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 as well.
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…
Note to the right how the simple illustration of a part of a tree starts off with three circular shapes in various sizes.
Now take that same simplified shapes and expand it with more curves varying in height and width – and you have one believable tree.
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 themselves 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 ginkgo leaf.
Leaves can have smooth edges but tend to have spiked, rugged edges. The leaf thickens at the ends and thins near the leaf.
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 intersecting lines for smooth connecting branches.
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 gardener’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 squiggly 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 possibly 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.
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 realistically, 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!