Forest Landscapes: Trees
Drawing landscapes takes many items and puts them all together
in one scene. To master drawing forests, we have to start
with the most important part: drawing trees.
Let's start off with some simple representation of trees.
Here we have the basics of drawing a pine tree. You begin
with it's simplest form, a cone, and built upon it by dividing
it into stacked cones, and finally adding detail: leaves
and trunk. When drawing the leaves, make sure you follow
the curve of the cone as shown in the third example.
How you depict the leaves depends on how you want to draw
the pine tree. There are basically two ways to draw a pine
tree. The first using a general representation of upside-down
"U" and "v" and the second, drawing
a series of short lines which when put all together becomes
a pine tree.
Branches of a pine tree vary. I've used the common "christmas
tree" type as an example but there are pines who's
branches go up or remain straight and parallel to the ground.
It's best if you become familiar with each kind so your
landscapes won't be so monotonous.
The same idea can be applied to the common, everyday trees:
deciduous trees, or the trees who's leaves can change color
as the weather turns colder. You start off with the basic
circular shape, expand upon it, and add in the details.
Depending on the tree you're drawing, change the basic shape
as you see fit as shown in the examples above.
A major point about these trees is that the shape varies
per tree and it's type. Their branch generally goes upward
towards the sun but there are cases where it bends downwards
Tree Details: Treetop & Leaves
If you would like to draw more realistic trees, let's get
into the details starting with the leaves. To the left we
have several ways of drawing deciduous tree leaves.
1) Curvy, 2) Boxy, and 3) Spiky are all you need to know
when drawing leaves. Depending on the method you choose
to draw the leaves, you create the personality of the tree.
Study, practice, and experiment with each kind to get a
feeling of drawing each type. Most commonly used is the
curve with boxy coming in second. Spiky is very effective
when drawing leaves pulled by a strong wind and is generally
used to draw pine trees as well. More on wind a little later...
key to drawing realistic trees is to layer the leaves. Layering
adds dimension and the trick to that is to overlap your
Note to the right how the simple illustration of a part
of a tree starts off with three circular shapes in various
Now take that same simplified shapes and expand it with
more curves varying in height and width - and you have one
If you want to go a step further, you can actually draw
in each leaf as shown in the bottom. Just make sure to follow
the same curve and layering throughout.
The layering can also be applied again with the leaves overall.
Take a look at the tree drawn on the left. There is leaves
up front, in the middle, and in the back or far back as
I have it labeled.
When drawing, it helps to draw in branches which help that
sense of space and dimension.
The draw leaves up close, they usually are attached to
a thin branch as shown in the lower example. The leaves
thenselves can be aligned perfectly as in the left drawing
or staggered as on the right.
There are various types of leaves depending on the type
of tree. Some common shapes are the tear shape are shown
on the left. Others include three pointed leaves, circular
leaves, long leaves, and queer shaped leaves such as the
triangular shaped ginkyo leaf.
Leaves can have smooth edges but tend to have spiked, rugged
edges. The leaf thickens at the ends and thins near the
Moving on with leaves, here is a neat trick in drawing them:
First, draw the basic shape of the leaf, and add in the
details. Below, we have examples of drawing a diamond shaped
leaf flat, bent, and really bent - or in this case, blown.
In the blown part, all you do is draw one line starting
with the back end or longest line. Add the line that bends
making a one-thick ended "C" and finish off with
the bottom half.
Depending on where your leaf is being blown, left or right,
just draw your long line accordingly.
Branches & Trunk
Let's move on to the bare-bones of the tree. Here is a depiction
of a tree as seen in winter. To draw a tree like this, you
start off with the tree-trunk, add the thick braches, then
medium-sized branches, and finish off with thin branches.
When done, just erase all the interesecting lines for smooth
Branches start off thick and taper off at the end. Make
sure you remember this as you draw your branches.
For more distinction, bend your tree's branches or curve
them. There are gardener's who shape the direction of a
trees limbs. The most common example of this are in bonsai
trees. This means that you can intertwine branches in a
braid pattern as well. Some garderner's growing fruit trees
apply the same controlling method to shape trees to form
in a menorah like shape.
To put some character on your branches and wear just add
lines. You can do this by drawing a series of short or long
lines as shown above. Just make sure you leave white-space
and not cover your whole tree with these lines.
While we're covering branches, let's take a quick look into
drawing wood grain. All you just draw is squigly lines that
do not intersect though they can join into one. Patterns
include eyes, numbered 1, and long lines as in number 2.
It may take a bit of practice drawing these and your best
bet is to study your floor, wooden table, or anything showing
a grain if you're having trouble.
Tree Details: Roots, Grass, & Wind
Last, but not least is the base of the tree.
To the left are the most common ways roots are drawn. Like
branches, they start off thick from the main tree trunk
and thin out. The roots themselves can be above ground or
be buried below - and possbly underneath some mulch.
Just like the main branches, the roots may have bumps, bends,
and odd shapes. For a more realistic look, just add lines
as mentioned above with the branches.
Now, let's move to wind and grass. When wind blows, especially
the strong ones, it moves the whole tree to which ever direction
it is blowing.
Strong winds also can rip leaves off the tree. You can show
this by drawing dots and leaf shaped lines in the direction
of the wind.
Near the trunk of the tree, grass can grow pretty tall in
or around the roots as shown to the right.
When drawing roots, remember that there are roots in the
back of the tree and not just at the front.
If you are drawing reallistically, it takes more time to
draw than simpler drawn trees. Make sure you cover all these
bases and keep practicing till you get it right!