Tree Drawing in Pencil

The following tree drawing tutorial is designed to get you thinking about how to draw a tree from life yet without slaving over every twig. A line drawing of a tree is a good starting point. Tone and colour are nothing without form in realistic drawing.

I used a 2B faber-castell pencil and cartridge paper. The drawing is done from life.

1. I start with the trunk and draw it as accurately as possible. I draw main branches. Note that some of the branches grow from the back and front of the trunk and not just the sides. It looks amateur and cartoony when artists see them as a simple tube with side branches.

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2. I continue to follow the branches. Note that I am literally allowing the pencil to flow without the benefit of any construction lines acting as guides. This is a good technique when drawing trees because trees vary far more than animals in form. You'd notice if I drew a man with three arms but won't be able to tell if I put in an extra branch here and there.

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3. I start putting in twigs. The tree had an abundance of them but there was no way I was going to draw in each and everyone. Some of the twigs aren't even attached to anything but that's fine. In a sense this mimics the human eye which loses detail over distance. Even someone with 20-20 vision can't pick up everything because impurities and natural stuff floating around in the atmosphere blocks our eyes somewhat.

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4. More of the same.

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5. A close up.

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6. More branches with little flicks of the pencil.

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7. A close up.

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8. I work across the lower left and right central areas.

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9. Close up.

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10. I redefine some of the main branches and parts of the trunk as well as adding stray, low hanging branches to the tree drawing.

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11. Now I lightly add thin branches that cross the main branches so the tree doesn't look like all its branches are behind it.

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12. A close up.

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If I or anyone else were asked to draw a tree without reference most of us would tend to make the tree symetrical. The lack of features on the lower left for example would make us itch to add branches. This is why drawing from life or a photo tends to be best. Trees are living things that grow without any regard for how we see the world.

The tree drawing can now be worked on further either tonally or with colour. It can be the main subject of a drawing or painting or it can be a feature within a landscape drawing.

Return to landscape drawing from tree drawing.