How to Draw a Cactus

How to Draw a Cactus – An Easy Lesson in Drawing Desert Plants

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Everyone’s favorite houseplant has got to be the humble cactus. They come in many different shapes and sizes and a multitude of colors. This hardy plant is known for its incredible survival rate and its ability to live through the harshest conditions. When it comes to how to draw a cactus, following a step-by-step guide can teach you how to sketch a realistic one. Our tutorial today is simple to follow and, by the end of step 16, you should have a lovely cactus sketch on your page or canvas. Grab your art supplies, find a comfortable spot to sit in, and let us show you how to draw a cactus step by step!



How to Draw a Cactus Step by Step

No matter your skill level as an artist, our how-to draw a cactus step-by-step tutorial is for you! Perhaps want to learn how to draw a cactus to create some cowboy-themed decor for a birthday party or maybe you just want to learn a fun new skill. Whatever your reason for learning how to do a cactus sketch, you have certainly come to the right place. A quick overview of what you can expect in this guide is shown in the image below. As you can see, by the end of the 16th step you will have a fully colored-in and realistic cactus sketch, complete with thorns and sand.

Steps for Drawing a Cactus

We chose to use acrylic paint to color our cactus sketch, however, you can use any medium you like, as this easy cactus drawing tutorial is very adaptable. So, if you prefer to draw using a graphic tablet, pencils, or even gouache paint, you can still use our fun and easy-to-follow cactus sketch guide. Simply adapt each step as needed according to your chosen medium. Grab your supplies and let us get drawing!


Step 1: Creating the Main Cactus Trunk

The first part of the plant that needs to be drawn is the main cactus trunk. Once you have chosen where you want your cactus sketch to be displayed on your page, simply create a long and curved trunk-like in the image below. The bottom of the cactus trunk should not be closed. Remember that you should press lightly with your pencil for these first construction steps so that you will be able to erase them later on.

Cactus Sketch 1


Step 2: Adding the First Branch to Your Cactus Sketch

About halfway down your cactus sketch’s trunk, draw an arm-type shape on the right-hand side. The arm should be relatively short and curve upwards toward the top of your page. Remember that the cactus plant is unpredictable in its growth, so you can place this branch slightly lower or higher if you want to.

Cactus Sketch 2


Step 3: Adding Another Branch to Your Easy Cactus Drawing

You will now draw another arm onto the body of your cactus. This time on the left-hand side. This branch should be a lot shorter than the first. Begin the base of the second arm within the cactus trunk to give it a more three-dimensional effect.

Cactus Sketch 3


Step 4: Adding the Last Branch to Your Realistic Cactus Sketch

This is the last arm you will be drawing on your cactus sketch. It will be about the same size as the first arm you drew but on the left-hand side of the trunk. Looking at the picture we have drawn, you should draw this branch overlapping the second one.

Cactus Sketch 4


Step 5: Adding a Sand Base to Your Cactus Sketch

To complete the composition of your realistic cactus sketch you will now draw a patch of sand for your cactus to grow from. This quick and easy step just requires a squiggly area around the base. You can draw this sand patch in any shape you want.

Cactus Sketch 5


Step 6: Adding Ribbing to Your Easy Cactus Drawing

When observing a cactus plant in real life, you will notice that it has ribbing. This is a feature that truly makes the cactus a cactus! To create the ribbing on your realistic cactus sketch, you will draw vertical lines down the branches and trunk of your cactus. The lines need to follow the curves and bends of your cactus. Allow a bit of space between each line as well.

Cactus Sketch 6


Step 7: Adding Thorns to Your Realistic Cactus Sketch

The signature thorns are the last part to finish off the line-work of your easy cactus drawing. Along the ribbing of your cactus, draw tiny “X” shapes. Allow for some spacing between the “X” shapes and try not to line them up so that they will appear more natural.

Cactus Sketch 7


Step 8: Adding Your First Coat of Color to Your Realistic Cactus Drawing

You can now start to add color to your easy cactus drawing First you will paint a base coat. Choose a regular paintbrush and a light green shade of paint and fill the entire area of the cactus sketch with a solid green color. This coat of paint should be even and no darker or lighter.

Cactus Sketch 8


Step 9: Adding Color to the Sand Base

Once your cactus has a base coat of color, you can do the same for the sand patch. Using the same size brush, load it with a light beige or tan shade of paint. Remember to paint your sand patch evenly with no patches.

Cactus Sketch 9


Step 10: Adding Contour to Your Easy Cactus Drawing

Now that the base coat color is complete, we can start to add contouring the cactus by adding some dimension to our drawing. Add some black paint by lightly tracing the rib lines of your cactus sketch. Use a soft blending paintbrush for this step.

Cactus Sketch 10


Step 11: Adding Shadow to Your Cactus Sketch

You can now enhance the contouring from step 10 by adding a little more black paint to create shading. Imagine a light shining on the cactus from one side and paint your shadowing accordingly.

Cactus Sketch 11


Step 12: Applying a Second Coat of Color to Your Realistic Cactus Sketch

You will now add a second coat to your cactus sketch. Choose a lighter and brighter green shade and use a small blending paintbrush to color in the areas where no shading was applied.

Cactus Sketch 12


Step 13: Adding Highlights to Your Easy Cactus Drawing

To create more emphasis on the cactus sketches in lighter areas, we will use a small amount of white paint along with a small-sized blending paintbrush. Just apply another light layer of paint over the areas you painted in step 12.

Cactus Sketch 13


Step 14: Contouring the Sandy Patch

You will now add a bit of dimension to the patch of sand by using a small blending paintbrush and a slightly darker shade of beige or tan paint. Color lightly around the edges. You can create some shadows at the base of your cactus as well.

Cactus Sketch 14


Step 15: Removing the Outline of Your Cactus Drawing

Once again, use a small size blending paintbrush, this time choose dark brown paint to create more shading along the base of your cactus and to the sand. You can now erase any darker outlines on your drawing by using a corresponding paint color and outlining the entire thing.

Cactus Sketch 15


Step 16: Completing Your Realistic Cactus Sketch

Using a finer tipped paintbrush and white paint, you can now add the last little bit of highlights to your realistic cactus sketch by tracing the inner texture lines. You can repeat this step using a mixture of dark and light green.

Cactus Sketch 16


And that’s that! You should now have a lovely, vibrant, and realistic cactus drawing on your page or canvas. It is so easy to draw a cactus once you know the basics. We hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and will continue drawing cactus plants, there are so many varieties to try to create!



Frequently Asked Questions


How Do You Create a Realistic Cactus Sketch?

By following our simple and fun how-to-draw-a-cactus-step-by-step guide, you will quickly learn how to create a very realistic cactus sketch. Our tutorial will teach you everything from the construction lines to the coloring and shading of your realistic cactus drawing.


How Easy Is It to Create a Realistic Cactus Sketch?

Yes! Cacti are easy to draw when you have the know-how this tutorial gives you. We have broken down each step and simplified the process for you so that you can easily draw a cactus plant.

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