How to Draw Tree Branches and Twigs in Pen and Ink

Drawing tree branches and twigs is similar in many ways to drawing tree trunk as the strokes 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 discussed in tree trunk tutorial for drawing branches but the same concepts apply to use of other strokes as well.

In this tutorial, I focus on texturing of tree branches and twigs. More information on drawing the outline of bare trees can be found here.

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.

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree branches in pen and ink

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree branches in pen and ink

Key Points to Consider:

  1. Clearly establish the order of main branches as shown below.

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree branches in pen and ink

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.

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree branches in pen and ink

In the following, shading of branch is done along its direction.

pen and ink tutorial drawing tree branch

3. Indicate the location of side branches appropriately. Darken slightly the point of attachment but don’t make the attachment area completely dark.

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree branches in pen and ink

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.

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree branches in pen and ink

Following drawing shows the use of above points. Study this to understand the points discussed above. Click to see it in detail.

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree branches in pen and ink

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.

pen and ink tutorials drawing branches

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.

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree branches in pen and ink

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.

pen and ink tutorials drawing tree branch

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.

pen and ink tutorial drawing branches

Following close up shows additional points to keep in mind. Click on the image to see details.

pen and ink tutorial drawing branches

Branches Lying on the Ground:

A very fun simple composition to do are 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.

pen and ink tutorial drawing branches

pen and ink tutorial drawing branches

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 young trees

You can watch video demonstration of drawing a landscape with young trees here and here.

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 ‘Foliage‘ tutorial.

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree Silhouette in pen and ink

Following is ‘Tree Branch Study’ that shows drawing branches at different distances using techniques discussed above. Note how 2 tone ‘thin branch’ technique is mostly used for tree branches in middle distance. Practice this technique extensively.

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree branches in pen and ink

Drawing a bare Bush:

Thin branches and twigs of a bush are drawn using 2 tone technique. Following approach can be used to draw it effectively.

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree branches in pen and ink

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.

steps for drawing a twig

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.

pen and ink tutorial, drawing tree branches and twigs in pen and ink

 

This should get you started. Try different branch shapes and use template below to practice. You can find many more examples to practice in Mini Landscapes

Template:

Click here to download PDF file with templates to practice drawing tree branches.

Videos:

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.

Rahul

Back to Tutorials:

I will be regularly adding new templates and tutorials. If you would like to be notified of any new addition, pl. send me your email address in the form below.

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