Coloured pencils are an easily controlled and relatively clean medium for artists to create vivid and graphic drawings beyond a black-and-white sketch. Trees are convenient models to begin drawing because they are readily available and unique while still maintaining similar elements. Once you learn how to manage your strokes on different leaf variants and lighting, the skills will extend to other models.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Pencil sharpener
- 10 or more clean sheets of paper
Study the trees around you by observing how the sunlight hits them, the directions their leaves lie and particularly the shapes and variety of shadows that the leaves and branches create. You can add depth to your picture through a great awareness of the shapes of shadows.
Sharpen your coloured pencils to a fine point and lay out your paper in a clean work space.
Outline and fill in the areas of darkest shadows to begin your picture. Perhaps use your darkest green to create the spaces that are farthest from the viewer and deepest in the tree. All other elements of the tree --- the branches, leaves and highlights --- will be based off these dark shadows. Trees are created more through creation of space and areas of colour than through direct sketch of leaves and branches.
Define the highlights, or lightest areas of the tree where the sun hits it, by lightly shading the outline with a yellow or your lightest green. These spaces, along with the shadows, create the visual spectrum that defines the tree itself.
Add layers of green shading with different coloured pencils. Extend some of the dark shadows with a medium-dark green to create a space of deep shadow. Feather light green strokes around the edges of a highlight section to emphasise the light hitting that area.
Add leaves by using the point of a green pencil to create small strokes. These will be denser in the shadowy areas and fewer in well-lit areas. You have already defined your tree with colour, so the leaves here are just to visually associate the areas of colour with areas of denser or fewer leaves on the actual tree. This is a detail stage, so less is often more.
Use a variety of brown pencils to add branches and the trunk in the few areas where they peek out from behind the leaves. Do not draw a sweeping branch if it is not visible; most of a tree branch visibly lies behind the leaves that you have already drawn. Most of the visible trunk is at the base of the tree. As with the leaves, shadow and highlight play a significant part in the creation of both your branches and your trunk, so make sure you distinguish them through light and dark colours.
Finish your picture by erasing all stray marks and spraying the picture with a sealant; hairspray works nicely.
Tips and warnings
- Make sure your hands and your workspace are clean to avoid contaminating the picture with outside dirt.
- Practice each element many times on the extra sheets of paper you have to get the strokes right.
- Experiment with different strokes and levels of pressure to find the specific layer of intensity and shape you want for your trees.
- Learning to draw well takes skill and time, so be patient with yourself if the trees do not look quite right in the beginning.
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