How to Draw a Tree

Go Back to Nature and Learn How to Draw a Tree With Illustrations

Nature drawing is one of the easiest subjects in drawing, and anyone can master it with little practice. This article will guide you through stepwise pictorial instructions on drawing trees.
Nature drawing was one of the subjects I learnt while studying for my diploma in animation film-making. My classmates and I used to enjoy searching for trees that would make good sketching subjects. We used to sit in the sun and sketch for hours and be rewarded with mosquito bites for our dedication! Jokes aside, nature drawing is one the most interesting arts, and is easy for someone to learn, as one doesn't need to have perfect proportions of the branches, leaves or foliage. So, let's get started...
Steps to Draw Trees
Step #1: Drawing the Basic Form of Trees
Tree Shape
The first thing one has to do is to find a good subject. For reference, you can either use pictures of trees, or go outdoors and select a tree suitable for drawing. If you are sketching outdoors make sure you are sitting at a distance from where you can observe the entire tree.
The basic equipment required for drawing is a sketchpad, few pencils (6B), eraser, and sharpener. If you can get a kneadable eraser, it will make the job of drawing trees easier, as it helps erase the drawing easily and prevents blackening of the paper. Now observe the tree and visualize it as if it is made of cylinders which are stacked over each other. Here, in the drawing below I have sketched cylinders for the tree trunk and the branches. As form drawing is very useful for getting the right shape and proportions of the tree. When drawing the form of the trees, make sure you use a light tone pencil like a 2B or 3B, or you can sketch with lesser pressure on the pencil and draw light strokes. You can also draw ovals for the foliage if required.
Step #2: Outlining the Shape of Trees
Shape of Tree
Here in the second drawing of the tree, I have drawn the basic outlines of the trunk, the branches and the foliage. This is an important step, and one needs to pay attention to outlining the negative spaces which are the empty gaps in the drawing. For example, the negative spaces in the drawing below are the spaces between the branches and the space between the branches and the foliage. When drawing the outlines of the tree, pay special attention to the places where the trunk and the branches join. The foliage outlines can be random and need not be perfect, but maintain the right shape of the foliage when outlining.
Step #3: Detailing and Shading
For this step, one needs patience and an eye for detail. The most important thing to remember when shading the tree is to understand the light source. In the drawing below, the source of light is on the top right side. So, the top right side of the tree should look the brightest and the bottom left should look the darkest. Add details to the trunk and the foliage. For this, use a sharp-tipped pencil and draw lines to give the tree depth. If you are observing a tree outdoors, while adding details take your time to observe and then add the details.
Tree shape
However, it is important that you don't add too many details, otherwise the drawing will become a mess, and it might look too dark and unattractive. For shading, use uniform parallel lines (hatching) and try to angle the lines in one direction. However, you can change the direction of the lines where the tree parts are bending. For example, in the picture below, the strokes for shading are different for the trunk and the branches. In a similar manner, add shading to the foliage, however do not overdo it. One of the sketching tips is to add little depth and texture to the foliage, and leave the rest of the area empty. Also ignore drawing tree leaves, and just sketch the shape of the foliage.
Well, this was all about how to sketch trees, which is fairly easy to learn. So keep practicing and keep enjoying drawing the trees!
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