When I started writing this post, I fully intended to show you how to draw a tree with colored pencil with a step-by-step tutorial.
Then I decided to begin with a few general tips and by the time I had those outlined, I realized adding a tutorial would make the post way too long. So the tutorial is coming—I’ve already put it on my schedule—and we’ll focus on the general tips.
Avoid Too Many Details
This isn’t something you often hear me say because I love drawing detail, but when it comes to drawing trees and most landscapes, it’s best to avoid trying to draw every detail. Draw the general, overall shape of the tree you’re drawing and the interior shapes (the light and shadow within the tree,) and that’s pretty much all you need.
Use More than One Color
Most of the time, trees are some shade of green. Obviously, Autumn is one time of year when many trees are not green, and there are some trees that are never green, but for the most part, when you draw a tree, you’ll be using a green.
But don’t limit yourself to just one green. Choose a dark green, a middle green, and a light green that work well together. Use each color where appropriate to draw the colors AND values.
For good measure, have an earth tone handy, just in case those greens get a little artificial! Some shade of red or orange also work to tone down greens.
Stay Away from Those Neon Colors
Unless your landscape features something man-made, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find bright, vibrant colors in it. So when you make color selections, stay away from colors that are bright enough to attract the eye, but don’t look at all natural in a landscape.
It may seem faster to use a quick, back-and-forth stroke to lay down color, but that kind of stroke tends to leave pencil marks that later need to be covered up. Sometimes, they can’t be covered up and they haunt you throughout the drawing process. In the long run, you end up spending more time than if you had used careful stroking from the start.
Although you can use strokes that help create the look you want, it’s usually better to make those strokes with deliberation.
Colored pencil naturally slow, like cutting the grass with a pair of scissors. Trying to rush through the process by scribbling or any other means is a short cut you’re better off avoiding.
So take breaks whenever you need to. If you find yourself getting careless or reckless, stop. Take a walk or do something else for a while, then go back to the drawing. I can tell you from experience that that’s a far better—and more productive—option than trying to push through that time of carelessness. That usually just makes matters worse!
Now, lets get down to the business of actually drawing a tree!
How To Draw a Tree with Colored Pencil
I’ve selected a video from The Virtual Instructor at YouTube because the artist uses many of the same stroking methods I use to draw trees.
This video demonstration uses Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils, which are oil-based and can be layered light over dark. There are other differences, as well, but you should be able to use the same general method with wax-based pencils with only a few adjustments.
Points of Interest
Because the artist uses Faber-Castell Polychromos, several tips on using these pencils and other oil-based pencils are included. Among them are:
Color choices for creating realistic greens and browns
Layering methods unique to oil-based pencils
Burnishing with oil-based pencils
It would have been nice had the artist explained each of those a little more completely, but his technique is a great way to draw an individual tree or a whole forest. I use a lot of the same stroke patterns and color choices.
My favorite papers—Stonehenge and Bristol—would be great surfaces.
If you just want to practice, a standard drawing pad would also be satisfactory.
I hope this video helps you get a grip on drawing trees with colored pencil. The real secret, no matter which method you use, is balancing a small amount of detail in the right places—usually around the edges of the tree and the edges of light and shadow—with broader areas of varied color and value.
In other words, you don’t have to draw every leaf or branch!