How to draw trees with coloured pencils

Immerse yourself in the natural world as you hone your artistic skills with our comprehensive guide on how to draw trees.

With coloured pencils in hand, we'll guide you through the intricate details of various tree species, exploring their unique shapes, textures, and colors.

From the towering majesty of a pine tree to the delicate structure of a birch, this guide will shine a light on the techniques needed to capture their essence on paper. You will learn to harness the power of light and shadow, understand the nuances of texture and depth, and master the art of drawing realistic and captivating trees.

So, sharpen your pencils, and let's embark on this artistic journey together.

Drawing tree shapes

The United Kingdom harbours many trees, each boasting a unique shape and size. It might be beneficial to purchase a tree identification book for precise identification. However, an exact classification is not always necessary for trees in the distance.

To provide a brief overview, Pine, Fir, and Poplar trees boast proud, easily identifiable silhouettes that tower majestically. In contrast, Birch trees present a more delicate and airy structure, allowing generous glimpses of the sky through their branches. Oaks, meanwhile, exude strength and endurance with their broad trunks and lush, dense canopies.

Meanwhile, while sharing Oaks's rounded stature, Sycamores and Sweet Chestnuts present a more open shape punctuated with numerous "sky holes."

The diagram above demonstrates the branching patterns characteristic of various tree species, serving as a helpful visual guide for accurately sketching leaf-heavy trees.

The 'Skeleton' of a tree

Remembering that each tree has its unique structure and character is important. By understanding the "skeleton" of a tree, you can bring your drawings to life.

The trunk serves as the tree's backbone, providing support and stability. Depending on the species, it can be thick and sturdy or slender and graceful. As the trunk extends upward, it branches into smaller limbs and twigs.

When drawing branches, it's helpful to think of them as a series of tapered cylinders. The branches closest to the trunk are thicker and gradually thinner as they reach the outermost tips.

Think about how light would naturally hit these surfaces, creating areas of highlight and shadow. Incorporate these elements into your sketch to add dimension and depth.

Observing real trees can provide valuable insights into their branching patterns. Take a walk in a park or forest and study the way branches twist and turn, reaching towards the sky. Notice how some branches grow upward while others droop downward. These unique characteristics give each tree its own personality.

The tree's canopy can be dense or light and airy, with plenty of "sky holes" between the clusters of leaves. 

light and airy foliage

Observe the details

Don't be afraid to get up close and personal with trees to study their intricate details. Take note of the bark, the subtle variations in colour, and the delicate veins of the leaves. These small details can make a big difference.


Textures add interest to your tree drawings. Depending on the tree species, the bark can be rough and textured or smooth and peeling. Experiment with different shading techniques to create this texture. Cross-hatching, stippling, and blending can all be used to achieve different effects and mimic the unique characteristics of each tree species.

Learn more about the different colored pencil strokes you can use here. 

rough tree barkDeep crevices
hole in old treeHole in a dead tree

The colour of tree bark can also vary greatly, depending on the species.

It's not just a uniform grey or brown; it's a complex tapestry of colours, textures, and patterns. Observe closely, and you'll notice a range of hues from silver and charcoal to rust and ochre. Use your coloured pencils to capture these variations, layering colours and using different pressures to mimic the texture of the bark.

Learn more about the layering process with coloured pencils here

Old dead trunks can have holes and crevices, indicated by darker tones and rougher textures.

cracked trunksCracks and knots in rusty-coloured trunks
rough-barkRough textured trunk


when rendering the leafy canopy, resist the urge to draw each leaf individually. Instead, consider them as collective shapes that create patterns of light and shadow. 

From the vibrant greens of spring and summer to the fiery reds and oranges of autumn, each season brings its unique palette to the foliage. 

In addition to colour, texture is another important element when drawing tree foliage. Some leaves are smooth and glossy, while others are jagged or have intricate patterns. By varying your pencil marks, you can create different textures and add depth to your drawings.


Finally, don't forget about the environment around the tree. A tree doesn't exist in isolation; it's part of an ecosystem. Consider including grass, flowers, or wildlife to provide context and create a more immersive scene.

coppiced treeMany trunks
fungus on trunksFungus on tree trunk

In conclusion

In conclusion, drawing trees can be a fascinating and rewarding experience. By paying attention to the details and shapes in front of you - rather than relying on memory - you can create more accurate and realistic drawings.

Drawing trees is more than a mechanical taskā€”it's an intimate journey of observing, understanding, and translating nature's beauty onto your paper. You now have the tools to turn your observations into art, to see the individuality in each tree, their unique structures, the interplay of light and shadow, and the myriad colours and textures that make each one a masterpiece of nature.

Don't just draw trees; immerse yourself in them. Feel the rough texture of the bark, look up and lose yourself in the labyrinth of branches, and study the dance of light and shadow on the leaves. The more you observe, the more you'll see, and the richer your drawings will become.

So, take up your coloured pencils, step outside and breathe in the beauty around you. Every tree is a story waiting to be told, a character waiting to be brought to life. You, as the artist, hold the power to make that happen.

Drawing trees is no longer a challenge but an adventure!

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