How to paint long grass in acrylic

I have already written a How to paint grass guide here.
It may surprise you to know that this is my most popular post ever, so I thought I would write another focussing on long grass. It is a different technique and a new skill to learn after all.

You will need:

  • Paint for Grass: Sap Green, Olive Green, Burgandy, Violet, Lemon Yellow, Raw Umber, burnt umber, black, etc.
  • A Canvas –  I use 30cmx40cm as standard
  • Playmat – I use a big old plastic table cloth
  • Paintbrushes – a large flat one and a variety of small round ones.
  • A pot of water
  • A palette – I use foil cases from quiches.
  • A photograph to copy – I have mine up on my laptop screen with gridlines drawn on
  • A pencil
  • A ruler.

Canvas Preparation

1. Mark up your canvas. For a 30 x 40 canvas it is easiest to do 5cm2 squares. If you grid out your photo on a screen, make sure that your scaled dimensions are the same.

2. Draw the outline shape of your subject onto the canvas, following the corresponding squares on your screen. For a more detailed way of doing this, see here.

Painting Long Grass

1. Create a colour wash over the grass area in a watered down sap green using a large flat brush.

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Here you can see the watery wash over the background

2. Start to pick out areas of light and dark with a small rounded paintbrush. Use gentle dabbing with your paintbrush in a watery white to create little soft focus flowers.

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In the right hand corner you can see the beginnings of flowers

3. Pay attention to the direction of the grass, and use a variety of watery shades and a quick sweeping  movement to get that feeling of motion.

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Here you can see the grass being blown around through the directions of my brushstrokes

4. Make glints of sunlight with a Rich Gold paint, and break up dark shadow with longer strands of grass in paler colours 

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Have a look at part 2 – Finishing the Golden Retriever. 
I haven’t yet given her to her owner so can’t ruin the surprise on here!!

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How to paint grass in acrylic

Once you know how to do it, its easy.
The secret lies in the range of colours you use.

You will need:

  • a photograph to copy from
  • a large flat paintbrush
  • a small rounded paintbrush
  • water
  • a palette or makeshift palette (foil quiche case!)
  • a range of green acrylic paints
    Do not use greens in the emerald spectrum.
    No Hooker Green, no Phthalo Green.It will make the grass look artificial, or like it has spent too much time hanging round a nuclear power plant!

    February 2012

    Although this is one of my better paintings, I really regret the grass
    but I hadn’t yet learnt my golden rule.
    The result is that it looks slightly artificial.
    You live and learn…

    Instead, choose Sap Green, Olive Green and others in that spectrum.

  • a range of brown acrylic paints
    I love Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Burnt Umber and my secret weapon Flesh Tint!Flesh Tint is great as it adds white tones and brown tones which blend naturally with green.I also like to use gold paint  to make the grass glint.
  • Burgandy / Deep Violet acrylic paint
    Purple blends really well with browns and greens to create areas of shadow. Next time you look shadows you will notice that they are never ever black.
  • Mars Black acrylic paint
    You can use this to mix with other paints, but try not to use it neat.
  • White acrylic paint
  • Masking tape
  1. Draw out your design on your canvas. It may be helpful to put a line of masking tape along edges to stop the colour bleeding into the wrong areas.
  2. Do a colour wash in Sap Green over the entire grass area, using a large flat paintbrush. This makes sure all areas have a layer of paint. Please paint the sides of the canvas, there is nothing less professional than leaving unpainted sides… see my previous rant!
  3. Use a small paintbrush and mix up various shades of brown and green in your palette.Be adventurous, using purples and blacks too to create lots of natural shades.
  4. Using a small repetitive motion, create lots of small strokes in varying shades across the area.
  5. Make the grass darker at the bottom of the painting – potentially to near-black, and lighter at the top with whites, greens and gold shades.

Do not worry about making it too perfect. I assume you will paint something in the foreground, which will no doubt spoil your grass background slightly.

You can neaten this up later, using the same colours and the same technique of small repetitive strokes with a small paintbrush.

But… don’t rush either. Give it attention, care and patience like you would the foreground, and you will be onto a winner.

Click here for my guide on how to paint long grass in acrylic.

Click here to find out how I finished this painting of a Greyhound!