How to draw a mushroom (A clear and complete tutorial for 2021)

In this “How to draw…”

Welcome to the first of my “How to draw…” drawing tutorials!

In today’s “How to draw…”, we’ll talk about how to draw a mushroom! I’ll cover everything you need to create your own mushroom drawing and explain the different kinds of forms your mushroom drawing will need, like mushroom caps, stems, and rings.

I’ll cover how to draw a mushroom from basic shapes to form construction, from imagination, in Perspective, how to light your mushroom, and more.

Just a heads up, this is not an easy drawing tutorial. It’s not difficult, but it is technical. I’m a professionally trained Designer, Illustrator, and Concept Artist, and my explanations tend to be technical and thorough. There is more than one step-by-step guide here. My goal is to teach you to create a different kind of mushroom drawing–your own! I want to teach you to draw every different kind of mushroom you want, in various sizes, so your mushroom drawing looks like whatever you want it to.

I’d rather not give you a static template to copy. Where’s the fun in that? Also, I don’t think it counts as teaching if I say “copy this,” you know? After this drawing tutorial, you won’t need another step-by-step guide.

If you want easy drawing tutorials, this may not be the article you’re looking for. If you like a thorough step-by-step guide and drawing tutorials that teach you to draw whatever you want, I got you! It’s a different kind of drawing tutorial, and I hope it works for you. πŸ˜‰

There’s a lot to get into, so let’s get started!

What is a mushroom exactly?

It may not seem obvious, but it’s important to know what you’re drawing, and that means learning a bit about your subject. After all, it’s impossible to draw something you know nothing about. So, let’s talk about what mushrooms are.

A mushroom is β€œthe fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground, on soil, or its food source” (from Wikipedia). When we refer to mushrooms, we’re usually referring to those with a stem (or stipe), a cap (pileus), and gills (lamellae) on the underside of the cap. The gills produce spores that help the fungus spread.

There are over 50,000 mushroom species globally, and they tend to be grouped into four general categories: edible mushrooms, toxic mushrooms, psychoactive “magic” mushrooms, and medicinal mushrooms.

Mushrooms represent food, a hobby (mushroom hunting), or fantasy entertainment as part of stories like Alice in Wonderland, characters like Toad from Nintendo’s Super Mario, or part of the deliciously drawn food in anime series’ such as Food Wars!: Shokugeki No Soma. Fantasy allows us to play with what a mushroom could be.

Before we play in possibilities, let’s explore and study the structures that give mushrooms their character.

Mushroom drawing: Understanding the structures.

To draw a mushroom from imagination, we must first study the shapes and forms that create its structures. Once we understand the basic anatomical structures, we can draw mushrooms in any way we choose. Let’s begin by gathering references to study.

Exploration & study

The first step in exploring and studying a subject is to find or create references to study from. For this step, I recommend creating a reference board.

Here is the reference board I created:

How to draw a mushroom-Reference board

I create my reference boards in Photoshop, but I imagine it works in any digital painting application. A reference board is essentially a collage of images. It can also be created with a Google image search (or books), a printer (or copy machine), scissors, poster board, glue, and plenty of patience.

As you follow along here to practice how to draw a mushroom, please feel free to use my reference board.

To learn how to draw a mushroom, we need to really observe what mushrooms look like naturally. First, look for repeating shapes and consistent characteristics, like how a mushroom’s cap is always on top of the stem. Then, look for naturally occurring variations in the shapes, like how a mushroom stem can be long and thin or short and thick, etc.

Step 2 for learning how to draw a mushroom is to draw several from reference (or from life) to understand the shapes and forms that make up its anatomical structures and how they are put together. Again, it helps to keep your earlier observations in mind as you draw.

Here are my exploration and study sketches for how to draw a mushroom:

How to draw a mushroom_Exploration & study sketches

It’s helpful to draw the flat shape combinations you see literally. As you can see in my sketches, I drew small flat versions next to each study. This helps me get an overall grasp of which shapes are present in the subject.

The major structures of a mushroom are:

  1. Mushroom cap
  2. Stem
  3. Ring
  4. Gills

There are other areas to note, such as the margin and scales on the mushroom cap, but it’s easy to tell that these are much smaller shapes–which makes them details, and we leave those alone until we get toward the end of our process.

Two more forms grow underground, the Cup (Volva) and Mycelial threads, and they look cool–but if it grows underground, it’s less likely to be visible. If it grows underground, we don’t often see it and are less familiar with it–so it’s less likely to make it into your design. If you’d like to study these forms, you can find references here.

Here are a few more of my mushroom studies:

How to draw a mushroom_Exploration & study sketches 02
How to draw a mushroom_Exploration & study sketches 03
Skirt up and Oyster mushrooms! (That’s what I call them anyway πŸ˜‚)

Remember, these are studies to help you understand mushroom shapes and forms. So I encourage you to let loose! I mean that literally–draw loosely! These are for your learning, so they should be whatever you need them to be. I make a hideous mess in my sketchbook when I’m trying to understand something, and that’s fine.

I had to clean things up to make them clear for this tutorial, but otherwise, my sketchbook looks like a messy sanctuary of notes and funky drawings. I love it πŸ˜‹

Your sketchbook is where you can think out loud on paper and be yourself. There is no need to censor yourself. ❀

Shape breakouts and natural variations

After drawing several mushroom studies, you’ll understand how to draw a mushroom well enough to begin breaking out the shapes and natural variations of major mushroom structures. I like to think of it as visual tinkering. 😊

Let’s ask ourselves: what are the basic shapes and shape variations for those structures? Let’s have a look:

How to draw a mushroom_Shape Breakouts & Variations

Each mushroom structure has a limited variety of shapes. For example, a mushroom cap appears most often as either a lima bean, a half oval or ellipse, a fat crescent, cone-like, or an upside-down and rounded trapezoid shape.

A stem, the second mushroom form of import, has a box or rectangular shape (which makes a cylindrical form) and can vary in length, width, and proportion. A mushroom ring (annulus) is usually a conical skirt shape, and in some cases, can look like a tube wrapped around the stem near the base of the cap. Lastly, mushroom gills resemble exposed fish gills, but it’s simpler to see them as a pattern of lines or skinny wedge shapes for drawing purposes.

I know this sounds technical and nuanced. That’s intentional. My goal is to help you draw mushrooms any way you want. I’d rather offer you wings than limit you to a static template to replicate.

Our next step is to construct mushroom forms using the shapes we observed from our studies.

Construction

Form construction is essentially the process of connecting shapes with lines and other shapes. Beyond that, advancing your drawing involves adding movement and volume with contour and cross-contour lines, gesture, and light & shadow. It sounds like a lot, but with practice, you’ll get the hang of it! πŸ‘πŸ½

Let’s build some mushroom forms!

Below I’ve demonstrated the form construction process using the knowledge and shape information from my study sketches. Now I can create mushrooms that look any way I want, and so can you!

How to draw a mushroom_Construction - Shapes to forms 01

I started with the standard white mushroom you can find easily in a grocery store and constructed a cap slice.

Step 1 was to draw the shapes that help define the overall form.

In step 2, to create the lima bean form with depth and volume, I drew another set of the same shapes on top but slightly shifted down and to the right. This creates the space between the shapes that give us the illusion of depth and volume once we connect everything.

Adding contour and/or cross-contour lines helps reinforce the sense of depth and volume of the form.

How to draw a mushroom_Construction - Shapes to forms 02

In my second mushroom form construction demo, I chose a cone-shaped mushroom cap and repeated the process. Again, I began by drawing in the form’s major shapes: a circle first, then an exaggerated arch, connected by an ellipse.

Once again, I used contour lines toward the end to add to the illusion of depth and volume. I also added a circular “lip” on the views that show the very bottom of the cap. This gives a sense of thickness, which aids the illusion of volume.

How to draw a mushroom_Construction - Shapes to forms 03

For this mushroom drawing demo, I chose a slightly oblong half oval shape. The process remains the same. I used two different sized circles to create the oblong feel of the shape and enclosed them with lines to connect them. To create depth, I added an ellipse at the base that connects the two corners of the oval. Next, I added a smaller ellipse to create an opening for a stem and a plane change boundary for the gills.

I constructed a few mushroom stem forms with the same process. The stems tend to be cylindrical, but sometimes they look almost completely round.

As a rule, I like to create my demos in traditional media because 1) it’s best to start learning with traditional media and get really familiar with sketching in your sketchbook, and 2) I don’t want anyone to think they need digital tools to learn how to draw. You do not need digital tools to learn how to draw a mushroom or anything else. I have suggestions about tools for beginners, but digital can be a later thing.

That being said, I created this next sketch on the fly digitally (as I was writingπŸ˜…) because I felt there should be a construction demo that included both major mushroom forms: the mushroom cap and the stem. The very bottom of the construction demo section seemed like a good place for it, too.

How to draw a mushroom_Construction - Shapes to forms 04

These demonstrations are of basic form construction. Additional shape information can make the forms more complex add detail, but I strongly encourage you to make a habit of first getting comfortable studying and constructing the larger forms. Details and complexity live on top of major foundational forms. They don’t exist on their own.

A word about details

Details are a treat for the eyes and can be fun to draw, but for as much attention as they command, their place in the process is toward the end.

Here’s an example along with the original reference:

I’ve shown the major forms for the mushroom cap, the stem, and the plane for the gills in my sketch. The mushroom on the left of the sketch is an example of the major forms without details, and the mushroom on the right has some of the details drawn on top of the major forms. Details add fun, interest, and more information–but we can still tell the drawing on the left is a mushroom without them.

I highlighted the details on the right-hand side mushroom and then broke them out independently. When details are the focus, they give very little information about what the actual subject is.

Sometimes additional details are necessary for clear visual communication. For example, when you’re drawing the inner portion or the dissected view of your subject. However, since mushrooms already have a large variety of possible surface texture shape information, I chose not to dive into inner portion or dissected view drawings for this drawing tutorial.

How to draw a mushroom from Imagination: Invention and Experimentation

At this point, you know how to draw a mushroom! Congratulations!

Let’s tackle how to draw a mushroom from imagination! Don’t worry; the process is still the same! The only difference is that now you choose the gesture and shapes your mushroom drawing will have. You’ve got this!

I find it helpful to play around with shape combinations before settling on a shape design to construct. Time to use what you’ve learned and using it to develop your own ideas! Booyah! πŸ‘ŠπŸ½

Here’s an example of my ideation and playing on paper:

If you want to try more adventurous shapes with your sketches to get a different kind of look, go for it! I kept it a little low-key here to ensure everything stayed clear, but I encourage you to try whatever variety, character, and zest you want!

Once you’ve developed an idea you like, follow the same process to build your forms. I’ll demonstrate with one of my sketches from above by going through how to draw a mushroom step-by-step.

How to draw a mushroom Step-by-step

Step 1:

With your rough sketch next to you, lay down a gesture line (curved line) to start building from. Since my mushroom is upright, I used mostly vertical lines. The gesture line will add a sense of movement and character to help your drawing feel more dynamic.

How to draw a mushroom_Step-by-step 02

Step 2:

On top of your gesture line, add the basic shapes that make up the form you’re building. Here I’ve added a circle at the top for a rounded tip, two curved lines for a curvy cap of the mushroom, and a circle at the bottom for the base of the stem.

How to draw a mushroom_Step-by-step 03

Step 3

Next, it’s time to add the illusion of volume and depth by connecting the basic shapes. I’ve added an ellipse at the mushroom cap base and connected the ellipse of the stem base with the circle at the top of the mushroom cap.

How to draw a mushroom_Step-by-step 04

Step 4

With all the major shapes and forms roughed in, now is a good time to build in the form information for smaller structures like the mushroom’s ring. If you want more shape info for your mushroom drawing, like scales on the mushroom cap, this is a good stage to begin blocking those in.

How to draw a mushroom_Step-by-step 05

Step 5

At this stage, with most, if not all, of your forms roughed in, it’s a good time to start “truing up” or darkening the lines of the major forms for your final mushroom drawing.

How to draw a mushroom_Step-by-step 06

Step 6

I lightly blocked in the mushroom gill pattern. Following the gesture established earlier, I used vertical lines to create the gill pattern. You can do this step earlier than I did if you prefer. I made it a separate step for clarity’s sake.

How to draw a mushroom_Step-by-step 07

Step 7

I darkened the gills and added some thickness to the bottom margins of the mushroom cap and ring.

How to draw a mushroom_Step-by-step 08

Step 8

As part of the finishing stage, I erase the construction lines.

How to draw a mushroom_Step-by-step 09

Step 9

I used cross-contour lines to add depth and give more plane-change info. You don’t have to do this, but it does come in handy when you add light & shadow.

How to draw a mushroom in Perspective

Don’t worry; I’m not going to squish an entire lesson on Perspective drawing into a how to draw a mushroom tutorial. Perspective is its own thing, but I thought some examples of a mushroom drawing in perspective might be helpful.

Start with a horizon line, a vanishing point (VP), and some squares to set up boxes of various sizes in one-point perspective.

How to draw a mushroom_in one point perspective 04
Divided boxes in perspective

Once I’d drawn my boxes, I divided them to match my mushroom design proportions. This made constructing my design in perspective a bit easier.

How to draw a mushroom_in one point perspective 05
The process of constructing forms stays the same once you’ve set your perspective.

I begin constructing my forms with the same process as before. The only difference is that shape placement needs to happen within the bounds of the boxes and planes to maintain the perspective.

How to draw a mushroom_in one point perspective 07
How to draw a mushroom in perspective, complete!

The process for how to draw a mushroom doesn’t change for two or three-point perspective, but the set up for the perspective does change. I’ll cover perspective in separate articles, but I wanted to visually demo the process for you.

Here’s two-point perspective:

And here’s three-point perspective:

How to draw a mushroom from Imagination: Sketching in Perspective.

I thought it would be fun to demo how to sketch in perspective briefly. So I created my own perspective grids in Photoshop, printed them, and sketched on top of them. The basic idea is that your lines need to go in the same direction as the grid lines, and from there, you construct forms. I chose two-point perspective for this demo.

Light and Shadow: How to light your mushroom

Now that your sketchbook is overflowing with fabulous mushroom drawings & designs, of course, you’ll want to pick your favorites to take to finish! That means adding light and shadow.

I created a visual step-by-step demo below for how to light your mushroom design. For more in-depth info on light, please check out my Fundamentals of Light series.

A word about color

It was tempting to break out the colored pencils after this light and shadow demo, but…I firmly believe that Color & Light, like Light & Shadow, are their own thing. Using colored pencils here would certainly add another dimension to the sketch, and if that’s your jam, then go for it! I prefer to dive into that separately to help all my readers build a solid drawing foundation, and I think whipping out the colored pencils would distract from that. So, that’ll be a “later later” thing for me. 😜

Fun with mushrooms: Exploring shape language and style variations

I thought it would be fun to show other types of shape language examples to wrap things up. My default is representational drawing, but that’s not everyone’s jam. Plus, we have to speak different shape languages, so here are some fun sketches I came up with to play around with different kinds of shapes in various sizes.

How to draw a mushroom_shape variations_anime-manga style

Anime/manga shape language

The shape language for anime and manga seems a little more “realistic” to me in how characters and other subjects are drawn, but just like other cartoons, it’s also very light on detail. It’s also exaggerated, of course.

This is my version of an anime/manga style set of mushrooms.

How to draw a mushroom_shape variations_cartoon style

Cartoon shape language

The shape language for cartoons tends to be pretty flat, with very exaggerated shapes to fit the story’s tone. As a result, you can really stretch believability, experiment with different kinds of designs, and have a lot of fun.

This is my version of a couple of cartoon character mushrooms.

How to draw a mushroom, signing off!

Well…I’m exhausted, how about you? πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‰

That was a lot of stuff, I know. As always, Thank you so very much for hanging in there with me. There are so many options out there for drawing tutorials. You could’ve chosen any drawing tutorial, easy drawing tutorials, but you chose mine and hung in there with me. Thank you.❀ You are awesome!

I sincerely hope you found this article helpful and that you now feel more confident about drawing a mushroom. Please remember to have fun with it! This is your art, and it’s about you. Enjoy it! ❀

If you have any questions or feedback, please leave them in the comments below. Thank you again, and happy mushroom drawing!

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