harder. I used Prismacolor Verithin pencils for this step because they are thinner and harder than Prismacolor Soft Core. They also hold a point very well, so are ideal for detail.
Whatever pencils you use, draw slowly and deliberately, and weave a pattern of intersecting grass stems and leaves.
Step 5: Continue adding details
Continue developing the grass with more layer of color, overlapping new and old layers to thicken the grass.
If you want to add a sky, start layering in blues with a very light shade of blue and very light pressure. Draw even color either with tiny, circular strokes, or short horizontal strokes.
Step 6: More detail to the grass, and more color to the sky
Layer blue over the sky with horizontal layers. You can use the first color of blue and darken it by adding another layer, or you can use a slightly darker blue.
Darken the shadows at the base of the grass. If you want really dark shadows, mix a dark brown with a dark blue or dark green. Two of those colors (or all three of them) make a more natural looking shadow color than any of them alone.
Step 7: Fine-tune the details
Finish the sky by layering two or three shades of blue over that area. Remember to draw even layers of color, and to keep the color darkest at the top of the paper. Apply color with sharp pencils and medium pressure, then blend lightly with a colorless blender if necessary.
You can also use a solvent such as odorless mineral spirits if you wish.
Also add sky colors to the grasses with slightly heavier pressure. Don’t over do this. You want just enough blues to show highlights, but not so many that your grass starts looking blue.
Darken the shadows if necessary.
Step 8: Finishing the drawing
Burnish the background hill with a colorless blender.
Then add accents with quick, light strokes and very sharp pencils. For warm colored accents, use light earth tones such as cream or very light brown. For cooler accents, try white, a very light blue or a combination.
Cool or warm grays are also wonderful accent colors if used sparingly. The French Greys from Prismacolor are especially useful.
As you can see, drawing autumn grass—or grass of any season—need not scare you off. And tall grass itself can become the subject of a drawing if carefully drawn. With a low-angle point-of-view and a suitable background, tall grasses make excellent subjects for studies or finished pieces.
They also make excellent accents for larger compositions, such as the drawing Rainy Day on Mustang Ridge, upon which this study is based.