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How to Paint Grass in Acrylics

Wondering how to paint grass in acrylics? This article shows you several simple simple ways to achieve this using a variety of brushes and tools.  First of all, let's look at what you can use to create the grasses.  The thin rigger brush in the photo below is ideal for creating long, thin, individual wispy grasses, whilst various sizes of bristle brushes are perfect for producing short clumps of grass.

How to paint grass in acrylics - the tools

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The piece of credit card can be used to scrape out light grass from a thicker layer of paint, as can the cocktail stick.  This can also be used to paint in short individual grasses.  A closer look at the lower photos will show what I mean.

paint grass - thin stalks

The clumps of grass above are painted very simply by drawing the rigger upwards quickly and with a light touch. This way, the brush comes off the surface at the top of the stroke so giving a fine point at the tip of the grass stalk.

If you're not certain about this, just try the same technique with a pencil to give you confidence.

Various colours have been tried - don't just paint grass as one 'standard' green colour!

The grass on the left has been painted with paint the consistency of single cream, the ones on the right with thicker paint - hence the hit and miss effect and wider stalks...

The two clumps below were painted with a 1/2" flat bristle brush.  The brush is loaded with paint then placed vertically on the paper.

paint grass - thick clumps

It's then flicked, stabbed or pushed upwards slightly to create a ragged short line of grass blades. Notice again how the use of different colours adds interest, even to a simple study like this.

Incidentally, the really ragged old round brush in the photo is great for this technique as well.

Now let's look at how to paint grass by scraping out with the credit card or the cocktail stick.  This is more effective where you have a slightly thicker layer of paint.  

paint grass - scraping out

You could put on an underpainting of say a pale yellow/green, then when dry, paint over this with your dark background colour.  While this is still wet, scrape out your grasses which will take on the colour of the underpainting.

Or another way is to scrape out the grass stalks, then put a light glaze over the area with your choice of colour....

And now a couple of thoughts about how to paint grass when it's a reflection. Note that the reflections of the light grasses are slightly darker than the grasses themselves.

Darker grasses would appear as slightly lighter.  This is because the tonal contrast is always a bit less distinct in water. The grasses left and right have been produced with the rigger - the ones in the centre with a small bristle brush.

paint grass - reflections

You can get away with just a representation of the reflection of clumps of grass as long as they're immediately below the real grass and broadly the same overall shape.  With separate blades of grass, make sure they lean the 'correct' way in the reflection.  Have a look at the illustration above to see what I mean.

Finally, remember that grasses are usually in the foreground so to be effective they need to stand out.

Notice in the little sketch below of a rough stone wall I've put light grasses against the dark stone and dark grasses over the light bushes. See how the grass stands out very clearly.

paint grass - tonal contrast

This is called tonal contrast or counterchange where you put a dark next to a light feature and is especially important to give vibrancy to your paintings....

Well there we are. I hope this tutorial on how to paint grass in acrylics has proved useful. Of course you can use the principals in any medium - not just acrylics.

And I'm sure you can come up with different (or better!) tools for creating grassy effects, so don't be afraid to practice and experiment - and keep enjoying your painting!

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