The question for today is how to draw a flowering tree. The question comes from Gail, and here’s what she had to say.
Because it is Spring time, I would love to learn how best to do a flowering tree in colored pencil. It may be all one bright color like a pink Peach Tree or with some blossoms and some greenery; like an orange tree with white blossoms.
I would love to know how you would do something like that. I have some photos of small flowering trees if you want to see them.
First of all, I want to thank Gail for her question. I’ve never drawn a tree in bloom, and my experience drawing flowers is extremely limited, so I had to give this some thought.
It didn’t take long to realize that the best way to answer Gail’s question was with a quick tutorial. So I asked to see some of the photos she mentioned. She sent three. This is the one I chose.
I also asked Gail how she wanted to draw a tree, whether as the main subject or in a landscape. That does make a difference. She told me she wanted to know how to add a flowering tree to a landscape drawing.
So that’s what I’ll focus on in this tutorial.
How to Draw a Flowering Tree in Five Steps
Now, drawing a tree like this might look intimidating, but it isn’t really. All you really need to do is draw the general character of the tree. Remember, this is just one element in a landscape. It probably won’t be the center of interest. It also probably won’t be very big, so you don’t need much detail.
My example is 4 inches by 6 inches on Bristol Vellum, but the same method works at any size and on any papers. Be aware that if you choose to use sanded art paper, you’ll have to adjust your drawing method somewhat, but the basics still apply.
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Sketch the “Bare Bones”
I start by sketching out the bare bones of the tree. I begin with a neutral color, usually a medium-light value earth tone like Prismacolor Light Umber or Polychromos Raw Umber, or a medium-light gray. The color is based on the subject. Earth tones for brown branches, grays for gray branches. Whatever color I use, I want a color that blends into the drawing and “disappears.”
That’s not a hard-and-fast rule, though. Sometimes I sketch with whatever color is handy.
Whatever color you choose, keep the lines very soft and light. What you’re creating is a road map and you’ll cover those lines as the drawing progresses.
I’ve darkened this sketch a bit so you could see it. It’s still quite light, but it gives you an idea of what I mean when I say I “lightly sketch” something. The idea is to begin developing the “bare bones” of the subject without using lines so dark or heavy that you can’t cover, change, or erase them.
Remember that you don’t need to draw the tree exactly. Draw the general shapes and character, instead.
Also remember that the smaller the tree is in the landscape, the less detail you need to draw.
Step 2: Sketch the Flowers and Start Shading
Next, I sketched in the flowers. Because this tree is meant to be an accent in a landscape, I blocked in the flowers as general shapes in groups. I used light pressure and circular strokes to sketch overall shapes, along with a few individual flowers. There will be very little detail here, mostly color and value, so it’s not important to get every flower in exactly the right place.
I used a light purplish-pink as the base color, as shown here.
Then I used the same light brown I used to sketch the tree to add shadows. Again, I used circular strokes to rough in the shadows on the trunk and bigger branches. I also added stems to some of the larger individual flowers on the smaller branches and twigs.
Use a light hand with this step. You’re still establishing shapes and placement, so leave room for corrections. It’s also easier to remove color when you use light pressure.
This photo is darkened slightly so it’s easier to see.
Step 3: Continue Adding Color & Value
Once the main shapes are established to your satisfaction, finishing the tree is a matter of layering to develop color and value. As I mentioned before, you don’t need to worry about a lot of detail if your flowering tree is merely an accent in a larger landscape. Getting the main shapes, colors, and values correct will identify the tree.
I went over the trunk and branches with a medium-dark gray to darken the values and tone down the brown. I went over it several times, using light pressure and mostly circular strokes to build color and value. In the smaller branches, I used directional strokes.
Where flowers overlap branches, I worked around the flowers.
The most interesting part of the tree (to me) is the place where three branches twist and overlap near the center, so I put the darkest values and most contrast in that area.
Then I added darker pinks to the flowers. I referred to the reference photo, but only briefly. The number and detail of the flowers can quickly become overwhelming. Unless you’re doing hyper-realism, it’s not necessary. Especially since this little tree is meant for a larger landscape. Too much detail would be distracting.
So I added the darker values on the shadowed sides of the buds, and in random places on the other flowers. Where several flowers overlap, I treated them as a single shape.
Step 4: Finishing the Tree
To finish the branches and trunk, I alternated layers of a medium-dark and light gray, black, and medium brown. I increased the pressure for each layer, then used the light gray as a blending layer.
Then I darkened the shadows with touches of black, applied with medium-heavy pressure.
To keep the focus for this study on the “y” branches, I used the most black there. But I also used the brown in the main parts of the tree, and used only the grays on the smaller branches further from the trunk.
At this point, I wasn’t using the reference photo at all. Instead, I added small details where they seemed necessary to make the tree interesting on its own.
Step 5: Finishing a Flowering Tree
The last step was bringing the flowers to the same level of detail as the tree. I used three shades of pinks and purples to add just enough detail to make it clear these were flowers and what color they are.
The final layer was applied with medium heavy pressure to fill in the paper holes and create full color saturation.
I also added more random shapes to suggest more flowers.
To finish this study, I added grass around the tree using two shades of green, and a few strokes of black in the shadow cast by the tree.
How to Draw a Flowering Tree
Keep in mind that this little tree is meant for a larger landscape. If I were to draw it as the subject, I’d put a lot more detail into it.
And time, as well.
How you draw a flowering tree depends on how large or small it is in the landscape, and whether or not it’s a main element. The closer to the foreground the tree appears, the more contrast, detail, and color saturation you have to draw.
The more distant it is, the less of each you need to worry about. And if it’s just a small shape, get the vague shapes and colors correct and you’ve nailed it.
The amount of detail you include also depends on your particular style. If you draw in a more detailed style, then every part of your landscape will be more detailed.
And if you prefer a looser style, then you’ll want to draw this flowering tree with less detail than I have.
I hope this tutorial has been helpful, and enjoyable!