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  1. Design & Illustration
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How to Draw a Tree

Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Trees are beautiful embodiments of nature’s abundance and variety. They can live for many years; the oldest tree ever discovered is approximately 5,000 years old. No wonder that artists of all skill levels are attracted to trees, trying to convey their charm and diversity. 

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to draw a typical tree, using graphite pencils. But first, we need to observe some basic things, like constructing a branch with twigs, creating an illusion of foliage, and drawing the bark.

Let’s dive into the world of nature and have fun!

You may also be interested in these tutorials on drawing trees and leaves:

What You Will Need

You will need the following supplies to create this project:

  • an HB graphite pencil
  • a 3B graphite pencil
  • an eraser
  • drawing paper
The art supplies for this project

1. How to Draw Bark

Step 1

What is commonly called bark includes a number of different tissues that overlay the wood and serve as a protective barrier. For example, cork is an external tissue that is impermeable to water and gases.

Why do we start with this part of the tree? Bark is a concluding element that covers the shape of the trunk and branches. Knowing how to draw bark will speed up our process later on, when we gain an understanding of designing a tree from scratch.

Let’s draw just a sample of the tree bark in close-up; we’ll focus on its pattern and details. With an HB pencil, I draw a small rectangle and fill it with lines that imitate the bark’s pattern.

Don’t overthink this pattern in the early stages; just draw something resembling irregular rhombs.

Drawing the main contours of the pattern

Step 2

I add more details to the drawing, using the HB pencil. The groups of parallel hatches help to create the illusion of a three-dimensional surface.

Adding the details to the pattern

Step 3

With the 3B pencil, I darken the borders between the sections of bark. You can also use dots to make the texture more interesting.

Adding depth to the pattern

Step 4

With the 3B pencil, I decrease the contrast, covering the sample with a layer of soft, smooth hatching. Then I accentuate the shadows once again. This sample is complete!

Completing the sample

Step 5

Let’s create another sample of the bark texture; this time I draw larger shapes, using the HB pencil. I also add areas of moss and cover them with a layer of hatching.

Creating the pattern of lines

Step 6

With the HB pencil, I add some shadows to the moss and the bark.

Creating the shadows

Step 7

With the 3B pencil, I increase the contrast in the drawing, accentuating the borders between the sections and under the moss.

Increasing the contrast

Step 8

I add more details with dots and short hatches, using the 3B pencil. I also darken the perimeter of the sample to create an illusion of depth.

Completing the second sample

2. How to Draw a Branch

Step 1

A branch is a woody element that is connected to the central trunk of a tree. Large branches are known as boughs, and small branches are known as twigs or sprigs.

Branches and twigs may be found in many different shapes and sizes; while branches can be nearly horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, the majority of trees have upwardly diagonal branches.

Let’s draw a standard branch; I mark its core line with the HB pencil. It’s also useful to mark the place where the branch connects to the trunk.

Drawing the core line of the branch

Step 2

I draw the form of the branch. Remember that it is a three-dimensional shape with a round foundation.

Adding the shape of the branch

Step 3

I erase the subsidiary lines and refine the contour of the branch.

Creating a new contour with an organic line

Step 4

I add the smaller branches. Feel free to add as many of them as you wish, and make them diverse.

Adding the smaller branches

Step 5

I add tiny twigs.

Adding the twigs

Step 6

I draw the leaves; they capture light energy and convert it into sugars by photosynthesis, providing the food for the tree's growth and development.

Make sure that the leaves in your drawing have different sizes and directions. Usually, we don’t see each leaf as an individual element, but for the sake of our study let’s allow a hint of stylization.

Drawing the leaves

Step 7

I add the long lines and the groups of hatching, imitating the bark texture. It’s so great that we already know how to draw bark, isn’t it?

Creating the rough pattern of the bark

Step 8

With the 3B pencil, I darken the sides of the branch to make it three-dimensional. I also fill the space around the leaves with groups of hatches to create an illusion of depth.

Increasing the contrast and completing the drawing

3. How to Draw a Tree

Step 1

Now we are ready to draw the whole tree. I mark the foundation of the tree and add the core line.

Drawing the core line of the tree and its basis

Step 2

A tree usually has a wide foundation and a thin top. I construct the shape of the tree, creating the segments of the shape and joining them together with a pencil contour.

Drawing the shape of the tree

Step 3

I add the shapes of the branches; they differ in size and direction.

Adding the branches

Step 4

I erase the subsidiary lines and refine the contour. When it comes to the natural objects, small imperfections are charming!

Refining the contour lines

Step 5

I add the smaller branches and twigs, based on the principles that we observed in the previous part of the tutorial.

Drawing the branches and twigs

Step 6

Since we are drawing a whole tree, there is no point in representing every single leaf. I add rough shapes of the leaves just to the lower branches and the bounds of the crown.

It’s important to keep the shapes sketchy; too many details will make your drawing look weird and unnatural.

Adding the shapes of the individual leaves

Step 7

Let’s create an illusion of foliage. An easy way to draw masses of leaves is to fill the crown with scribble lines. You can find an example of this technique in the lower corner of the illustration below.

With the HB pencil, I cover the area of the crown with scribble-like lines, leaving some areas lighter and darkening the underside of the crown.

Creating an illusion of foliage

Step 8

It’s time to work on the trunk; it usually is darker than the foliage, so having the right contrast is vital.

With the HB pencil, I draw the rough pattern of the bark and mark the core shadows. Please note that we see this pattern from a distance, so having much detail here won’t be a help.

I also decided to bring in a cute addition: a hollow with an owl that is looking out. 

Working on the trunk

Step 9

With the 3B pencil, I increase the contrast in the drawing. Feel free to make the sides of the tree and the visible parts of the branches really dark.

Darkening the trunk with a soft pencil

Step 10

With the 3B pencil, I darken the foliage, accentuating the lower part of the crown. The goal here is to achieve a contrasting yet harmonious look.

I complete the drawing by adding some grass near the base of the trunk.

Adding the details and completing the drawing

4. How to Draw a Tree Stump

Step 1

With the HB pencil, I draw the core line and the foundation of the stump.

Drawing the foundation and core line of the stump

Step 2

I add the top section of the stump. The core line may be a useful reference tool, but you don’t have to make this shape perfectly even.

Completing the shape of the stump

Step 3

I mark the texture of the bark, using the HB pencil.

Adding the texture of the bark

Step 4

A transverse section through a tree trunk may show concentric circles of lighter and darker wood—the tree rings (also known as the annual growth rings). These circles usually have a regular shape, but sometimes, due to abnormal growth conditions, they turn into wavy joint lines.

I mark the center of the inner part of the trunk, and then draw circular shapes going from the section’s center to the periphery. I also add small cracks to make the drawing more credible.

Working on the top part of the stump

Step 5

With the HB pencil, I create the texture of the bark. I also add horizontal hatches to the top section of the stump to accentuate its flat plane.

Working on the texture

Step 6

I darken the sides of the stump, using the 3B pencil. It’s time to add details to the bark, like small islets of moss, and to vary the pattern of the growth rings.

The top plane of the stump may demonstrate interesting transitions from a darker core to a lighter periphery (which proceeds to a slightly darker area near the bark).

Making the shape three-dimensional

Step 7

The drawing of the stump itself is complete, but it doesn’t look believable. I add some grass and fern leaves to create a nice natural environment.

Completing the drawing

Your Drawings Are Complete

Congratulations—we’ve created four beautiful graphite pencil sketches! I hope you were inspired by the trees and enjoyed the process of drawing.

Let your creative journey be fruitful and full of joy!

The result of work
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