Texture: The Key to Realistic Botanical Art


Citrus Family Portrait by Wendy Hollender


Infuse your form with texture

Transform a basic sphere into a ripe orange, a geometric cylinder into a weathered branch, a cup shape into a delicately petaled tulip, and watch your art come to life. We’re going to explore some premium tips for how to infuse your form with texture.

The following tips are meant to build upon the foundational lessons of light source and perspective, so we encourage you to have a basic draft of your subject with the beginnings of your grisaille toning before applying these texture techniques to boost your shapes into realistic representations of your subjects.

For a deep dive into texture, check out the recording of our Peels & Pulp: A Focus on Texture Zoom Drawing Workshop.


Strawberry Dogwood by Wendy Hollender, demonstrating pattern swatch


Start Small

Start by practicing a small swatch of your texture on the side of your paper (or scrap paper, if you prefer). This acts as a warm up and will boost your confidence as you apply the technique to your drawing. 


Burdock by Wendy Hollender, demonstrating magnified details



Sometimes our plant’s details are too small to be communicated in a life-size drawing. But never fear! You can always measure your subject and multiply your measurements to magnify your subject enough to be able to show what’s really going on. It’s good practice to include scale! (ex. If you multiplied your measurements by 4, label your drawing “4x” or “x4”.)


Leaves shiny and fuzzy by Wendy Hollender


Shiny vs. Fuzzy

Fuzzy surfaces absorb light. Tonal values will be closer on a fuzzy surface and mostly midtones (less very dark shadows and very white highlights). 

Shiny surfaces are more reflective. They have more contrast between values and have very dark and light values.

For more on shiny and fuzzy leaves, check out this video.


Embossing tool and techniques



Embossing tools are used in various crafts to create a recessed or indented pattern on a surface. On paper, they press into the paper’s surface so that when you draw over the embossed area with a colored pencil, the embossed area stays light while the pencil tones cover the paper around the embossed area. 

Thin roots, hairs, veins, or stamens are all potential subjects for embossing. The trick to this technique is to mix embossing with regular drawing so that the embossing doesn’t look too obvious. 


Housi Asian Pear by Wendy Hollender, demonstrating how to use an embossing tool with wax paper



Practice keeping your embossing subtle and varied so that the lines are not stiff and regimented. Apply strong pressure at first, and then ease up on the pressure, making the line thinner and thinner until it disappears. Play around with different sizes of embossing tools for further variation. 

Technique tip: Use the embossing tool on top of wax paper (on top of your drawing) for even subtler indentations. See this FREE video for further details.


Honey Crisp Apple by Wendy Hollender, demonstrating dot pattern



On some subjects, such as apples, you may want to try embossing dots. Start with a practice swatch. When you’re satisfied with your results, emboss the dots on your apple drawing and start layering colors, following the cross-contour lines of the apple.


Orange by Pam Thompson, demonstrating masking fluid technique


Masking Fluid

You can use masking fluid to leave areas of the paper white when using watercolor. A great way to make small marks with masking is to use an inexpensive dip-pen. This technique is explained more in the recording of our Peels & Pulp: A Focus on Texture Zoom Drawing Workshop.

“I applied masking fluid with a dip pen in the brightest highlight areas, painted with some watercolor to get some color down, and then fine-tuned with colored pencil.” – Pam Thompson


Strawberry by Wendy Hollender, demonstrating recessed seeds


Bumps & Recessed Seeds

On aggregate fruits like strawberries, your pattern should include tiny shadows to show how each seed is slightly indented into the strawberry’s flesh. 


Sweet Chestnut by Wendy Hollender, demonstrating spikes



Spikes tend to be wider at the base and then taper to a very fine, sharp point. First, practice drawing some individual spikes, and try to get a variety in thickness. Drawing the spikes enlarged can help you understand and communicate their structure. (Embossing tools can really come in handy here!)

Watch for our Hairs, Prickles, Spines, & Thorns Zoom Drawing Workshop, starting on Sunday, April 30, 2023.


Branch by Wendy Hollender, demonstrating irregular highlight



Observe the details on your branch such as lenticels (which allow the branch to breathe), and draw them in lightly at first. As you fill in closer and closer to the highlight, make sure your highlight appears irregular and not an empty stripe. I do this sometimes with small dots, dashes, or irregular zig-zaggy toning. Look to your branch for inspiration, and let nature guide youBranches are a great introduction to botanical drawing.

Dip your toe in with short lessons from Botanical Basics, and dive deeper with full-length lessons from The Practice of Botanical Drawing.

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