Beautiful Blackberry Line & Wash Illustration

When I look at a blackberry bush, it always conjures up a feeling of nostalgia. Blackberries transport me back to my childhood, hot summers and memories of my mother making blackberry and apple pie.

Nature has always been a source of inspiration for artists and designers, it provides a sense of beauty and serenity. Nature-inspired designs can be used in lots of ways; Greetings cards, furniture, home decor, textiles and more. In this post, we’ll look at how to create a blackberry line and wash illustration. As I mentioned, blackberries have a strong personal association for me. Though you could apply the same method to create all kinds of nature-inspired designs.

Creating A Blackberry Line & Wash Illustration From Photos

The design process involves looking at the natural environment, taking inspiration from it, analyzing the various elements and then simplifying. Start by taking some reference photos or doing some plein air sketches of your chosen subject.

reference photo for blackberry line & wash illustration

Sketch Out Some Rough Design Ideas

In the sketches below you can see how the idea for the blackberry line and wash illustration went through different stages of evolution.

I began by just roughly sketching what I saw in front of me with a dip pen. After a while I began to focus in on the the various forms and shapes.

In the third sketch (Below), I began to look at ways of arranging the elements in a simple circle. Using geometric shapes is a great way to formalize your sketches and start to create a unified design. The circle can be used to represent unity, wholeness, infinity, or completeness. It can also be used to represent the idea of a return to the beginning. Try experimenting with other arrangements and shapes. You could try S-Curves, rectangular forms, or create a symmetrical design by mirroring elements.

Blackberry line & wash illustration, rough design ideas

Break Down & Simplify The Elements Of Your Design

Artists often make the mistake of focusing on the details and losing the bigger picture. Start with a rough sketch and then create a more refined version. This will better help you define what your design is trying to accomplish and what elements are most important.

Try not to be overwhelmed by the complexity of a photograph. In the drawings below you can see how I distilled the blackberry bush down to three basic elements, The thorny branches, the serrated leaves and the juicy berry itself. I then simplified them further, essentially turning them into basic line drawings.

Simplifying elements of the illustration

How to Draw A Blackberry In 4 Simple Steps

I’m going to take my simple symbol of a blackberry and add some shading to it with pencil and pen.

  1. Start by drawing a curving stem with a collection of circles underneath it.
  2. Decide which direction your light source is coming from and then add a series of circular highlights. In this case the light is going to come from above and to the left.
  3. Add some shading by drawing hatched lines around the highlights. You can imply shading by thickening the pencil lines on the shadow side.
  4. Finally draw over the top of your pencil lines with an ink pen. You can use a dip pen or permanent marker, whichever you prefer.
how to draw a blackberry

Materials List


Ultramarine Blue: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
New Gamboge: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith
Burnt Sienna: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith

Burnt Umber : Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith

Cadmium Red: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith

Dioxazine Purple: Winsor & Newton | Daniel Smith


Daler Rowney Black Acrylic Ink Buy from Amazon


Princeton No.2 Round Brush Buy From Amazon
Synthetic Squirrel Flat Brush Buy From Amazon


Tachikawa Dip Pen Holder Buy From Amazon
Brause Steno Pen Nibs Buy From Amazon


Arches Hot Pressed Paper Block, 9″ x 12″, 140 pound Buy from Amazon


Adjustable desktop easel Buy From Amazon
Easy release painters masking tape Buy from Amazon

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Line & Wash Blackberry Illustration: Step By Step Tutorial

For this ink and wash design, I used a 7″ x 10″ Arches hot pressed watercolor block. Hot pressed paper is smooth which works better than coarser paper types for pen and ink drawings, as the pen nib tends to catch in textured paper. The ink I’m using is waterproof black acrylic ink by Daler Rowney.

finished blackberry illustration

Blackberry Illustration Using Ink Line & Watercolor Wash

Total Time: 45 minutes

Step 1: Starting The Drawing Process

Lightly sketch the outline of your design onto hot pressed watercolor paper. Dip your pen in the ink and pick a point to begin drawing. Try to imagine that you are drawing the image for the first time rather than simply tracing over a set of lines. If you’re left-handed like me it’s better to start drawing from right to left so you don’t end up smudging your ink lines. I like to rotate the paper, as I work, so that I’m always pulling the pen downwards and towards myself, as that seems to create the most controlled and smooth lines.

Step 2: Allow The Ink To Dry

Allow the ink lines to dry and then assess the drawing. Are there are any obvious gaps that need to be filled or weak lines that need to be strengthened.

Step 3: Shading The Blackberries

Your drawing should have plenty of white space in it, as we will add watercolor later but for now, add a touch of subtle shading here and there to give the drawing a little more visual weight. In the pic above, I’m carefully inking each individual blackberry, in order to clearly show where highlights are.

Step 4: Shading The Leaves And Branches

Think about the direction of the light as coming from above and to the right. The leaves and berries will cast shadows on to themselves. Add some short hatched lines here and there in order to indicate those cast shadows. You can also thicken up lines on the shadow side (i.e. the left side) of stems, berries and leaves, this will imply a light source coming from the right hand side.

Step 5: Adding Watercolor Washes

Acrylic ink can take a few minutes to completely dry. You can speed up the process by using a hairdryer. Once you are sure that it’s dry you can start to add watercolors. I’ve mixed Ultramarine and Gamboge Hue to create a light yellow green for my initial watercolor wash. I’m applying it with a 1/4″ flat brush. There also some browns and neutral tones in the leaves, so to create those subtle color transitions, try dropping some Burnt Umber and Burnt Sienna in to the wet wash as you paint.

Step 6: Painting The Blackberries

Blackberries aren’t really black, they’re really a dark purple/indigo. I’ve used Ultramarine, with a touch of Dioxazine Violet for the ripe blackberries and here I’m just adding a touch of Cadmium Red to an unripe berry.

Step 7: Glazing With Watercolor

Once your initial washes are completely dry, finish off your illustration by adding a final layer of color. adding transparent colors over the top creates a darker color and I’ve used this effect to add shading to the leaves and branches.

Watch The Video

Useful Links

How To Use Ink And Watercolor: Everything You Need To Know

Paint Super Simple Buildings In Watercolor

How To Mix Perfect Greens In Watercolor

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