Ivy and Moss Painting Tutorial, Yo’!

Ivy and Moss Painting Tutorial, Yo’!

Ivy & Moss In The Forest, Yo'!
Ivy & Moss Forest

Alright alright, check this out.  So I’ve been commissioned to do this painting for a friend of mine.  He wants a Zelda-themed painting, 20″x 20″ on canvas.  Zelda painting?!  I couldn’t pass that up!  My plan was to construct a Drew Struzan-type layout, which I know, is pretty lofty.  He’s painted movie posters for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back To The Future… freaking Goonies for cryin’ out loud!  His paintings are some next-level, shhhtuff, but I figure that although his paintings would be the inspiration, I would put my own personality in to this masterpiece 😉   

My only problem was (well, one of many) that I needed to know a good technique for simply painting a massive amount of ivy, without having to paint the ivy in one at a time. Kinda like how Bob Ross paints his happy little trees with just a dab of his fan brush.  So I scoured the internet looking for tutorials & I came up with nothing!  Sure there were tutorials on how to paint like, five or six on a grapevine, but I’m talking ’bout a whole dark forest of them.  A canopy of them, tree-covered trunks of them.  So, I thought I’d post this post for whoever needs to paint a grip of ivy in the future, & moss, for that matter.

I’m using acrylic paints & I’m starting to realize that acrylics have a shelf-life.  Or maybe it’s that I’m using cheap ones, I don’t know.  They’re the Liquitex Basic brand.  Make sure they haven’t been sitting around for forever, being unused!  You need that flowiness action, not that sticky goop action!  

I wanted to paint this ivy-choked tree trunk in the background.  The composition as a whole takes place in a dark forest, with brilliant rays of light shooting out from behind, so the tree is going to be backlit.  I mixed a really dark green with a little black & painted the tree trunk this.  Since I used acrylic, I didn’t have to wait long for it to dry.  Then I went in with an ultra-fine point paint brush, I’m talkin’ the finest-point paintbrush you can find, & starting with the tip-end of the ivy, paint the points of the ivy, going “back” towards where the ivy would be closer to the tree trunk.  At this point, there should be less paint on your brush, thus letting the drk green/blk of the tree trunk show through.  This will give the effect that the ivy is receding into the dark shadows of the tree.  I used a light green for the ivy, which gives it some good contrast against the dark tree trunk, but doesn’t look unnaturally bright, or light green.  I’m not going to lie, as they say… this took… a long time.  Well, I was also distracted with Monday Night Football, & food, & my back hurting, but it took a good couple hours, which fly by, by the way.  Also, I’m kind of a perfectionist, so I was going slower than I should have.  

Finally, I used a tiny bit of yellow-green paint to give touches of highlights to the ends of some of the ivy, giving it further depth.  Once I paint the surrounding rays of light, I’ll have to go in and adjust the lighting of the tree, by darkening the center & lighting up the sides.  

So you see, even though I didn’t find a quick-dab solution to give the appearance of ivy, painting fading ivy tips works pretty well, & it’s kinda fun, so the time passes by too!  I plan to paint the whole top portion of the canvas with an ivy canopy.  We’ll see how that goes…


I wanted the foreground to feature this mossy… mound.  I just went in with my flat brush, considered where the light source was coming from, & dabbed the moss in, using gradients of green.  I added shadow, where the tree trunk would be blocking the ground. All this took only a few minutes.  Not sure that I pulled it off, but I’ll fill in the rest of the painting, & then see if it looks more like moss, considering its’ forest surroundings.  

Thus concludes the ivy and moss painting tutorial, hurray! I’ll post in the near future, my progress & completion of my Drew Struzan inspired, Legend of Zelda painting.  😀