The Secret to Drawing Trees

I love trees.  I am fortunate to live in the woods where I am surrounded by them.  Trees have strength and stability, beauty and grace.  They provide shelter from the wind and shade in the heat.  They are one of my favorite subjects to draw.   But many find them one of the hardest subjects to draw so I thought it might be good to do a series of blog posts about trees.

Trees come in all sizes – short, tall, really tall (Sequoias!), wide, narrow and  even elongated.  But one thing they all have in common is that they are round.  Whatever shape they appear to be, they are still round.  And generally for trees there is only one light source. So the secret to drawing trees is to simplify the shape and accentuate the light. Most people have drawn a ball with a single light source – something like this:


Let’s use this concept to draw a tree.  Here’s your basic shade tree:


If you reduce it to  its simplest shape and add the shading that would happen if the sun were above to the left, it would look something like the drawing below.  OK, I admit this looks like a giant mushroom with a teeny stem, but  bear with me.  Do you see that it illustrates the concept of light hitting a round form suspended above the ground.


All we have to do to make this into a tree is to add an outline of the leaves that more closely simulates our subject, and shadows that indicate not only the basic round form, but the additional round forms within the greenery.  Ta daa!  A tree.


There are two questions I ask for every tree I draw.  What is it’s basic shape?  Where is the light source?  More examples of how this works in a variety of circumstances coming up in the next few posts.





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