How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil

This month, I’m going to share tips on how to draw landscapes with colored pencil. If you have a particular question or topic you’d like to learn about, send me an email.

We’ll begin with several general tips that will help you draw any type of landscape.

First, let’s dispel a couple of myths about landscape drawing and landscapes in general.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil: Common Myths

Landscape drawing month begins with the debunking a few myths about drawing landscapes and tips on how to draw landscapes in colored pencil.

Myth #1: Landscapes Are Too Complex

Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil

Landscapes can be complex and many are. All we have to do is look at some of the breathtaking landscapes painted by the Masters and others.

But they don’t have to be complex.

The plain truth is that you can draw a stunning landscape focusing on a single tree, rock, or path. Clearly, you need enough of a landscape to keep your subject from becoming a study, but the point is that you don’t have to draw sweeping vistas in order to draw believable landscapes.

The small tree in the photo above and the rocks in the photo below are great centers of interest in otherwise “simple” landscapes. Both images show the kind of space (distance) most people associate with landscapes, but neither one is overly complex.

What’s my point?

Use your imagination, drawing skills, and accurate values to make any subject a vista!

Myth #2: Only Certain Styles Work With Landscapes

Blatantly not true!

Just look at these two landscapes, drawn with my own hand. One painterly, and one more detailed.

If you need further evidence, take a look at works by landscape artists such as Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, and JMW Turner, to name just three.

Myth #3: Only Certain Mediums are Suitable for Landscapes

I’m not going to argue that some mediums are better suited for landscapes than others. Wet media such as oils, acrylics, and watercolors are excellent for quick studies, and finished paintings of landscapes.

But colored pencils are also great for capturing the landscape. Yes, it takes more time, but don’t let that stop you if you really want to try your hand at drawing a landscape. Remember, it doesn’t have to be complicated!

Myth #4: Not Everyone Can Draw a Landscape

Again, not true. Anyone can draw a landscape! If all you do is sketch the view from your front porch or out your living room window, that’s a landscape.

Don’t sell yourself short, like I used to do. Give landscape drawing a try. You might just be surprised at the results.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil: Tips To Get You Started

Tip #1: Start Small

The best advice I can give anyone who wants to start drawing landscapes is to start with a small drawing. That’s what I did. My first dedicated landscape drawing was only 5 x 7.  It was large enough to draw a decent amount of detail, but small enough that I was able to finish it over the course of two weeks or less. That was a major encouragement!

Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil
Spring 2012 Colored Pencil on Paper

Read How to Create a Colored Pencil Landscape Under Drawing on EmptyEasel.

Tip #2: Start with Familiar Techniques

Landscapes can be complicated enough without also trying to learn a new drawing method.

Use your favorite drawing methods with your first landscape. When you’ve drawn enough landscapes to be comfortable with them (three or four, maybe), then you can start trying different methods.

Tip #3: Look for a Subject with Character

The ideal subject is one that catches your eye and holds your attention. The character of the subject has a lot to do with that.

For example, if you want to draw drift wood, don’t choose a piece of driftwood that’s ordinary. Look for something unique.

Tip #4: Focus on Composition

No matter what your subject, your medium or style, or the size of your artwork, composition is a key ingredient. It doesn’t matter whether you compose by intuition, use the Rule of Thirds, or some other tool. If the composition is off or unbalanced, the finished art work will also look off or unbalanced.

How to Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil - Rule of Thirds

This image has been cropped so that the tree is at an ideal location for the rule of thirds.

The tracks lead your eye into the composition and to the tree. So do the trees on the horizon, and the clouds.

The horizon is about one third of the way up the composition, so the composition is not cut in half horizontally.

This is not the only way to design a composition, but it is an easy way.

Tip #5: Don’t Fuss Over Exact Detail

You don’t have to get every branch on every tree exactly the way it appears in real life to draw a believable landscape. Unless your goal is hyper-realism (in which viewers can’t tell the difference between your reference photo and your drawing), all you really need to get right is the “character” of the tree.

For example, pine trees look different from hardwood trees. Even at a distance you can tell them apart.

What’s more, Blue Spruce trees look different from White Pines and they’re both different from Jack Pines and Lodge Pole Pines. That doesn’t even begin to consider all the different hardwoods.

Water is similar. You don’t have to get every detail correct in order to draw water.

But you do need to accurately draw the character of the things in your landscape. Look for overall shapes. If it helps. think of the parts of the landscape as abstract shapes (especially helpful with water.)

Draw Landscapes with Colored Pencil

Tip #6: Work on Small Sections

There’s a lot to draw even with simple landscapes. Try working one small area at a time, moving from one to the next as you get close to completion. Even if all you do is finish an area the size of a postage stamp each day, you’ll see clear progress and that will keep you motivated and moving forward.

When the drawing is complete, go over it one more time to make any adjustments that might be necessary.

Tip #7: Follow the Reference Photo

Don’t try to wing it and draw a landscape from memory. If you want to learn how to draw landscapes, draw from life when you can, or from reference photos like those I’ve shared here.

Still Not Convinced You can Draw a Landscape with Colored Pencil?

Try this. Take your pencils and a pad of paper and go outside (or sit in front of a window.) Sketch whatever part of a landscape you can see. Don’t try to make a finished drawing. Just sketch and have fun.

Even if all you draw is a branch on a tree, the horizon line, or a nearby group of stones, you’ve still made a start.

And that’s sometimes the hardest part about any artistic endeavor!

As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m focusing on landscape drawing this month, so if there’s a topic you’d like me to address, leave a comment below or send me an email.

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Reference photos from Pixabay.


  1. Christine Hammock

    Thank you for article about landscapes. Green is my favorite color and I am beginning a landscape. After reading this article I am going to focus on one tree instead of a group of trees. Thanks for all the tips.

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