In the following demonstration extracted from Draw Animals in Nature, artist and longtime North Light author Lee Hammond demonstrates how to draw tree bark using simple techniques and materials. And as a bonus, we’ve also included her techniques for drawing pine trees vs. drawing leafy trees. The differences are subtle, yet lend your landscape drawings a sense of realism. You don’t need a lot of tools, so drawing trees has never been so easy!
Trees in Detail: How to Draw Tree Bark
A silhouette shows a tree’s basic shape, but a close-up shows the detail and texture. This exercise will give you an idea of how to create lifelike texture in tree bark.
M a t e r i a l s
.5mm mechanical pencil with 2B lead
smooth bristol paper
1 Create the Form
Draw the shapes of the tree lightly. The crook of the tree is a V-shape. With a small amount of shading, apply the tones to the left of the tree and on the tree using your pencil. The form being created resembles a cylinder. Keep the form of a cylinder in mind as you work.
2 Add Tone
Add more tone with your pencil to the tree and the background. Blend it out with a tortillion until it looks smooth. Deepen the dark details around the knothole and in the bark using firm pencil strokes. Notice how the reflected light along the edges of
the trunk and branches helps the tree look rounded and cylindrical.
3 Deepen the Tones and Add Texture and Highlights
Deepen the tones in the background and blend again. With firm pencil strokes, continue adding the look of texture to the tree bark. Add some curved strokes on the right limb to make its roundness more obvious. This gives it the illusion of being a birch tree. Lift highlight areas out with a kneaded eraser. This makes the tree look more dimensional. The light area on the left limb gives the illusion of being lit by sunshine.
Just for fun, I added the monarch butterfly. While it may look complicated, it is easy if you look at it as a puzzle of connecting shapes. Little things like this can make even a small drawing look impressive.
Drawing Pine Trees
Pine trees have a distinct shape and are usually easier to draw because the overall shape is more evident and repetitive. The larger components become like puzzle pieces. Start with the vertical line to represent the trunk. Create the repetitive shapes of the branches with squiggly lines. Continue building the tones with squiggly lines until you create the pine
Drawing Leafy Trees
Leafy trees generally have more limbs and small branches. They are less uniform in their shapes.
Start with a vertical line to represent the trunk. Place light lines for the branches. Use small, tight circular pencil strokes to start the look of leafy clumps. Continue building the illusion of leaves with the circular strokes, varying the tones. Use little dots, like stippling, for the smaller leaves on the outer edges.
- Want to learn more? Download Lee Hammond’s tips for drawing birds and purchase Drawing Animals in Nature. Learning how to draw nature scenes has never been this easy!