Paint Realistic Grass in Adobe Illustrator Using Custom Brushes

Learn how to paint grass in Adobe Illustrator using a custom-built set of art and scatter brushes. I’ll walk you through creating the brush set and show you how to use them with handy tips for painting realistic landscapes.

Free Starter File Download Link

Video Tutorial Chapters & Time Stamps

00:00 – Intro
00:13 – Creating the basic shapes
01:56 – Creating the blends
03:10 – Creating grass color variations
03:38 – Creating the art brushes
04:59 – Drawing the grass clusters
05:55 – Creating the scatter brushes
08:07 – Painting the grass scene

Video Tutorial Transcript

Hello, it’s Kat, and in today’s tutorial, we’ll be creating this set of custom grass brushes to help you paint grass in illustrator. If you’d like to follow along, there’s a link to the free starter file in the description down below that includes today’s grass palette. Let’s get started.

The first thing I’ll be doing is creating this teardrop shape that will be the base for our blades of grass. To do this, I’ll start with an ellipse, using the ellipse tool, holding shift to get a perfect circle and using my direct select tool I’m going to drag to select just this top node and I’m going to convert this node to a corner. Now I’m going to hold shift and drag this up directly from the center.

And I’m going to select the bottom node and drag this down just a bit. Now I will select these two notes on the side and I’m going to just bring those down a bit and then start moving them in. I’m just using my arrow keys here to move the nodes. I’m holding shift and moving them in at 10 pixels per increment, three there and three on the side.

This is something that you can kind of eyeball and get a feel for what you want your individual blades of grass to look like. So I’m just manipulating the shape until I’m happy with the base teardrop. And I think that works for me for now. What we’ll do now is create a second copy of this blade of grass in a darker color.

I’ll go ahead and delete my reference here and the easiest way to get another blade of grass directly on top of this one would be to copy using control C or command C on a Mac and then use control F or command F to paste in place a second copy. So now what we have is an identical version of this blade on top of the other. I’ll undo to put that back on top, using my eyedropper tool here with I, and we’re going to just select a color from about the middle of our palette.

And now I’m going to hold down shift and Alt or shift and option on a Mac, and shrink this blade of grass, the inner blade down. And I’m just going to align that back to the bottom. Now, just to give you a preview of what we’re doing here, I’ll move this off to the side. And if I go to my layers, here is the next step that we’ll be doing.

So we’re going to make a blend with this, to use inside of our brush so that we have this nice kind of gradient looking blade of grass. You can’t actually use gradients inside brushes. So that’s why we’re making a blend first. Okay. Going back to the shapes that we just made, I’m going to select both of them, go to my object, menu and select blend make you will see that by default, you’ll get a smooth blend option here.

What we want to do is set this to specified steps. So going back into the blend menu, we’re going to click blend options and this drop down we’re going to set two specified steps. We want three steps for this. We are trying to keep the shapes fairly simple. When they are shrunken down, you will get a much more smooth look visually with the gradient, but we don’t want too many shapes because that can really slow down your computer when you’re working with multiple scatter brushes in a single file.

For this next step, we’ll be creating these color variations so that we have light, medium and dark shades of grass. Going back to our working shapes here. I’m going to select my blend, hold down the alt key or the command key on a Mac and my shift key, and just dragged to the side to create a new copy and going back to the center and selecting that again. I will just do the same thing to the other side. Now we’ll keep the left side copy as my light shade, and then we’re going to work with the middle, I’m going to use my direct select tool to select the inner piece of grass in the middle, and then switched to my eyedropper tool.

And I’m going to grab this shade here, for a bit of medium color, and then heading back to my direct select tool. I’m just going to click the top most node on my outer piece of grass. And we’re going to select this medium light green, maybe just the one next to it here to give it a little bit of contrast. You can play with these colors of course, and make colors that match your design.

I’m just creating kind of a baseline range of colors that I know I’ll like to use. So on this last one, I’m going to pick the darkest color for the center, and then I’m going to select the outer grass and pick a darker green. Maybe this one, we don’t want to go too dark. So that looks good. Now we have our initial blades of grass, and we’re going to turn these into art brushes in our next step.

In this sample file, I’ve already created some art brushes here. I’m going to show you how I made those next first thing we’ll do is select all of our brushes. And I’m going to adjust the size down here. Make sure that you have this box checked so that it’s scaling horizontally and vertically at the same rate.

And I’m going to adjust this down to a hundred pixels. It is much easier to scale your brushes up than it is to scale them down. So you don’t want to start with shapes that are too large. I’m also just going to scale this slightly in so that they’re a little bit thinner. That looks good. And now we’ll start making our art brushes.

To create the first art brush, what we want to do is grab this first blend, go to your brushes panel and click this plus sign at the bottom. You’ll get this menu. We’re going to select art brush and click Ok. And the only thing will change in the art brush panel is the direction here. We’ll usually draw grass from the bottom up. So as I make the grass shapes, that’ll be easier.

And we’re not going to worry about key color or anything else. You can just click okay. We’ll repeat that process for the next two blends, select the blend you like click art brush, change the direction, click okay. And the same thing for the last one here. And now we have all of our grass art brushes that we’ll use to draw these clusters for the scatter brushes.

Here I have a sample of the clusters that we’ll be drawing using the brushes that we just made. These clusters just range in color and size so that we can get a little bit more variation. And when you’re painting, you’ll have a lot of choices to make things look more realistic. I’m going to hit B on my keyboard to select my brush tool, open up my brushes panel and select this first grass brush in the lightest color.

And now we’ll just draw a couple of blades of grass to create a small little Tuft here. If you don’t like what you’ve done, feel free to undo and redraw. It can be a bit of a trial and error process to get what you like. You don’t have to make all of these clusters. Of course, I’m making a full set here so that I have it to use for a lot of illustrations I plan to do involving grass, but feel free to make two or three and test them out. And you don’t have to worry about making every single color. But here, I’m just going to give myself a bit of variety to work with.

Maybe one or two, and then we’ll quickly go through the process of creating the scatter brushes from here before we paint our grass scene. Now that we have our Tufts of grass drawn, we can start making our scatter brushes. The first thing I’ll do here is just make a line. I’m going to take off the stroke and the fill color for this. Grab my line tool and using shift. I’m just going to hold that down and draw a horizontal line all the way across.

This is going to be our preview line that we use to see what our brush settings look like as we make them. Now I’m going to select this first Tuft of grass. Go back to my brushes panel and again, click the plus sign at the bottom this time we’ll choose scatter brush and click okay. And you can name these, anything you like for your set.

I’m going to click okay before I fix any settings here, because we want to see that live as we’re adjusting it. So click, okay. Now I’m going to grab our preview line and then I’m going to click on the brush that we just made to apply that you can see there’s no scatter applied yet. It’s just going to repeat that grass shape. Now we will double-click on that brush to get into the settings window. The settings I’m showing you here just a general guideline. This is what I use to create my file. First thing I’ll do here is switch all four of these main settings to random. Now for the size. I like to go about 80% for the small end and maybe somewhere around 120 for the high end.

I just want a little bit of variation in size. You can see some of these have shrunk and some of them have grown. And then for the spacing, I’m going to slide this all the way to the minimum for 10%, because I want some of the grass to be very close together. It depends on how dense you want your grass, but it can look good if you adjust that down just a little bit as well.

For the scatter I’m going to just slide this up a little bit. So I’m going to drop it somewhere to around 60%. I think that looks good. Again. This is all subjective and it depends on what you want your end design to look like, just showing you what I used for mine. I do want a little bit of rotation. I’m going to go for a little under 30 degrees here.

I’m going to go in the other direction here for about minus twenty. Keep in mind, you won’t be applying this to straight lines when we have curved lines and we’re brushing back over where we’ve painted, it will look even more random than it does with just the straight line preview.

I’m going to click, okay here, apply to strokes. Grabbing my brush tool here, I’m just going to paint a little test swatch and you can see how that works. And then what we want to do is repeat that process, which I’ll speed up with each of these Tufts, so that we end up with this full set that we can layer.

Okay, we now have a bunch of scatter brushes to work with. I’m going to clear this off, draw a few shapes and show you how I painted the grass in the sample image at the beginning. Just use the curvature tool to draw this hill shape so we have something to paint on top of, as a guide.

I’m setting my fill and stroke color to none, and I’m going to grab one of my darker brush strokes, and I’m going to make sure that my stroke is set to one and just start painting in the background.

This doesn’t have to be precise. You can go back and change brushstrokes. After you’re done, you can re randomize them by selecting the brush stroke and clicking on the brush again, you’ll see, that gives you a bit of a different effect every time. And my general theory here that I’m doing when I’m painting grass is using the darker colors in the background.

I’m going to make my brush a little bigger as I come to the foreground and use the lighter colors. And then we’ll use these art brushes that we initially made to just do some very foreground sprigs of grass. When we get here. Now I’ll speed up this painting process just a bit. So you can see the final result, but as I’m going, if you have any questions, do you feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Of course, there are lots of ways to paint grass and Adobe illustrator. This is just one method using scatter brushes. I do have a few more videos coming up in this series using brushes to create special effects like this. So feel free to subscribe if you’d like to see those again, leave any questions you have in the comments down below.

Thanks again for watching. Hope you have a great day!

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