How to Draw Realistic Looking Leaves

Written by deborah walden
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How to Draw Realistic Looking Leaves
Leaves look more realistic with proper use of light and shadow. (Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Factors involved in drawing a realistic leaf include lighting, proportion and distance from your subject. If drawing a leaf from far away, small patches of colour appear realistic. To capture the intricate details of a leaf for an in-depth study, pay attention to lines and shadow. The type of leaf that you draw determines many elements of your sketch, such as shape and size. Study your leaf well, whether you draw from life or a photograph, before beginning your drawing.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    Examine the leaf that you wish to draw. Note its shape and size. Some leaves have smooth, rounded outlines, while others have jagged edges. Pay careful attention to the outline of the leaf to capture these details.

  2. 2

    Sketch the spine of the leaf. Some leafs, like maple, possess several branching or fanning spines. Others, like dogwood, have a strong central spine. Use strong arching lines to capture this shape, rather than straight, unnatural strokes.

  3. 3

    Draw the veins of the leaf as they branch away from the spine. Again, use curving, organic lines to make the veins.

  4. 4

    Use the endpoints of the veins as a guide to draw the outside edge of the leaf. Use soft, fluid lines to define the shape of the leaf. For large leaves with many sections, such as oak, draw the edges in small parts, rather than drawing the entire shape at once.

  5. 5

    Turn your pencil on its side and add soft regions of shadow to the interior of the leaf. Observe the light and shadow of your subject to guide your drawing.

  6. 6

    Using your pencil tip, add shadows that follow the direction of the veins. These strong lines will help capture the texture of the leaf.

  7. 7

    Use an eraser to add smooth edges to highlighted regions, blending them softly into the shadows.

Tips and warnings

  • Never shade in vertical or horizontal lines because this will detract from the natural, organic lines of the leaf.

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