Ultimate Guide to Drawing Botanical Line Illustrations | Poisonous Plants | Annika Theron | Skillshare

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Ultimate Guide to Drawing Botanical Line Illustrations | Poisonous Plants

teacher avatar Annika Theron, Illustration | Painting | Digital Art

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (54m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Project Discussion

    • 3. Materials & Resources

    • 4. Basic Leaf Structure

    • 5. Basic Flower Structure (nightshade and foxglove

    • 6. Basic Flower Structure (poppy)

    • 7. Shading

    • 8. Composition

    • 9. Class Project 1: Nightshade

    • 10. Class Project 2: Foxglove

    • 11. Class Project 3: Poppy

    • 12. Conclusion

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About This Class

This class serves as an ultimate guide to drawing botanical line illustrations. In this class we will learn how to draw botanical illustrations with pen, using poisonous plants as examples. 

This class is for anyone who is interested in drawing flowers in a style similar to those beautiful floral tattoos that keep popping up on your Instagram feed. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or an established artist, this class is created to be as informative as possible and to equip you with new skills and techniques to broaden your horizons.

By the end of this class, you will have completed three pieces of botanical art. In addition, you will have learned the necessary skills and techniques to create your own botanical art in the future

Note: If you are an absolute beginner, or just feel like tracing along for now -  templates for everything discussed in this class are provided under the Projects and Resources tab.


  • Paper or sketchbook of choice
  • Pencil (HB/2B - or  whatever you prefer really) 
  • Fine liner pens (sixes 05, 10 and 50) - Example: Micron Fineliner 
  • Printed out versions of the resources provided

P.S. Why poisonous plants? - Because they’re cool and I have a background in medicinal plant sciences.

Meet Your Teacher

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Annika Theron

Illustration | Painting | Digital Art


Illustration | Painting | Digital Art


I'm a self-taught artist, working in multiple mediums.

When I'm not busy making art, I'm out hiking or busy learning new things.


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1. Introduction: Hey, everybody. Welcome to this class on Botanical Line Illustrations. My name Annika and I'll be your teacher today. This class is for anyone who wants to make botanical art. If you've ever tried to make delicate botanicals, but got stuck somewhere along the line, this class will serve as your ultimate guide. You don't need any drawing experience for this class as we'll be covering all the skills and techniques you require in detail. I've added some worksheets and templates that will help you follow along step-by-step. This class will have lessons covering basically structured, flower structure, shading, and composition. After competing these lessons, we'll jump right into our class project. We will be drawing three botanicals step-by-step. Using the skills and techniques from the previous lessons, I will guide you in creating your own beautiful works of art. After completing these projects, you will have gained the transferable skills you can apply to create your own beautiful botanicals in the future. All right. I'll see you in the next lesson, where we will discuss the class project in more detail, will also go over the materials and resources to make sure that you have everything you need to get started. 2. Class Project Discussion: Welcome to the class project discussion. Before we dig into the lessons, let's take a look at what we're aiming for a class projects. The class project will consists of three parts. For each part, we will draw a botanical line illustration of a poisonous plant. For our first class project we'll be drawing the atropa belladonna, also known as a deadly nightshade. You'll be following along with me using all the skills and techniques that you'll be learning in upcoming lessons. In project two we'll be drawing the foxglove, and in project three we'll be drawing the opium poppy. I've chosen poisonous plants for the class projects because I have a background in medicinal plant science and find them fascinating. The three plants we're drawing are also varied of this in structure, and upon completing the projects, you'll be able to draw a wide variety of different flowers on your own. To be able to complete the project successfully, it's important that you practice through worksheets that we'll be going over in the upcoming lessons. For a little bit of extra help, I've added outlines of the class projects that can be printed out and used as tracing guidelines. That wraps up our project discussion. Go ahead and download the worksheets and outlines then I'll see you in the next lesson. We will be going over the materials and resources we'll be using. 3. Materials & Resources: In this lesson, we'll be looking at the materials and resources we'll be using. You can either print out the worksheet provided and practice on them, or you can choose to follow along on a piece of paper, or even in your sketchbook. You'll be needing a pencil and eraser to make your outlines with. An HB should be fine or if you choose to go lighter, you're more than welcome. I'll be using a combination of micron fine longer bears and Hun bit, since those are the ones I have lying around. Both brands are water and faith group. You'll need three different sizes to achieve the desire to fix, I suggest a 005, 01, and 05. As for the blonde references, here, you can see my been bored for the lovely inspiration. I find it much easier using vintage botanical illustrations as references than actual plant photos. Tip, I've seen some people using plants blondes as references, which also works great. But that being said, I think we're ready for practical lessons. Grab your pencil and papers, sit up straight because we're about to start. 4. Basic Leaf Structure: Welcome to the first practical lesson. In this lesson, we'll be looking at basic leaf structure. If you've printed out the row sheets provided, get them ready. Otherwise, just follow along on a piece of paper or in your sketchbook. In front of you, we have some basic leaf structures. We'll start by outlining the simple forms. You'll notice in nature, you always get this flurry squiggle shape. Once you incorporate that into your drawings, it will look more natural. Try some toward the end of the row so you can get a basic understanding of the leaf shapes and their orientation. Notice that some fold inward, some backwards and some towards the front. Now you can try to copy the first row in the interspace below. Most leaves are not as perfectly shaped as the ones we've just made. Some are more flowy and some are still laid at edges. Practice adding more texture to the edges in the third row. Once you have the feeling for that, let's try adding more complex edges that will look similar to the leaves we will be drawing in our class project later on. You'll notice that the base shape stays the same but we can do a lot of variation by just adding indentations. Let's add some veins. In the first one, I've made them straight, but I thought that if you use flaring lines, the general outcome is much bigger so try that instead. You can make your veins more complex by adding force in them and you can even break the line and places to represent areas that catch lights. Finish the rest of the page for extra practice. Then I'll see you in the next lesson. We will be looking at basic flower structure. 5. Basic Flower Structure (nightshade and foxglove: Welcome to Lesson 2. This will be the first of two lessons. We will be looking at flower structure, focusing on the Nightshade and the Foxglove. The Nightshade basically consists of a circle and five oval-shaped petals. Try to incorporate squiggle as leaves are fatter towards the base and pointier at the tip. Notice that this is actually a berry surrounded by petals, but I will refer to it as a flower in upcoming lessons for simplicity. The younger flowers are still closed balls inside like an imperfect circle, it points on the one side and maybe add some lines inside. Modify the circle by adding leaf structures and vary the shape of the leaf to make it look more natural. Add some supporting petals at the base. Younger flowers have an elongated lumpy shape. Add some lines to help with the flow. The bud suggests circular lumps. Notice when drawing flower stalks, they tend to widen at the base of the flower. More on that later. Now use the space provided on the right to practice making your own flowers. In the next lesson, we'll take a look at the poppy. 6. Basic Flower Structure (poppy): This is the second lesson on flower structure. In this lesson, we'll learn how to draw the poppy flower. The overall structure of a poppy is basically a circle consisting of four curved trapezoids. Begin by tracing the basic petal shape, then add some folds and imperfections as you go along. As you get used to the shape, try adding in a fold. Depending on which angle you observe the poppy from, the leaves might appear curved or folded. Let's put the leaves together to form a more complete flower. It'll get you the center part just now. Imagine the center part as a fat corn on top of office wear. Make some adaptations and there you go. Don't forget the stainings that surround it. Which are basically ovals on a line. Now lets put what we've learned together and draw the entire flower. If it seems a bit difficult at first, start by making a life cycle and [inaudible] off from there. For the seed parts, you can start with a circle on the stalk. Just modify it by adding a flower like shape on the top, add some curved lines toward the base. The younger flowers are again, just the lumpy circle shape. All right. Now you can go flowers and leaves. In the next lesson, we'll go one step further and add shading. 7. Shading: Welcome to our shading lesson. In this lesson, we will build up from our basic flower and leaf structures by adding fine lines and to ultimately give out flowers some depth. At the core of it, the shading is nothing more than a repetition of parallel lines with varying links. Sometimes they might be straight, but more often than not, they are curved. We'll also use dots in some places. Let's start by outlining the leaves. Next, add the midrib and veins. Now simply add those lines we've just practiced. Start along the midrib and then do the same from the outside leaf edge inwards. Notice that it's much easier to do this if you turn your page around. Orientate your paper or sketch book in whichever way that is most comfortable to you. Once you've finished with the first layer, it's time to switch over to the thicker pen. Start off with midrib as the bottom part of the leaf. Add some darker lines with a vein in the base and the edge of the leaf and on some of the longer lines in between. For more dramatic effect, we're going to use an even finer pen for the shading this time. For the next leaf, make the outline of the veins with your midsize pen, for example, 201. Now have shading lines with the 005. Use your biggest pen or your 05, to add emphasis on the midrib, bottom of the leaf and where the veins meet the midrib and size of the leaf. Also emphasize some of your shading lines for variation. Now do the same with a modified leaf at the end of the road. Skip the third leaf for now. Let's go back to the third leaf and this time add some force to the veins. Pay attention to the emphasis added where the veins meet each other. Let's move on towards the stem. Notice that when you draw a stem, the stalks are wider where they meet at the stem, this will make your drawing be more natural. Again, make repetitive lines on the side you want the shading to be. Add a thicker line on the under side of the stem. Start by tracing the nightshade. Using a finest pen, add shading my starting at the base of the petal and following the curvature. Do this for each petal and then do the same starting from the tip of the leaf inwards. Remember to turn your paper as you go along to make it easier and more comfortable on your hands. Use a thicker pen and emphasize the base of the petals of some of the other lines. You should have a feel for this by now. For the berry, we'll be using dots. Cover the entire space, except for a tiny circle just in the center towards the top, that will serve as a highlight. With a thicker pen, go around the size at the bottom. Next trace the foxglove. We will start with the tips of the petals and then move down. Use some dots for the flower's center. Just as with the previous examples, start with finer lines and then emphasize with darker lines at the bottom towards one size of the flower. And places where longer lines meet the outside edge of the flower. Go ahead and trace the poppy. Add some lines to help guide the flow of the leaf. Let's start at the center and add our shading lines. We can then do the same from the outside inwards. To emphasize the stamens darken the under parts of the ovals that make up the anthers. As with the previous flowers, put emphasis at the bottom of the leaves, where the leaves meet, and where major lines meet. Apply what you've learned to the seed pods on baby flowers and then you'll be good to go. Let's move on to the last of our introductory lessons, where we will look at the composition. In other words, how the picture redrawing will fill up the space on the page. 8. Composition: Welcome to the last of our introductory lessons. We will be learning to plan our sketch by focusing on composition. Here we have six thumbnails to try out different compositions to figure out how we want our drawings to look like. Starting with the nightshade, I'm just making a line for the stop and arranging leaves and flowers around it at random. Don't worry about the details of the exact architecture of the plant. We can take that into consideration once we've decided on our composition. This is just to get a basic idea. Try out different orientations. Make sure to fill the entire area of the thumbnail. We don't want our entire plant to be crammed towards one side, leaving a bunch of awkward negative space. Traditionally, botanical illustrations take up an entire page. With the foxglove, I first tried out a curved structure. I remember seeing something similar among my reference photos. Here I'm just showing that it looks better when it takes up the whole page as opposed to being crammed into the corners. I eventually decide on a new plain centered composition. Go ahead and try out different things with the poppy, taking some reference photos into consideration. You can draw one or two flowers depending on what works best for you. The bottom row leaves the base to me. We'll be using these three in our upcoming class projects. That concludes our introductory lessons. We have covered all the skills and techniques that we need to take on our class projects. Coming up is our first project, where we will be drawing from beginning to finish the deadly nightshade. 9. Class Project 1: Nightshade: Welcome to the phase of three class projects in which we will be drawing from start to finish three poisonous plants. Before we start, please know that you can choose either to trace along the flower I have provided, or go ahead and make your own drawing from scratch. If you choose to trace, skip further until we get to the part where I start drawing with pen. We're going to start off with the layout of a deadly nightshade. It's important to plan out your composition in pencil so you can make use of the entire page. I first make a line where the stem will be, and then will space out my flowers and leaves where I want them to be. It's important to think about how the plants looks in real life giving consideration to flower and leaf orientation. Study a specimen or reference with regards to how many leaves typically grow out from a single location on its stem and how they're organized relatively to each other. Then I add a bit more detail still in pencil by starting with the structures that are in front, like the berry in this case. When drawing the leaves, refer back to the worksheets for the different orientation leaves tend to lie. Here my leaves falling forward. Erase and redraw as much as you want at this stage before it's too late to make any changes. Here I'm drawing the flower. Notice that it has a similar shape to the foxglove, that it has five petals instead of four. Notice, as we're getting to the top of the stalk, the flowers and leaves are getting smaller as they are still young. Towards the bottom, the leaves will get bigger. Here I'm making another closed flower. Notice all the part that max up to flower from the smallest supporting leaves at the base to the petals. See how the steam is thicker close to where the leaves and the flowers come out. Let's end with another big leaf at the bottom. I'm just putting some veins that will make the tracing step easier. Remember to add some folks, if the particular plant has folk veins. Now it's time to trace over your pencil lines with a pen. I'm using a zero one pen here. The initial pen line done, you can now erase the pencil marks underneath to small sections at a time and keep your other hand close to the part erasing so that you don't wrinkle the paper. Because my paper is quite big, I continue with same size pen. If you're working on an A5 or smaller, now would be a good time to switch over to 005. Also, if you don't feel comfortable making lines with your pen just yet, practice with your pen so fast. Just as we did on the worksheets, I'm adding small lines close to each other in a similar direction to the flower of a leaf. For the center I'm adding small dots, since that looks better than thin lines in this case. Starting along mid leaf I'm adding the first layer of lines. I then move on towards the outside of the leaf and the areas in-between the veins. We usually out-finish the entire first layer of lines before moving on to it's thicker bend. But for demonstration purposes, I decided to add the next layer of detail to give a better idea of what the outcome will look like. Using a 05, I again start with the middle. For the bigger sized paper, a 08 will also work. I highlight some key areas such as the bottom of the leaf and areas the veins meet each other or they run off the leaf. I also do the bottom of the petals, and then I will go over the final first layer and have thicker layers of some parts. Being sure to leave some areas lighter and make some areas darker for variation. I've speed up the rest of the video as I'm doing the same thing over again. For the stain, I'm just making fine marking starts to do with side, afterward I will go over towards same side. I'm just adding dark lines with some areas, trying out different things to see what gives the best defects. Once you're finished you can add your signature. There you have it, your first class project done. A beautiful sketch of a deadly nightshade. Upload your progress to share with the rest of the class. I'll see you in the next lesson, we will be drawing the foxglove. 10. Class Project 2: Foxglove: [MUSIC] Welcome to our second class project. Here, we'll be drawing the Digitalis purpurea, also known as the foxglove. You can either use a template provided and skip along to where I start drawing in pen, or you can make your own design. I'll be using this picture as my reference photo. Again, I'm starting with a line for the stalk, and then roughly adding leaves and flowers, not worrying about any detail. At this point, the flowers are just indicated by one big triangle at the top. I'm now starting to make more defined leaves, but they're still basically placeholders and will be they revised later. Where I'm at the big triangle earlier, I'm now adding basic shapes for the flowers. At this point, they're still circles and cones. I'm now adding more detail, starting with the leaves and then moving on to the flowers. It really helps to make the pencil sketch as accurate as possible so you can simply trace over with your pen later and not worry about making any mistakes. Refer back to the worksheets if you're having trouble with the leaves and flowers. Here, I'm just adding smaller buds at the base. Now, trace the outline. I use the 01 for this spot. Using the same pen, I'm now adding again the shading lines. If your paper is a bit smaller, try using a 005 instead. For this picture, I did the first layer on all the leaves first before going over with a thicker pen. Just as with previous project, I'm adding fine lines from the midrib, from the sides, and from the biggest veins. Feel free to rotate your paper or sketch book as you go along to make it easier on your hand. Once you finished all the leaves, start adding a thicker line. I'm using a 05 here. Darken the midrib and the sides of the leaves where the veins meet the midrib and some areas in between. Also, put emphasis where major veins meet. Moving on to the flowers, I'm again repeating the same process, starting with fine lines around the inside of the flower and then repeating from the outside of beliefs inwards. Then I do the base of the flowers. I'm doing a few at a time, after which I switch over to adding dark lines. You'll see that I jump around between flowers as I notice areas that need more work. I decided to add more veins to the bigger leaves, starting again with fine lines and adding some emphasis where the veins meet. There you go, the second out of three class projects. Please share your progress with the rest of the class. Then I'll see you in the next lesson where we'll be drawing our third and final flower, the opium poppy. 11. Class Project 3: Poppy: In our third and final class project, we'll be drawing Papaver somniferum, more commonly known as the opium poppy. I've changed the structure of this lesson a bit, and instead of narrating my process as with the previous two lessons, I will let you go ahead and do your own thing based on what you've learned so far. Let the time lapse run in the background as you set out to create your own poppy. The entire process is exactly as the previous two projects, so hopefully, you have a feel for this by now. See you at the end of the lesson. There you go, class project 3 done and dusted. Please don't forget to upload your poppies so that everyone can see what you've done. Following will be the conclusion, where we will revise what we've learned today. 12. Conclusion: Congratulations, you've finished this online class Botanical Line Illustrations. Poisonous Plants. In this class we covered the materials and resources needed to make your own botanical illustrations. We learned about basic leaves and flowers structures, shading, and composition with templates provided. We learnt to sketch out an entire botanical and add shading by using fine lines. We then completed the class project. We drew three poisonous plants from start to finish. We've covered a lot of information in this class, I know it wasn't the easiest class for beginners. If you've made it this far you should be really thought of yourself. Well done. I'm really looking forward to seeing your coarse projects. So please go ahead and upload it under the projects and resources tab. Thank you for taking the time to join the skills. I really hope that everyone who participated was able to take something away from this class. Remember, art skills take time to develop, practice, practice, practice. I'll see you in future classes.