How to Draw Leaves & Vines

Updated April 17, 2017

Leaves and vines are some of the most dynamic and fun objects to draw. The endless diversity of leaves' shapes and the winding, expressive contours of both vines and leaves are tremendously enjoyable to express in pencil. Learning to draw them is simple and exciting, and a few basic steps can lead you on your way to expressively drawing leaves and vines in your own unique style.

Draw a curved spine, or "midrib," to indicate the leaf's central column. The key to drawing captivating leaves is by drawing the midrib first and drawing it curved. Biologically, the midrib is its support structure, so it naturally makes sense to draw it first and use it as the basis of the rest of the drawing. Curving it opens the door for endless variation and reflects the fact that most leaves are not laid flat in nature.

Draw one half of the leaf's edge, adjusted according to the curve of the midrib. For example, if you had drawn the midrib exactly straight, the edge would look as if you had traced the outside of a flat leaf. But as the midrib is curved, the contours of the edge will be slightly bent. This takes a bit of practice and imagination to see how the edge is affected according to the bend of the midrib. You may want to choose a species of leaf, such as oak or birch, or you may just want to make up your own shape.

Draw the opposite edge mirrored across the midrib. This also takes some practice and imagination to visualise how it is warped according to the curve. This edge may also be visually behind the first edge, so you can draw nothing at all, or a few sections, such as on oak leaves, pointing out from behind the first edge you drew.

Draw veins. Veins flow from the midrib outward and toward the points of the edge, if there are any. Complex leaves such as oaks and maples will have more visible veins.

Draw a natural line where you want the vine to be. This will be the path of the vine, so move your pencil along the path the vine is growing. Experiment with curves and repetition such as consecutive "S" and "C" shapes where it wraps around trees and poles. Leave blank segments along its path when you intend for it to go behind other objects where it can't be seen. Also weave other lines in and out of it to become multiple vines woven together. Draw branching lines where the vine splits, such as with vines that cover walls.

Draw another line close to and parallel to each line you have drawn. Now you have two parallel lines that indicate the two edges of the vine (top and bottom or left and right).

Add leaves. Refer to Section 1 for adding leaves to the vine. Place them intermittently or in clusters where you want the leaves to grow. On leafy vines such as those that cover walls, most of the vine may be hidden in the leaves. In these cases, the vine's path is indicated by the leaves' locations.

Draw texture and details. Sketch some lighter parallel marks on the vine to indicate creases and crevices. On some vines, the bark creases around the vine rather than parallel to it. This can be indicated by drawing consecutive "S" shapes on the vine itself. Draw knots on the vine by thickening its diameter intermittently and drawing ovals in these areas. Move your pencil rhythmically along the vine, and think of your lines as growing along with it.


When drawing many leaves, try drawing the midribs first before adding the other features. This way you can indicate where many leaves are and how they will be curved, which will ensure that your time adding the details is worthwhile. If possible, go outside and collect some leaves before you draw them. This gives you a selection of ideas and models from which to draw. Leaves and vines are so interesting to draw because they grow so freely. Their natural growth leaves tremendous room for artistic expression in how they arc and curve.

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About the Author

Greg Turin is an artist and certified art educator with over five years of experience writing about art. His work can be found at websites such as Deviant Art and Sonic Eclectic. He received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Binghamton University as well as a Master of Arts in art education from Brooklyn College. He has learned and taught guitar since 2001.