How to Draw a Succulent

Written by Heather Hall
Published: February 8, 2023
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Welcome to our article on how to draw a succulent! We will be walking you through five different drawing methods, so no matter your skill level or preferred medium, there is something here for everyone.

First, we will cover sketching with pencils. We’ll discuss basic techniques like shading and blending and more advanced techniques like creating shadows and highlights.

Next, we’ll show you how to use colored pencils to create realistic-looking succulents. You can learn about color mixing, layering colors, and adding detail that brings the drawings to life.

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Thirdly, we will explore painting with watercolors. Watercolors are a great way to bring out the vibrant greens in succulents! We’ll talk about shading, outlining, depth, and other tips for making your paintings unique.

Fourthly, we’ll look at cartoon-style drawings. A perfect way to start if you want an easy but fun project! In this section, you can learn how to make simple shapes into recognizable succulents with just a few lines and some practice.

Lastly, if still lifes are more your thing, look at our guide for creating a stunning succulent still life painting or drawing! This part provides all the info needed, including composition tips for drawing the pieces in an eye-catching way and how to use construction lines.

We will end with a step-by-step guide to creating a simple cactus sketch. Let’s get started!

Various types of mini cactus, zebra plant, echeveria kalanchoe succulent house plants in clay pots on striped table clothes background.

Succulents are some of the easiest plants to draw.


General Tips

Before starting the drawing process, it is important to determine which medium you will be using. Make sure to have all the necessary materials ready and available.

To get an idea of what your succulent should look like, find some reference drawings or even observe a real succulent up close. Keep this reference picture open throughout the entire process so that you can refer back to it if needed.

When beginning the drawing, start with outlining first so you can follow a logical order while creating your masterpiece. If you want your outline to blend in, try lightly sketching it with a pencil or using the same color as what will eventually fill in most of the drawing.

Finally, adding multiple coats and shades will give your work depth and shadows for more realism. Experiment with different techniques until you are satisfied!

A Simple Sketch

First, gather your materials, including your reference drawing or plant. Once you have gathered all your materials, it’s time to start drawing!

If you want to draw a succulent in a container, begin by creating a simple pot of your choice. This outline could be in the form of a circle or tapering rectangle with a band at the top. Feel free to experiment with lines and shapes and try adding some details, such as patterns, to the pot itself.

Then move on to drawing the succulent plant. It is easiest to start with one leaf at a time before gradually adding similar clusters of leaves and engorged parts. Remember to add thorns or spines where necessary too!

Finally, finish your masterpiece by coloring it using crayons, pencils, or paint. Whichever medium you prefer best! If you wish for an aerial view instead, draw overlapping circles first, then add more leaves around these shapes to show them blooming.

Colored Pencils

First, study the plant and decide on an outline or starting point. Once you have decided whether or not you would like to include an outline, it’s time to start drawing.

If you’re including an outline, begin by using a black colored pencil and sketch the shape of your pot and plant. For a non-uniform look, you can use brown for the pot and shades of green for the succulent. You can add dimension by layering different shades of brown and green to create shadows or other details, such as thorns on the succulent.

To make it even more interesting, add colorful flowers with reds, blues, or purples, depending on what type of flower you are trying to create!

Lastly, if using colored pencils in an aerial view, lightly draw out the general shape first in whatever color suits your taste (greens and reds usually work best) before filling in shapes and petals with darker colors. Darker shading will help provide depth and dimension to your succulent drawing!

Colored pencils beside a succulent potted plant

Using colored pencils allows you to sketch and add shading as well as a variety of colors to your succulent drawing.



First, start with a light-colored outline. Pale green is typically a good color. Once you have the outline of the succulent drawn, begin to mix up some watercolor paints in your palette. Be sure to use a variety of brushes with different thicknesses. If the drawing is on the smaller side, opt for several small-sized brushes.

Start by painting with a light wash of green or similar earth-toned color and cover as much of the outline as possible. To add dimension, take either a darker shade of that same color or another color and paint along the edges and tips. With brown, green, or black colored paint, fill in any gaps between leaves to create shadows.

If there’s also an accompanying pot in your drawing, start by painting it with an initial light coat before adding darker shading for depth. You can further customize and decorate this pot by using brighter colors for details and including patterns if desired!

Painting with watercolors

Using a variety of brush sizes with watercolors can help to create different effects.



First, paint a rough outline of the shape of the succulent. Now that you have the basic shape, it’s time to give your cactus more character.

To make your cactus look cartoonish, start by adding circular shapes extending outward from the main body of the plant. These could be small oval-shaped bumps for added texture or spikes for a spikier look. You can also draw some flowers at the tips of each branch if you’d like!

Next, color in your cactus outline with the lightest color first. Follow this by adding gradually darker colors. This will create depth and shadows. Continue this for all remaining elements as well, such as leaves and stems. For an even bolder effect, use a dark color like brown or black to add details such as thorns along the sides of the cylinder or petals on any flower shapes you’ve created.

Finally, finish up with highlights using white paint or colored pencils to give your succulent life and dimension!

Still Life

Drawing a still life can be intimidating, but drawing with transparent wire frame forms can help you achieve success. This method involves sketching lightly, so mistakes and construction lines are easier to erase and adjust.

You should use vertical and horizontal lines to organize the composition of the group, ensuring that all objects are placed correctly in relation to each other. Once this is done, you will have an accurate outline of each form.

Now you can move on to detailing any shadows or reflections onto each object before deepening their tones, adding color, and increasing the contrast between them.

After these steps have been completed, your still life should look realistic while also working as a dynamic composition incorporating shape, line, and tone into one harmonious image.

Cactus Step by Step

The cactus family is an ideal choice for those new to drawing plants. They are quite easy to draw and have a wide variety of shapes and sizes that you can use to create interesting art pieces. Here is a step-by-step tutorial to get you started.

Watercolor outline of a succulent in a pot
Using a fine-tipped watercolor brush, gently outline the shape. Very gentle pencil works well too, because you can conceal it under the paint later in the process.
  1. To start, use a pencil to lightly outline the shape of the pot. To create a more realistic look, don’t draw the bottom line completely flat. Instead, make it slightly narrower toward the base. Additionally, draw the upper few centimeters of your pot wider than the rest of your soil holder. This shape is something that’s often seen in real-life succulent containers.
  2. Next, draw an outline of your cactus body as well as any branches or flowers that you want to include.
  3. The next step in drawing a cactus is the most difficult – creating the spines. To make it look more realistic, draw vertical lines with equal spacing between them. Add small spines branching toward the sides of the plant. For realistic-looking spines, some should appear to be growing upwards, while others can form stars pointing in various directions.
Watercolor usually has softer colors than acrylic. To deepen the colors, layer more on after letting each layer dry.

Lastly, it’s time to add color! When adding color, you should start with the lightest shade and gradually add darker shades. This gradation of color will help provide a realistic look to your succulent drawing. For further depth and dimension, you can use shading and shadowing techniques such as hatching or cross-hatching for shadows in areas like around the base of the plant or beneath leaves. You can also blend different colors to add more natural-looking tones.

Watercolor succulent
Finish your painting by adding detail to the spines, shadows, and highlights.
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The photo featured at the top of this post is © Hurst Photo/

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About the Author

Heather Hall is a writer at A-Z Animals, where her primary focus is on plants and animals. Heather has been writing and editing since 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture. As a resident of the Pacific Northwest, Heather enjoys hiking, gardening, and trail running through the mountains with her dogs.

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