How to Draw Sky Holes in Trees

How to Draw Sky Holes in Trees

Today’s question comes from Henry, who wants to know how to draw sky holes in trees. Let’s let Henry ask the question.

Hey Carrie!

Thanks for letting us ask questions this December! I’m so glad you do this sort of thing, and would like to thank you for building such outstanding works of art, advice, and of course, your blog. 

Recently, I’ve been wanting to do an autumn-themed forest. From the resources I’ve read, there’s lots and lots of blending.

After doing some experiments on paper, I’ve found this is true. But I can’t seem to fill in some of the empty gaps between various trees.

Any ideas for filling in these spots? Do you think I just need to add more foliage?

Thanks, Henry

Thank you for the question, Henry. Your project sounds fascinating.

How to Draw Sky Holes in Trees

Before answering Henry’s question, I asked if he wanted to fill in the paper holes or if he needed to draw openings in the foliage. He’s asking about drawing openings in the foliage, otherwise known as sky holes.

Henry’s concluding suggestion of just drawing more foliage is one possible option. Filling in those openings with additional foliage is the easiest solution to this particular problem.

But if the trees are obviously different colors and you want the colors of the background trees to show through the foreground trees, what are the choices?

How to Draw Sky Holes in Trees

Since I can’t offer specific advice without seeing Henry’s reference photo, I’m going to share two general ways of drawing sky holes in trees. First with an individual tree, then with a group of trees.

Planning for Sky Openings in an Individual Tree

This is a detail the drawing of the drawing called, The Sentinel. It shows the main tree in that drawing. I used a complementary under drawing under color glazes for this drawing. That’s not important to this post other than to show that I created the sky holes from the start. When a tree overlaps the sky or landscape without other trees nearby, this is the best way to draw the larger sky holes.

I drew those sky holes at the line drawing stage, and transferred them along with the rest of the drawing. Then I worked around them with each layer of color throughout the under drawing.

I also worked around the sky holes in the color glazing phase.

Notice that not all of the sky holes show sky. There are a few on the lower half of the tree that show the trees in the background.

But the principle is the same. I worked around those openings, then shaded the color over whatever was beyond the tree into the appropriate openings.

This is the finished tree. The original sky holes are still in place, though the shapes and sizes of some are different than when they began.

How to Draw Sky Holes in Trees

I also added more foliage around the edges of the tree after the drawing was nearly finished. To add those details, I stroked around the edges of the big tree with a green pencil. I used a dull or blunt pencil, medium-heavy or heavy pressure, and a stippling (tapping) stroke.

You can use this method for one tree or a small group of trees.

Adding Sky Holes with a Bunch of Trees

Late Spring in the Flint Hills is another landscape. It’s probably closer to the type of drawing Henry is doing, since he mentions a forest. It features a tree belt with trees overlapping other trees, the landscape, and the sky.

Because the trees are all the same color, there’s no need to draw individual sky holes where one tree shows through another. Using value and color to denote individual trees is enough.

But sometimes you need a little more detail.

The detail below is the right side of the tree line. It shows the places where I added fringe foliage over the sky and background hills after both areas were finished.

I used blunt pencils and heavy pressure to apply stippling (tapping) strokes around the edges of some of the trees.

How to Draw Sky Holes in Trees

Unless Henry’s trees are a variety of colors, this method is probably the best answer to his question.

How to Draw Sky Holes in Trees

I’ve never drawn a forest of trees, but I can tell you that I wouldn’t worry too much about openings in trees that overlap other trees. Unless the trees are very different colors (which is possible with an autumn landscape,) openings won’t be noticeable.

So instead of trying to get every opening right, concentrate on those that overlap the sky or simpler landscape elements such as in the detail of Late Spring shown above. The viewer’s eye and brain will fill in the rest of the information.

Thank you for your question, Henry!

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