This step-by-step demonstration will walk you through an approach to drawing a coniferous tree (Douglass Fir). The goal is not to copy this one tree but to lean techniques to deal with common drawing problems you will encounter while sketching pines, firs, and other coniferous trees. Try following these steps and examples and then go outside and draw coniferous trees in your neighborhood. Draw ten different trees to see how these techniques apply to the diversity of tree shapes you see. The best way to learn how to draw trees is to start drawing lots of trees.
In this drawing, I demonstrate how to draw front to back. I start with the clumps of needles that are closest to the observer, then move back to get the trunk and major branches, then the masses of needles and branches behind. This is a very good way to get a sense of depth in your drawing.
Pay particular attention to how I handle the branches that stick out toward you. The slight upturn of the branch tips makes an upturned “claw”. Each of the fingers in the claw is a clump of branches that catches light on the outer rim and drops to a deeper shadow toward the interior. Studying these shapes and how to represent them will dramatically improve your ability to draw evergreen trees.
Click on the first drawing to start a step-by-step slide show.
Start by blocking the the basic shape of the mass of the tree. How tall and wide is it? How does it taper? This will help ensure that the silhouette of the final tree will be accurate after you have added detail.
Draw the shapes of the clumps of branches that are facing you. I often see an upward curled “claw” with fingers made from clumps of branches that curl toward me.
Draw the trunk and major branches behind the foreground clumps.
Using a soft, dull pencil, draw the shapes of the masses of foliage on the side of the tree, leaving the front clumps untouched. Practice making branch scribbles to suggest the density of needles. You can do this quickly but slow down at the tip of each branch to sculpt the last branches carefully. A scribble with a careful tip will like a pine branch.
Now work fingers of shadow into the foreground clumps. Along the top edge, leave a little margin of paper between the core shadow and the edge of the clump. This will look like sunlight catching the edges of the groups of needles.
Adjust the values, deepening and unifying some of the shadow areas. Darken parts of the trunk, leaving other areas in sunlight.
You may leave the drawing as a pencil sketch or add watercolor. Paint a grey wash over the drawing
Bring a warm green into the foreground branches.
Darken the rest of the tree with blue-black paint. The tree does not need to be all green to read as a green tree.
A little warm brown in the foreground adds depth. Warm and vivid colors tend to feel closer while cool and unsaturated colors feel as if they are receding into the distance.