How to draw trees in watercolour pencil

Learning how to draw trees using watercolour pencil is an exercise that will prove useful should you want to try our two landscape step by steps shown at the bottom of this page.

Both these projects involve the use of watercolour pencils and will allow you to draw trees in full leaf. Before tackling this tutorial you may also like to check out the page of drawing trees where we investigate the shapes of trees in more detail along with lots of other information on the subject. 

The principle entails the use of a scribbled stroke of different suitable colours on to your piece of watercolour paper. If you have not already tried this, I suggest you copy the example shown here on a separate piece of paper to develop your skills before working on a full project. 

You can see on the left the result of laying down a series of overlapping layers of scribbled strokes in the shape the tree will become. We will need areas of light and shade when we draw trees and sometimes spaces where the sky shows through.

Bear this in mind when you come to apply the brush to the paper and ensure you leave spaces and make areas of stronger colour. I have used mainly greens and yellows here with a small amount of brown.


I show you here what the result is of taking a DAMP brush to the pencil pigment.

Using a small nylon type watercolour brush with just enough water in it to feel damp against the back of your hand, the pencil scribbles have been merged leaving areas where the colour is stronger and areas much lighter.


This is our tree with more layers of dry pencil colour added.You can see that I have used two or three different greens, a greenish yellow, some ochre, and some darker brown.

Make sure that you go for a grey brown if you have one, most tree trunks and branches are grey and therefore something like a Bistre, or Sepia works well to put in some branch structure.

Leave spaces where the branches disappear behind leaves.You can see here that I have carefully left some sky showing through.


That small springy brush will be able to move the colour around on the paper and you will be able to make the shapes you need to show the light on the tops of the branches and the shadow on the undersides.You will also be able to work some light into the tree trunk as seen in the lower part of this final picture of our exercise.

With these techniques you will be ready to get to work on the canal scenes.Bear in mind that you can still go into that final tree image with dry wax or watercolour pencil to add fine detail if you work with a fine point on the pencil. All the structure is there and the paper can take a lot more dry colour.


Ready to draw trees in our step by steps now?

We mentioned two step by steps at the top of the page. Here are photos of what you can produce using the techniques you have learned.

Grand Union Canal in Milton Keynes - tutorial

This step by step watercolour pencil tutorial features a Canal scene from coventry. 

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