How to draw trees with colored pencils

Written by jessica reed
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How to draw trees with colored pencils
Create a realistic tree using a mixture of different coloured pencils. (coloured pencils image by Jake Hellbach from

When learning to draw landscapes, trees make a great starting point. Despite the same basic features, no two trees are alike. You can create a set of beautiful pictures by drawing a healthy tree in a sunny area. Coloured pencils give you the control you need to blend colours without worrying about the mess or time constraints of working with paint. Create two or three different drawings to really get the hang of sketching trees in coloured pencil. Once you know the basics, make variations using bold colours or unnatural combinations.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Smooth drawing paper
  • Coloured pencils

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  1. 1

    Choose a smooth paper to prevent the background from showing through the way it will on a textured paper. If you want to create an instant background without colouring the entire page, choose a light-coloured paper to work on instead of a pure white. A pale blue works well for creating the sky. Don't choose a dark colour or the pencils won't show up as well.

  2. 2

    Draw the outline of the tree and any areas of the background you want to include. Make your marks lightly so the outline doesn't show through in the final drawing. Colour in each area lightly with a base colour. Use lighter and darker shades for highlights and shadows. On the tree itself, colour in shaded areas with dark greens, and add yellows to the lighter areas. These light yellows will show through at the end to give the tree a glowing look, according to Practical

  3. 3

    Choose a colour, typically a green, that matches the tree's leaves, and use short, choppy strokes to create lines covering the areas you shaded in. Random, controlled lines give the tree texture and help the coloured areas blend together. Use a lighter green-yellow for the light areas you coloured yellow in Step 2.

  4. 4

    Repeat that technique for any grassy areas in the background. Keep your drawing proportional by making the strokes for the grass shorter than those for the leaves of the tree.

  5. 5

    Fill in the light and dark areas using small, controlled strokes and both light and dark colours. Step back several feet and squint your eyes. Notice which areas blend well and show highlights and shadows, and which areas do not. Add more detail to the areas that are lacking. The tree itself needs lots of detail while the background needs little and should appear to fade away.

  6. 6

    Sketch in soft, long strokes to create the bark of the tree. Make sure to darken one side of the tree trunk and lighten the side in the sun. For the background of the picture, simply blend the colours slightly and leave it. The background can show mountains or hills in the distance---too far away to show any real detail. Finish blending in the different areas of the tree as desired to create your finished picture.

Tips and warnings

  • Take a picture of a real tree in bloom on a bright sunny day. Use this picture to lay out your tree and determine which areas appear in shadow and which are in the sunlight.

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