When you draw a creature, an animal or a fantastic being, the background is not that important. However, the creature still needs something to put their feet on—some kind of ground. It's not the most important element of the picture, of course, but if you gloss over it, it may make the whole illustration look incomplete. And if you pay more attention to it, your picture will certainly benefit from it!
There are many types of ground you can use for your drawing. In this tutorial we'll take a close look at simple dirt, a grass field, a dry land (a semi-arid desert), and rocky ground.
What You Will Need
- Some sheets of paper
- Hard pencil (HB)
- Medium soft pencil (2B)
- Soft pencil (5B or lower)
- Pencil sharpener
- Eraser (optional)
You can read more about these tools in the introduction to How to Draw Trees.
1. Draw Dirt Ground
Your drawings don't always need complicated ground. Sometimes you just want to be done with it as soon as possible without actually neglecting this part of the illustration. Some simple dirt can be great for this purpose.
You can find some inspiration using photos like these:
No matter whether you start with the ground or add it at the end, your picture needs some kind of perspective. Show it with subtle lines—it doesn't really need to be a perfectly correct perspective; we'll just use these lines to define the area we need to cover. Use a hard pencil for this.
Dirt ground is very plain and boring, so we need to add a few details to make it more interesting. Rocks, weeds, or old bones will work very well.
Draw a few irregular patches—we'll use them to make the coloration less uniform.
Fill the area between the patches with tight lines. Don't press too hard! Draw small "pebbles" on the border to make it more irregular.
Fill the patches with lines as well, but this time don't be so careful—the more white you leave between the strokes, the brighter the area will look.
Take a softer pencil and draw short, thick, horizontal lines all over the ground. This will make it look less flat. The higher you go (the farther according to the perspective), the shorter these lines should be.
Let's shade the additional elements to establish the contrast of the whole picture. First use a hard pencil...
... then the softer one...
... and the softest one for details.
Take a soft pencil and draw tiny pebbles all over the area. The closer to the horizon, the smaller and less dense they should be.
Take the softest pencil and draw a few very dark ovals in the front only. They will look like shadows of bigger pebbles.
You can see the whole composition now, so if you think it lacks something, add it now.
Optionally, you can add a few smaller rocks here and there by erasing small oval areas...
... and shading them.
2. Draw a Grass Field
A grass field is perfect if you want to hide the feet of your creature. It's not always because you can't draw them—sometimes they're simply more detailed than the rest of the sketch, so they break the composition this way. A grass field may seem to be very time-consuming to draw, but I'll show you quite a quick method. You don't really need to draw every blade!
Need some inspiration? Try these photos:
Again, start by defining the perspective in a sketchy way.
Define the area covered by grass. It will look best if it's irregular in shape.
Make it 3D by drawing a copy of the outline below and connecting them with vertical lines.
Grass can have various lengths (is it a lawn or a meadow?), so to make it clear, add some scale-defining details.
Again, shade the details to establish final contrast.
Shade the side of the grass field with a hard pencil.
Make the border less regular by drawing some blades around.
Take a softer pencil and shade the side by drawing "shadows between the blades". To put it more simply, just draw a lot of thick, chaotic lines crossing each other, leaving some space for the previous layer of shading.
Go back to a soft pencil and shade the top of the field slightly. Make the other edge less regular by adding tops of blades.
Take the softest pencil and add some details to the darkened part of the side.
Take a soft pencil and draw the tops of the blades all over the top of the field. Draw short lines in various directions to create this effect.
Shade the top slightly by drawing groups of longer lines here and there.
Take the softest pencil and press harder on the side to create some really dark shades. You can also accentuate random blades on the top.
When you're done, you can add a few eye-catching details to make the composition more interesting.
3. Draw Dry Land (Semi-Arid Desert)
Let's be honest—plain dirt ground is boring, and a grass field is not much better. What if we want to make the ground a very important part of the illustration? You can achieve it by drawing a small garden that desert plant formations naturally create. It doesn't even need to be a desert, just some area where the dry parts are intertwined with green parts. This type of ground takes more effort, but it's worth it!
Use these photos for inspiration:
As always, start with sketchy perspective lines.
Add a few "clouds"—patches of tiny grass will grow from them.
Add smaller clouds in between to increase the irregularity.
Add a few bigger clouds—these will be small bushes.
Add a few clusters of some grass-like plants.
Longer blades of some resistant little flowers will look good here as well.
Finally, some rocks—they make every area more interesting!
Use a hard pencil to establish the darker value of the plants and make it different from the sand and rocks.
Shade the rocks using all the pencils to establish the final contrast.
Now we need to work on every plant formation one by one—first, the small bushes. Use a soft pencil to fill them with little curls that will simulate tiny leaves.
Press harder to shade them by making them more similar to clouds.
Draw the sturdy flowers by crossing one curvy line with short lines. They will look very interesting from a distance!
Take the softest pencil and darken some parts of the bushes. Don't overuse this effect—always use this pencil for accents only.
Use a soft pencil to fill the grass areas with tiny lines and dots. Be very patient here—the texture you create must be uniform across the picture. Go around the blades that cross them.
Take the softest brush and darken the sides of the grass area, making it more 3D. Darken the top part as well.
If the blades got lost in the process, use the softest pencil to accentuate the parts of them that have the grass as a background.
Draw the little unidentified clusters in the background. Start with a soft pencil...
... push harder to give them a 3D shape...
... then take the softest pencil to accentuate the darkest parts.
Let's finish the picture by making the sand in between more detailed. First use a hard pencil to add a subtle texture to it...
... then take a softer brush to add a few pebbles here and there.
4. Draw Rocky Ground
Still too simple? You want something more serious for your mighty dragon to stand on? Say no more! Place rock debris under its feet—this background will make your vision complete. The biggest problem about rocks is that they're irregular by nature, so it's hard to use any rules to draw them, but I will show you a workaround.
Check these photos if you need inspiration:
Again, start with simple perspective lines.
To achieve an irregular effect, we need to start with something irregular—like these shapes. Draw them with a hard pencil.
Draw lines connecting them with the ground. These lines don't need to be vertical!
You can use the same method to draw a big, complex rock...
... and to make other rocks more complex:
Add smaller rocks in between using the same method.
You can also add bunches of simple rocks without a definite shape.
Darken the space between the rocks, going around their outlines carefully. Don't forget about creating a "ragged" edge for the ground.
Use a softer pencil to darken the ground even more.
Let's shade the rocks now. First, use a hard pencil to darken the shadowed parts. Use irregular, "hatching" strokes for this to create a texture.
Use the same pencil to add a texture to the illuminated tops. Just don't make them too dark in the process.
Take a softer brush and darken the shadowed parts. Again, use the hatching method. By leaving space between the strokes, you create sharp blending.
Use the softest pencil to darken the ground even more.
Use the same pencil to darken the crevices in the rocks and between them. Make sure your pencil is very sharp before you try this!
In this tutorial you have learned how to create various types of ground, and your characters will not float in the air anymore (unless you want them to)! If you want to try other tutorials where you can use the same set of tools, feel free to check out some of these: