How To Draw a Tree: Learning to Draw

Get Tips for Drawing Trees

Girl and outdoor sketching session

Whether you are an artist or you are not, you can probably draw a tree...well, sort of.  We all remember drawing two sticks attached to a cloudlike ball of leaves when we were younger, but this is not exactly realism. Here are some tips to help you draw more lifelike trees:

  1. What kind of tree? Aside from the children's cartoon world, there are many different kinds of trees. No matter how similar they look, they all have their own special characteristics. All of these things will give your drawing an authenticity that people will notice when they view it. They won't say, look at that tree, they will say, look at that oak tree. how to draw trees
  2. Find a model While drawing straight from the image in your mind is just fine, I have always found that looking at an actual model provides authenticity. This will be fine for you unless of course you are in Montana, and the tree you have chosen is a palm tree! If you are in fact in the same area as your tree, then find one that esthetically suits you. If you are a beginner, look for symmetry, but also look for things about the particular tree that might make it stand out. Look for things that might make it unique from all the others, especially if you are in a heavily-wooded area and are capable of comparing. Once you have found your model, it is time for you to get situated.
  3. You Always try to keep in mind that your model should be located in a place where you feel comfortable sitting for a time. This makes parks or nature trails nice options. Find yourself a bench, picnic table, or even a large rock to situate yourself and your supplies on. Of course the grass is always an option, and is often the most comfortable. Use this drawing opportunity to spend some time outside!
  4. Supplies All things considered, we are going to assume that you are drawing this tree alone. After you have mastered the art of drawing the tree, you will be able to add it into drawings that are complete, or even paintings later on. For right now, just take a sketch pad that you prefer and an appropriate drawing tool. I prefer a simple graphite pencil , about an HB or so. But the choice of pencil or charcoal is entirely up to the artist and experimentation with different mediums is encouraged.
  5. The Drawing Now that you are situated, you can get down to the business of drawing. The nice thing about a tree is that it rarely contains any straight lines, therefore you have the creative license to draw a little crooked your first few times! Let's imagine we are drawing a standard maple tree.
    You will want to start at the bottom of the trunk (the base) of the tree. A lot of times maples will have root systems that pop in and out of the ground. This might be a unique thing to add to your artwork.

    First get the line of the ground drawn how you want it. Begin to draw in the roots if there are any, by simply following the lines of the tree at the same time you follow the lines on your paper. This is much easier than it sounds. Slowly move your line, it does not have to remain contoured but it can. Move it up the trunk by paying close attention to indents and unique features in the bark. Do not worry about the inside area of the tree trunk at this time, just worry about the trunk and branches. Once you get up around where the branches are going to begin you are going to start something called forking.

    It is not exactly crucial to follow every line of your model at this time. Get the main branches, following them as far as your eye can, until the leaves take over. You will notice that the branches often go up and then fork out to form a "Y" shape. You now have the creative license to fill in the top of your tree with these "Y's." During this stage you will probably erase a lot and do a lot of rearranging, but just remember your tree will have leaves so it is not always that important how the top looks.

    Drawing the inside bark is great fun! Look at your model and look at all the ways that the bark is moving and turning. Now take your pencil and go to town. Maybe find a few really interesting designs in the trunk and repeat them in your drawing a few times. Do this a few different times and you will have a very interesting trunk!

    The leaves are where you have a lot of freedom to play around. You will not want to draw each leaf individually or you will be at that sketchpad forever! Get the general shape of the kind of leaf, and then draw an outline for the leaves area based on that. Always keep that leaf outline in mind. Pick a few areas of the foliage that really stand out to you. These might be good areas to draw the leaves in more detail. Having a few spots of detail, surrounded by slightly similar looking contour lines will really give your drawing a great and professional look!

  6. Color Depending on what kind of medium you have used you can always consider adding color to your tree - especially if it is fall!

Learning to draw takes time and practice so don't worry if your first tree doesn't turn out exactly how you pictured it. Keep working at it and soon people will be saying: look at that oak tree!


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