Drawing the natural world can be deeply satisfying – and knowing how to draw a tree is very useful if you want to capture a rural landscape. In this guide, we’ll explain how to draw a tree step by step, so you’ll be able to sketch your own with confidence.
We’ll look at how to draw a tree with lots of tips and advice to guide you through the process, including how how to draw a realistic tree. If you’re looking for a how to draw a tree easy tutorial – we’ve got you covered too! While these tips are mostly aimed at adult learners, there’s no reason why younger artists shouldn’t give them a try too.
There are a few tricks that will help you to make your drawings accurate and in proportion, which is something that a lot of new artists struggle with. Some people say that these techniques are cheating (and they are a bit!), but it’s a great way to learn pencil drawing techniques and will give you the confidence to develop your artistic skills. We’ll look at how to draw from a photograph and how to make sure your drawing is accurate. You’ll know how to draw a tree in no time!
If you’re new to drawing, we’d recommend taking a look at our pencil drawing for beginners and best drawing pencils guides before you get started. Looking for more drawing projects? Learn how to draw a cat and how to draw a dog with Matt Breen’s step-by-step guides.
Read on to learn how to draw a tree step by step, including the materials you’ll need to get started…
How to draw a tree – easy tips and techniques
Before you begin, it’s a good idea to make sure you have all of the materials you need to hand. A pencil, paper and an eraser are the most basic tools you need to get started. However, you’ll see better results if you have good quality drawing supplies to hand.
I would recommend buying a good set of drawing pencils, a putty rubber (a soft, mouldable eraser) and a sketchpad before you begin. You might also find it useful to buy some paper stumps (used for blending pencil shading for a smooth gradient) or some low tack masking tape (used to add clean borders to your drawing).
Look for a high quality set of drawing pencils so that you can pick the best pencil for each part of your tree drawing. The set should include mixture of H pencils (with a hard lead) and B pencils (with a soft lead). H pencils are great for drawing light outlines and fine details, while B-grade pencils are better for shading and blending.
A putty rubber is always useful to have – it’s a kind of soft eraser that you can shape into a point. You can use a putty rubber to clean up any smudges on your drawing or to lighten an area of pencil shading. They are extremely versatile, so have a play and see what effects you can create!
Finally, I’d recommend using a sketchpad with good quality paper. Ideally you should use paper that is thick and slightly textured – if the paper is cheap and smooth then your drawing will smudge easily and it’ll look terrible. Luckily, there are lots of sketchpads for beginners that won’t break the bank – just check the paper thickness before you buy it. Look for a sketchpad with paper that’s at least 150 gsm (this information will be somewhere on the cover).
Here are some stockists with essential drawing supplies to help you buy what you need…
- Buy the Faber Castell set of 12 drawing pencils from Cass Art for £9.50
- Buy a Winsor & Newton kneaded putty rubber from Cass Art from £1.95
- Buy a Daler Rowney A4 sketch pad from Amazon for £5.78
- Buy a Conté à Paris paper blending stumps set from Cass Art for £5.75 (optional)
- Buy a set of 2 Staedtler pencil sharpeners from Amazon for £3.18 (optional)
- Buy low tack masking tape from Cass Art for £2.95 (optional)
You Will Need
- Drawing pencils
- Eraser or putty rubber
- A4 sketch pad
- Paper blending stumps, (optional)
- Pencil sharpener, (optional)
- Low tack masking tape, (optional)
Drawing the tree outline
Today we’re going to learn how to draw a tree the easy way. The easiest kind of tree to draw is one with foliage and not too many branches visible – especially one with a distinctive outline. For this method, I’m going to use a picture that I took on a walk. I loved the shape of the trees on the horizon – and there are some interesting cloud patterns you could add too. If you’re new to drawing, you may find it easier to work from a photo while you’re learning. I’d recommend either printing off your photo or displaying it on a screen such as a laptop or iPad, so you can refer to it while you work.
If you want a border around your drawing, stick some masking tape around the edges of your paper. Start by lightly drawing your horizon and beginning to sketch the rough outline of the trees. Keep your pencil marks as light as possible so that you can erase any mistakes. At this stage, you’re trying to get the shape of the tree right before adding further details. Look for geometric shapes to help you sketch the outline of the tree. For example, I think the smaller tree looks like a low, flat triangle. Yes, it does have some curves too, but those can be added in later. I’m using an HB pencil so you can see the lines; however, I’d recommend that you use a 2H or a 3H pencil for this.
Next, start to refine the outline of the foliage. Look at where it naturally dips inwards and where the branches just out, then adjust the shape of your tree. Keep looking at your photo for reference – you might decide that you need to change some of the parts that you’ve already drawn. Use a putty rubber to remove some of the old lines so you can see your new outline more clearly.
Look at your tree: can you see any branches peeking through the foliage? When I look at my tree, I can see a few branches through the leaves, so I’m going to add them to my outline. It’s already beginning to look more like a real tree!
Now we’re going to start adding shading to to our tree. If you’ve been using a HB or H pencil, you’ll need to switch to a pencil with a softer nib, such as a 2B or 3B. If you’re new to pencil drawing, you might like to experiment and see if you prefer a softer nib such as a 4B or 5B. Some sets include 8B pencils, which are super soft and blendable. Start shading lightly at first – we’ll be building up the shading gradually. If you shade in one direction, it looks more professional.
Look at your tree. Where are the darker areas? Begin to build up the shading in those areas. Use short pencil strokes to give your painting a textured look. Darken the shading under the tree to make it pop out from the page. Don’t worry if it looks uneven or a bit rough at this stage.
Are there some areas of your foliage that look even darker? Take a softer B pencil such as a 5B and add some shading to the darker areas. When shading, try to create a tonal look – you can do this by shading over the areas you want to be darker more and shading less over the areas you want to look lighter. This takes a little practice to master. Go over the tree trunks and the branches to make them darker. Remember what I said about only shading in one direction? You can break this rule sometimes and shade in a different direction to create a textured look – I’ve done this at the base of the tree to create the shadows. If you want a soft, sketchy-looking tree you could stop at this stage and carry on building up your shading.
Adding texture and details
If you’d like your tree to look more detailed, you need to look at the tree’s outline again. As you can see from the original photo, there are little leaves around the edge of the foliage – the tree’s outline isn’t smooth or even at all. I’m going to switch back to a firmer pencil to add some of these details. Look at the edges and add leaves using small, short pencil strokes. If you see any stray branches coming out then add them too. This is a good time to tidy up the tree’s outline if you didn’t get it quite right the first time – erase any unwanted pencil marks using the putty rubber.
Look at the tree again. There are some areas where the light shines through, but how can you get them to show up on your drawing? Take your putty rubber and roll it into a point, then gently dab the drawing with the pointy end to remove the pencil marks from the lighter areas.
Continue to add shading to your drawing until you’re happy with the finished result. If you tend to smudge your drawing with your hand, you can always use the putty rubber to remove any marks from the white paper to make it look tidier. You can also add some grass in the foreground to add depth or some clouds in the sky!
You’ve finished! We hope you enjoyed learning how to draw a tree step by step!