How to Draw Distant Foliage With Pen and Ink

In this post, I will describe how to draw distant foliage with pen and ink. Distant foliage often unifies different elements in a landscape composition and can greatly enhance the feel of a scenery. It is relatively easy to draw and can be used very effectively for tonal balance in a composition. Here I will demonstrate few different ways to draw distant foliage. Different techniques evoke different feel and can be used appropriately to add visual appeal to the drawing.

Drawing Distant Foliage, Technique 1:

In this method open loops are used to draw top of distant foliage. Such loops provide feeling of open airy feel needed for foliage. Avoid using hard lines for drawing any kind of foliage outline. Parallel lines are used to tone the area of foliage and small dark’s are added to give it feeling of volume and depth. Make the bottom bit darker as top receives more light and this gives it more feeling of volume.

draw distant foliage

Layered Distant Foliage:

Layered foliage shapes are added with their size getting smaller with distance. Make sure to leave a small sliver of white at the top of a foliage mass. This adds to depth and also helps to distinguish it from layer behind it.

layered distant foliage

If you are not comfortable drawing parallel lines, then ‘leaf stroke’ discussed in drawing foliage tutorial can be used instead of parallel lines. In this case, the process is very similar to drawing bush, though at a smaller scale.

Drawing Distant Foliage, Technique 2:

Above method creates a ‘bushy’ feel for distant foliage. To create a more ‘tree’ feel for distant foliage, a wriggly line depicting top of distant tree line is drawn and then shaded using vertical parallel lines to create distant ‘tree’ foliage. Make the bottom slightly darker as top receives Sun and is brighter.

drawing distant foliage

Angled parallel lines can be used as well as shown below.

using parallel lines for distant foliage

Layers of distant foliage can be created using this method as well as shown below.

layers of distant foliage

How Distance affects foliage perception:

Due to perspective, as more details are added, the foliage tends to appear closer to the viewer. To make a foliage appear very distant, use a very light uniform tone. At large distance, the difference in tone between the top and bottom is not perceived and hence very distant foliage is seen in same uniform light tone as shown below. Also the size reduces with distance and hence very distant foliage is relatively much smaller in size.

very distant foliage
Very Distant Foliage

As the foliage comes closer, the difference in tone between the top and bottom of foliage can be seen and also some darker areas representing denser foliage are perceptible. Thus, for a ‘middle to not too far’ foliage, the bottom should be darkened a little and some dark spots  for denser foliage can be added as well.  The size also gets relatively little bigger.

middle foliage
Middle to Not Too Far Foliage

Near by Wooded Area:

Even closer, distinct trees are perceptible. A wooded area that is close is a great addition to any scene. Following are the steps in drawing it. As you can see, distinct tree shapes are drawn as they are perceptible at this distance.

distant foliage with trees

Here is another example. By using different shapes, different feel can be obtained.

wooded lot 2

Making the trees relatively bigger moves the foliage/wooded area even closer. Following is such an example where due to bigger size of trees, it is perceived to be closer.

Above techniques can be extended and used in layers to create pleasing landscapes with distant/background foliage as the main element. Following is such a drawing. Add some trees in front to give it more interest. Water can be used in foreground as well. Drawing these other elements is discussed in pen and ink drawing tutorials.


Templates & Workbooks:

Click here to download PDF with templates and finished drawings to practice drawing distant foliage. In vol 1&2 of my pen and ink drawing workbooks, I discuss additional ways to draw distant foliage. The manner of use of distant foliage/element in a composition along with its interaction with other elements is discussed in detail as well.

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You can find video demonstrations of techniques discussed above at my YouTube channel.

Here are some of my drawings with emphasis on distant foliage.

This completes the tutorial. Feel free to reach out to me with any clarifications. Practice often and have fun.


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