Learning how to draw a tree might seem difficult if you’ve never attempted it before. These towering plants come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors.
Drawing realistic trees can open up a whole new world of botanical illustrations and landscape drawings for those interested in learning how.
Below you’ll find a guide for mastering how to draw trees. From the supplies needed to draw a tree to essential tips for creating realistic trees on the page, everything you need to get started is right here.
Benefits of Drawing Trees
Other than an impressive, finished drawing, there are several other benefits to drawing trees. Here are just a few of the advantages of learning how to draw a tree:
- Understand local biology. Examining trees to draw them can give you an up-close-and-personal look at the way different tree parts work, such as leaves and branches.
- Learn how to identify different tree species. If you fill your sketchbook with sketches of local trees, you can use their underlying structures to identify which trees you’ve drawn. Eventually, you’ll have a good idea of what many different trees in your local area look like on sight.
- Excuse to relax outdoors. Since one of the best ways to learn how to draw a tree is to sketch trees from life, learning to draw trees is a great excuse to hang out in the woods or park and take in some fresh air while you make art.
- Improves other types of drawing. Learning how to draw a tree can give you several other skills that translate well into other areas of drawing. These skills include realistic shading and reproducing organic shapes.
Trees are such a diverse subject for learning how to draw that you can easily spend weeks drawing nothing else without getting bored of them.
Tips for How to Draw a Tree
All types of trees are different in form and shape. However, there are a few general tips that can be applied to drawing trees no matter what species you are sketching. Follow these hints to improve the final look of your tree drawing:
Look for the tree’s underlying shapes
It can be hard to draw a tree’s outline and make it look realistic without taking a look at the shapes that make up the tree. These shapes give you an idea of where the tree will be shaded.
In addition, the shapes can give you a guideline for placing a more organic and realistic outline.
Look at the negative space
It’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at the foliage on a tree when you’re trying to draw it, so try drawing the negative space between leaves and branches instead. This method can help you end up with a much more accurate drawing.
Focus on the details
When you’re learning how to draw a tree, practice really looking at the tree and drawing exactly what you see versus drawing what you think a tree looks like. Since trees are such a common object, it’s easy for the brain to take shortcuts in trying to translate that form to the page by making assumptions about how things look.
Add secondary items for scale
Without another object for scale, like a bird or clouds, it can be difficult to understand the size and scope of a tree on the page. Adding these items for scale gives the viewer a better idea of exactly how large the tree in your drawing is.
Try drawing on toned paper
Drawing outdoors on bright white paper can cause a glare. Doing so makes it more difficult to see subtleties in the shading of the tree. Drawing on paper with a tan or yellow tone can cut this glare and make it easier to see what you’re doing.
Using the tips above will help you take the realism in your tree drawings to the next level. They’re also good to keep in mind whenever you practice drawing different components of the tree in detail, such as the bark or leaves.
Supplies You Need for How to Draw a Tree
To learn how to draw a tree, you’ll need a few supplies to get started. If you’re a beginner at drawing, you can use fairly cheap supplies early on and invest in more expensive drawing pencils and pens later on as you improve.
- Reference photos: If you’re not planning on drawing trees from life, it’s helpful to have some reference photographs of the tree you’re planning to draw. Good reference photos for most trees are freely available on the Internet.
- Drawing pencils: It’s best to get a set of drawing pencils with several levels of hardness. This allows you to create a wide range of lines and shading levels.
- Kneaded eraser: Kneaded erasers are good for drawing projects since they are less inclined to smudge than other eraser types. Kneaded erasers can also be easily cleaned and reused by stretching them out.
- Blending stumps: Blending stumps are small paper cones that are used for controlled smudging of pencil drawings. Blending stumps allow artists to render smooth shaded textures as well as gradations of light and dark.
- Ink drawing pens: Ink is a useful way to finalize your finished tree drawings. The ink will make the lines of the drawing stand out more. Ink drawing pens can be found in various thicknesses and color options.
Easy Steps to Draw a Tree for Beginners
For beginners, following a step-by-step process can make it much easier when you’re learning how to draw a tree. Here are some steps you can take to get started:
Step 1. Find a reference photo or subject tree
It can be a good idea to draw the same tree several times in a row since you’ll understand the tree better visually each time you do it. Drawing from a reference also gives you a static image to reproduce.
However, it can sometimes be more difficult to interpret a photograph versus a 3D object.
Step 2. Spend time studying the tree
Before you put pencil to paper, taking several minutes to just look at the tree you’re planning to draw can give you an idea of the tree’s underlying shapes and negative space.
Step 3. Draw in the tree’s basic shapes
Building the tree up on the paper as a series of basic shapes such as circles, ovals, and cylinders can help give you a framework for a realistic tree form.
Step 4. Add shading and texture to the tree
Shading and texture will make the tree look more realistic. In addition, they’re a good way to put your own artistic touch on the drawing since these aspects of the drawing can be stylized easily.
Step 5. Add finishing touches such as surrounding details and shadows
Adding a detail such as a bird in the branches or some shrubs at the tree’s base can help ground the drawing and make the tree’s scope more apparent to the viewer.
When drawing a tree as a beginner, it’s important to stop and look at your subject often. Without really studying the tree you’re drawing, it’s easy to accidentally draw what you think you see, rather than what is actually there.
How to Draw a Tree: 15 EASY Drawing Projects
1. How to Draw Pine Trees with Pen and Ink
The tutorial from Pen Drawings is a thorough overview of everything you need to know to draw pine trees. Since pine foliage is much different than other types of tree leaves, it’s useful to have a breakdown of how to recreate the needs of the tree in a realistic style.
2. How to Draw a Christmas Tree
Christmas trees are one of the best types of trees to learn how to draw since you can use drawings of them in many holiday arts and crafts. Art Projects for Kids has an easy tutorial for a stylized version of Christmas tree that can be used on everything from cards to placemats.
3. How to Draw a Palm Tree
Palm trees are a popular drawing subject since they are often the focus of coastal landscapes and beach-related paintings. Learn how to draw them in a step-by-step guide at Art in Context.
4. How to Draw a Cherry Blossom Tree
Cherry trees are one of the most iconic trees in Japan and with good reason. Each year, tourists view these beautiful trees as they blanket the country’s national parks in thousands of blossoms. Read a guide on how to draw them at I Heart Crafty Things.
5. How to Draw a Willow Tree
With their sweeping foliage and their gnarled branches, willows are one of the most interesting and romantic-looking trees you can draw. See a step-by-step guide on drawing them at Easy Drawing Guides.
6. How to Draw a Dead Tree
In some ways, drawing a dead tree can be somewhat easier than drawing a live one since you don’t have to worry about foliage. Check out an easy tutorial on drawing dead trees at Felt Magnet.
7. How to Draw a Fall Tree for Kids
Drawing fall trees can be a fun autumn art project for adults and kids alike. The fall tree drawing tutorial at Art Projects for Kids is geared towards younger artists but can be used by beginner artists of all ages.
8. How to Draw a Birch Tree
Birch trees are known for their beauty. In fact, they’re also an important part of the ecosystem since their seeds feed many different kinds of birds and animals. You can learn how to draw a birch tree using the tutorial at Ran Art Blog.
9. How to Draw an Oak Tree
Oak trees are a useful tree to practice drawing on since they have a very traditional tree shape. The oak tree drawing tutorial from John Muir Laws is interesting because he teaches artists to draw starting with the foliage and working their way down to the trunk.
10. How to Draw an Olive Tree
Olive branches have historically been a symbol of peace, and olive trees in drawings and paintings often carry this same connotation when they’re included in a composition. Learn how to draw this beautiful tree at WikiHow.
11. How to Draw a Winter Tree
Winter trees can look very different from trees the rest of the year since they may lack leaves and be covered in snow. Get an overview of drawing winter trees over at DragoArt.
12. How to Draw a Bonsai Tree
Bonsai trees are small trees that are bred to be manicured and kept as decorative tabletop elements. These trees have a unique shape that can be very fun for artists to draw. You can find a simple tutorial for drawing bonsai trees at Draw Swan.
13. How to Draw a Jungle Tree
The jungles of the world contain some of the largest populations of trees in the world, and these ancient trees can be hundreds of feet tall. The key to drawing jungle trees is to place them in context, which usually involves drawing multiple trees. Learn how here at Jia’s Art.
14. How to Draw an Abstract Tree
Realistic trees are interesting to draw. But abstract trees can also be interesting subjects for drawings and paintings since they give artists a little more license to add their own stylistic touches. You can find a tutorial for drawing an abstract tree here at Draw Swan.
15. How to Draw a Cartoon Tree
Along with abstract trees, cartoon trees are another fun variation on tree drawings that can be a little easier to draw than realistic trees. Learn how to draw a cartoon tree in the step-by-step guide at Easy Drawing Guides.
How to Draw a Realistic Tree Step-By-Step
Drawing realistic trees can be more difficult than stylized or generalized trees since you’ll need to pay attention to the drawing’s details to make the tree look real. Here are a few steps you can take to draw a realistic tree from start to finish:
Step 1. Find the shapes in the tree
Before you start drawing the tree, look for the underlying shapes that make up the tree’s trunk, branches, and foliage. The trunk and foliage can often be sketched as a series of cylinders to represent a realistic inorganic form.
Step 2. Outline the tree
Once you know what the general shapes of the tree are and have lightly sketched them out, start adding in the real outline of the tree over the shapes you’ve sketched.
After the outline is sketched in, you can gently erase the sketched shapes making up the tree’s framework, or leave them for reference until the end.
Step 3. Outline the tree’s foliage
Once you’ve outlined the tree’s trunk and branches extending up, observe and draw the outline of the tree’s foliage. Be sure to keep an eye out for patches of negative space where there are bare spots in the tree’s crown.
Step 4. Add shading to the tree
Working from lightest to darkest, start adding shading to the tree to give it a more 3D look. Keep your shadows light at first and work them darker slowly, since it can be difficult to erase heavy marks on your drawing paper.
Step 5. Add texture to the tree
Along with shading, add texture to the tree’s bark, leaves, and branches. Pay careful attention to the actual texture of the tree rather than the textures you expect the tree to have since this can make the difference between a realistic tree drawing and a stylized one.
Step 6. Add final shadows and scope
After your basic shading and textures are laid in, you can add additional shadows and objects for a scope that will make it more apparent to viewers how large the tree is in context.
How to Draw Leaves on a Tree
If you’re trying to draw realistic leaves on a tree rather than the full tree, the principles are pretty similar either way. Follow this step-by-step guide for drawing leaves on a tree:
- Draw the leaf shape. It’s important to note the leaf’s shape carefully since leaf shape can be a major indicator of what type of tree you’re trying to draw. This is especially true if you want viewers to be able to identify the species of tree you’re drawing.
- Draw the leaf’s veins and stem. These details won’t be visible if you’re drawing a tree from far off. But if you’re doing a detailed study of a tree branch or a sprig of tree leaves, you’ll need to add these smaller lines to make the leaves look realistic.
- Draw the leaf outline. Adding irregularities to the edge of the leaf can make the leaf look more real and textured. A leaf with a perfect outline will not look realistic.
- Add shading and texture. As with full trees, the final step in drawing leaves is to add shading and texture.
When drawing leaves on a tree, looking at the negative space, or the space between the leaves can help give each bunch of leaves a realistic silhouette. Keep in mind that on a tree leaves will always be overlapping, so you have to look for the pattern where these overlaps occur.
How to Draw a Tree FAQ
Is It Hard to Draw a Tree?
Drawing trees is both easy and hard, depending on how you look at the skill. Here are a few of the reasons that drawing trees can be easy:
- There are plenty of references. Finding practice trees to draw is as simple as walking out your front door and looking around in most cases. You can also find hundreds of thousands of detailed reference photos of trees online.
- Trees are inanimate objects. Unlike people and animals that move around, making sketching them difficult, trees stay rooted in one place. You won’t have to worry about the shape of a tree’s branches changing much from day to day, so you can do comparative sketches of the same tree over and over to mark improvements.
Even though there are some easy aspects to learning how to draw a tree, there are some difficult parts to drawing trees too. Here are some of the reasons it can be hard to draw a tree:
- The brain thinks about trees in a general way. If you’re trying to draw a tree from memory, it can be hard to conjure up visual memories of specific tree types. Learning about different trees and how they look in detail can help combat this tendency.
- Trees are complex organic shapes. Unlike inorganic shapes that can be drawn with straight lines, trees are full of different complicated organic shapes and textures. This can make trees more difficult to draw in a realistic style.
What Does a Tree Symbolize in Art?
In art, trees are representative of some major themes that are commonly depicted in all forms of painting and drawing. Here are just a few of the ways that trees are used symbolically in artwork:
- The cycle of life and death
Trees came to symbolize the above ideas in artwork largely through their inclusion in common mythology and religion.
Trees such as the Tree of Knowledge in the garden of Eden, the Sacred Tree in Native American mythology, and the Tree of Life in Viking mythology are all major totems of tree symbolism in popular culture.
What Does Your Tree Drawing Say About You?
How you draw a tree can actually say a lot about how you’re feeling and doing mentally. In the Tree Drawing Test, also known as the Koch Baum’s Test, patients are directed to draw a tree to determine their emotional state and their sense of self-image.
The tree drawing test can be used to measure mental deterioration in patients with certain serious cognitive disorders, such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Drawing Trees Is Useful Practice for Artists
Trees are one of the most popular subjects for sketch studies. So knowing how to draw a tree can be very beneficial. Whether you want to draw simple cartoon trees or you’re trying to master hyper-realistic drawings of different tree species, you’ll never run out of new trees to draw.