How to Draw Pine Needles

How to Draw Pine Needles

Today’s mini-tutorial shows you how to draw pine needles. This is a very basic tutorial in which I used only one color to draw the demo piece. But you can use the same method for a full color study of pine tree needles or pine trees.

How to Draw Pine Needles

One note before I begin. The drawing method I’m about to show you is not the only way to draw pine needles. It’s just the way I drew this small drawing of pine needles. It’s a good way to develop any subject from large, basic shapes, to smaller and smaller shapes.

But every artist is different, so this method may not work for you.

By the way, the drawing is 3-1/2″ by 2-1/2″ inches, and drawn on Bristol Vellum. I used Prismacolor Dark Brown, because that color provides for a wide range of values. It’s also one of my favorite sketching and drawing colors.

Step 1

I lightly sketched in three branches and the large shapes of the pine needles on each branch. For this particular type of pine, the needles are long and grow in clumps along the smallest twigs and branches. Other types of pine trees have short, bristling needles all along the smallest branches. You would have to rough in the shapes differently for that type of pine tree.

I’m so accustomed to sketching with colored pencils that it’s become second nature! If you prefer, you can do this step with a graphite pencil or an erasable colored pencil such as Prismacolor Col-Erase. That would give you a bit more flexibility by allowing you to erase and redraw if necessary.

Step 2

Next, using a sharp pencil and light pressure, I filled in the three shapes with long, sweeping strokes. I started at or near the branch and stroked outward, varying the angle and direction of the strokes so that the needles began to look like pine needles.

I drew beyond the outlines most of the time, since I want the outlines to disappear as the drawing develops.

You’ll also notice that I drew some strokes outside the outlines. That’s because as the branches grow out, the needles separate from the main group of needles. Eventually, they fall off, leaving bare branches.

I’m drawing from memory. You will probably want to find a good reference photo or two to practice with. I’ve been looking at trees a long time and for sketching purposes, memory suffices. For finished work, however, I would use a reference photo.

Step 3

I continued adding strokes over the previous work. At this point, I began adding the suggestion of shadows around each group of needles, and between some of the smaller clumps of needles.

I also continuing drawing outside the original outlines, hiding them among the darkening needles.

If I were going to do full color, I would start adding greens and other colors at Step 3.

Step 4

The final step is darkening the shadows a little bit more, then adding a bit of detail to the twigs. I got careless and dropped my pencil, leaving a stray mark below the first three branches. I turned that into another branch with a few dead needles on it.

How to Draw Pine Needles

That’s One Way to Draw Pine Needles

Or maybe I should say, that’s one way to sketch pine needles.

The most important tip I can close with is to pay attention to the tree you’re drawing. Pine needles grow in different arrangements on different types of pines.

Also, you can use the same basic method to draw a full tree, but you will need to reduce the amount of detail as the trees recede into the distance of your drawing. Color and values also change the further away from you a tree is.

So study your subject, and then draw what you see. The method I’ve described here will help you draw any kind of pine tree needles simply by changing the type and arrangement of strokes.

Sign up for Carrie’s free weekly newsletter and be among the first to know when she publishes new articles.


  1. Richard A Steffens

    I liked your comment about dropping your pencil. I’ve done that so many times when I’ve been drawing or coloring in something and I fell asleep at my desk. And if it’s hard to erase a mark I made, I just try to draw it into something else that will blend in. I rarely draw evergreens or pine trees other than in the distance but if I do draw them up close now, I will use your method. Looks really good!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *