Drawing a tree

Lots of people seem to have troubles with generic trees for backgrounds.
I actually like drawing generic trees, and there’s a really easy and kind of quick way to do them :3

Now… if you’re looking for a more realistic and/or detailed tree, you’d be better looking at photographs or drawing from the real thing.

This tutorial is meant to be applied in Photoshop or any other similar program, meaning you need to have to know how to use layers and multiply and other modes for layers and brushes. I actually use the same process when painting trees with acrylics~

First: The trunk

First you need to draw the base trunk IN A NEW EMPTY LAYER. This is REALLY important, because we’ll have things that will go behind the trunk and all.


Trunks are not perfectly straight, and they usually tend to get bigger at the roots.
Then throw dome lines that grow away from the trunk up to the sky to see where your tree branches will be.

Now, the branches look awful… you need to give them more width. Just keep this in mind:

The parent branch’s width is the sum of its child branches width. With that in mind, you can add more little branches to your tree¬† to make it look better :3

Now, before we start with anything else, let’s make a palette and give the trunk a dark brown color.
The darker the color the greyer and bluer (or purpler) it tends to be. Below is the palette I’m going to use. This is useful in case I want to go back and retouch an area that has a lighter or darker shade after I’m done, so I don’t have to abuse the eyedropper tool to look for the right color; the right color is right there in my palette! The clever thing is to make your palette in a new layer right next to whatever you’re coloring.

Now let’s give the trunk a dark brown base color, so we can paint over it later.

Second: The foliage

We already have our trunk with branches and all. Now, think about leaves. leaves come from the branches right? But sometimes the branches are so thin we can’t really tell them apart from a distance. We also realize that there are leaves that are behind he branches from our point of view… We’ll start with those first.

So now make a new layer BEHIND the trunk layer. This is where our background foliage will be.
Now, the trick to quick-painting a tree is to have the right brush.
Pick a round hard brush and, if you have a tablet, get rid of the shape dynamics and turn scattering on. A mouse will do as well, but it’ll be a bit more tricky to control. If you don’t have Photosop or a program with scattering setting, you’ll have to do this by hand.

Pick your darkest green and start dotting around~
you don’t have to restrain yourself to the tips of the branches, remember the thinner branches you “don’t get to see”, so play around a bit. Don’t overdo it, though, try to keep some blank spaces so it doesn’t become a dark blob!

Now that we’re done with that, we’ll do the leaves that are in front of the branches.
You just have to make a new layer IN FRONT of the trunk layer.
Now pick your second darkest green and dot away!
Be sure to keep blank spaces where you can see the branches and the leaves from the back (the darkest green ones)

Now pick the next lighter green in your palette and do it again. This time dot over smaller areas. The leaves you’re making are the ones on top that get more light than the ones you painted before.
Repeat with the rest of the palette, dotting smaller areas each time.

Three: Shading the trunk

Now pick a normal small round brush. Make sure the width of the stroke is pressure sensitive if you’re using a table (using a mouse, again, will be a bit more complicated to make it look good).

Now stroke lightly over the trunk with your second darkest brown drawing strands that run all over the trunk. Make sure to leave spaces between them to show the darkest brown!

Repeat with the rest of the palette, making thinner strands and stroking a smaller area each time. You can use a soft airbrush brush with a medium brown to soften things up.

Keep in mind that the branches are pretty much darkened by the leaves, so they shouldn’t go more lighter than your second or third darkest brown.

Four: Finishing touches

Now, for extra finishing touches, you can do the following (if supported by your program, that is).

Duplicate your foliage layer, blur it a bit and set it to hard light.
Now pick a very light desaturated purple and a soft airbrush brush, set it to multiply and go over some parts of your trunk and your foliage to darken them. Now pick a light yellow, same brush and set it to color dodge. you can now go over the lighter parts or your trunk and foliage softly to give them more “light”.

Now just add some finishing touches, like grass, sky, leaves and flowers at the bottom… And you have your generic background tree :D