In this tutorial, I will demonstrate how to draw tree branches. Drawing tree branches and twigs is similar in many ways to drawing tree trunk as the strokes and techniques used are the same and it might be helpful to go through that tutorial if you haven’t done so already. I will use short angular line stroke for drawing branches but the same concepts apply to use of other strokes as well.
Drawing and Texturing Tree Branches:
Study tree shapes and branch structure whenever possible, especially when fully visible in winter. There is great diversity in shape, structure and size of different species of deciduous trees. I will explain the general steps in detail here which can be adopted to specific shape that you want to draw.
Key Points to Consider:
- Clearly establish the order of main branches as shown below.
2. Texturing should be done along the direction of the branch. Darken more the area of main branch that is behind and hence would receive less light.
In the following, shading of branch is done along its direction.
3. Indicate the location of side branches appropriately. Darken slightly the point of attachment but don’t make the attachment area completely dark.
4. The order of small branches when crossing each other should be clear. You can even create a small ‘discontinuity’ in the back branch at the point of intersection.
Following drawing shows the use of above points. Study this to understand the points discussed above. Click to see it in detail.
Techniques for Finishing Bigger Branches:
Same techniques that were discussed for finishing trunks apply for finishing branches as well. Main thing to keep in mind is that texturing and crevices for a branch should always be added in the direction of a branch. Study the examples below.
Drawing a Thin Branch with 2 tones:
For a twig or thin branches, proper shading with 3 tones (dark, middle tone and light tone) can’t be done due to thin size. In this case, use only dark and light tones. Darken the top and bottom (bottom slight more) and leave a streak of white in between to give it volume. Make sure that all the edges are ragged as shown below. This is similar to how thin trunks are textured with 2 tones.
When the size of branch is thick enough, use three tones (dark, middle and light tone). As the size reduces and 3 tones can’t be done, switch to two tones (dark and light) and finally use a single tone of solid dark as shown below. Make sure small white is left in the centre as this is what gives the illusion of roundness.
Here are some more examples to study. Different strokes that were used to texture trunk can be used for branches as well when size is sufficient. For smaller secondary branches, 2 tone technique is mostly used. Notice how secondary branches overlap and intersect each other and main branch. This gives more depth to the drawing. Strive for this in your attempts. Click to see details.
One side of the branch is darkened with more strokes to bring out perception of roundness. The lighter side is where the Sun is assumed to be shining.
Following close up shows additional points to keep in mind. Click on the image to see details.
Branches Lying on the Ground:
A very fun simple composition to do bare branches lying on the ground. In this case add grass to define the ground on which branches are lying. Study the examples below. You can watch video demonstration of drawing this composition on my YouTube channel here.
Broken off branch covered with snow is another pleasing drawing that can be quickly and easily drawn in limitless variations from imagination. Learn to draw the following step by step.
Drawing a Young Tree:
A young tree with thin main dividing trunk is a great simple drawing to draw and enjoy. If the size of young tree is not too small, then main trunk can be done with 3 tones and smaller branches with 2 tones. For a very small (or far away) young tree, main trunk is done with 2 tones and branches are tapered sold dark. Following are some examples.
Drawing a Tree Silhouette:
When a tree is sufficiently far away, only its silhouette is discernible. To draw this, use 2 tone technique for the main trunk and use solid line for other branches as shown below. Remember to taper the branches. Foliage can be easily added to give it a different feel as shown below. Adding foliage to a tree is fully discussed in ‘Drawing tree‘ tutorial.
Following is a ‘Tree Branch Study’ that shows drawing branches at different distances using techniques discussed above. Note how 2 tone technique is mostly used for thin tree branches in middle distance. Practice this technique extensively.
Drawing a Bare Bush:
Thin branches and twigs of a bare bush are drawn using 2 tone technique. Following approach can be used to draw it effectively.
More information on adding foliage to a bush and other aspect of drawing a bush is discussed in detail in drawing bush tutorial.
Drawing Tall Twigs:
Bare tall twigs are great small sketches that can be quickly done and can add interest to any scenery. They can be drawn using 2 tone technique as shown below. Notice how ‘discontinuity’ is used at intersection points to clearly establish the order of twigs and hence add more depth to the drawing.
A bush in the back of tall twigs provides a nice backdrop. In this case, make sure to keep small white between the edges of twigs and bush foliage to make the twigs stand out in the front. In the absence of colour, this small white space is necessary to avoid different elements blending into each other.
Drawing Landscapes with Bare Trees:
With techniques discussed above to draw bare winter trees and branches, pleasing landscapes incorporating them as shown below can be easily drawn. Click on it to learn to draw it step by step.
Bare trees and branches can be very effectively combined with darker tone of pine (coniferous trees) to create very effective landscapes as shown below. Learn to draw pine trees here.
This should get you started. Try different branch shapes and use template below to practice. My workbooks contain more content and hands on exercises to try. You can find many more examples to practice in Mini Landscapes.
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Template & Workbooks:
Click here to download PDF file with templates to practice drawing tree branches. Better yet, get my pen and ink drawing workbooks that expands on the material discussed here and are a great way to get started doing pleasing pen and ink landscapes.
You can watch videos of techniques discussed above at my YouTube channel.
Following are some of my drawings where tree branches are prominent.
This completes the tutorial. I would love to hear from you any suggestions for new content or thoughts on improving the tutorials. Practice often and have fun. Also feel free to share it with in your social media using following links.
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