Drawing Realistic Forests: 5 Practical Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. How to use varied textures
  2. How to draw realistic tree bark
  3. How to depict depth and distance
  4. How to draw different types of trees
  5. How to use light and shadows effectively

Are you fascinated by the serene beauty of forests and wish to capture their magic on paper? Drawing a realistic forest can be a daunting task, especially when you want to depict the enchanting light filtering through the trees. But don't worry, you're not alone in this journey. Here, we'll explore five practical tips on how to draw a realistic forest with light filtering through. You'll be able to create stunning, lifelike drawings that transport viewers into the heart of the woods.

How to use varied textures

The first step in capturing the majestic beauty of a forest is mastering the use of varied textures. The texture of your drawing can make or break its realism. But how do you create a palette of textures that bring your forest to life?

Understanding Texture

Texture in art refers to the perceived surface quality of a work. It's what makes a tree trunk look rough or a leaf appear smooth. When you're drawing a forest, you'll want to include a variety of textures.

  • Tree bark: Tree bark has a rough texture. You can depict this by using short, thick lines or cross-hatching.
  • Leaves: Leaves can be smooth or slightly textured depending on the type of tree. For smooth leaves, use lighter strokes. For textured leaves, a combination of light and dark strokes can create the desired effect.

Creating Texture

Creating texture in your drawing involves a mix of observation, technique, and the right tools. Here's how you can achieve it:

  1. Observe: Before you start drawing, take a moment to observe the textures in a real forest or in high-quality photos. Notice the contrast between the rough bark and the smooth leaves.
  2. Technique: Use different pencil techniques to create varied textures. For instance, use stippling for rough textures and smooth shading for smoother ones.
  3. Tools: Different drawing tools can help you create different textures. Pencils are great for detailed work, but don't forget about charcoal or pastels for broader textures.

By mastering varied textures, you'll be well on your way to depicting a realistic forest. But remember, practice makes perfect. So, don't be discouraged if your first few attempts don't turn out as you'd like. Keep going, and soon, your forest will start to take shape!

How to draw realistic tree bark

Now that you've got a handle on creating varied textures, let's dive straight into the heart of the forest – the tree bark. You might be wondering, "Why focus on the tree bark?" Well, a forest isn't a forest without its towering trees, and the bark is a significant part of these majestic beings. So, let's explore how to draw realistic tree bark.

Observing Tree Bark

The key to drawing realistic tree bark lies in careful observation. Each tree species has its unique bark texture and pattern—some have smooth, almost glossy bark, while others boast a rough, craggy surface. Here's a simple approach to observing tree bark:

  1. Close and Far: Observe the tree bark both up close and from a distance. Notice the overall pattern from afar and the fine details up close.
  2. Variations: Pay attention to the variations in the bark's surface. It's not uniformly flat or uniformly rough—there are always variations. Capture these in your drawing to add realism.

Drawing Tree Bark

Observation is just the first step. Next, let's figure out how to translate these observations onto paper. Here are a few tips:

  • Start with the Outline: Begin with the general shape of the tree trunk or branch. This is your canvas for the bark texture.
  • Sketch the Pattern: Next, lightly sketch the overall pattern of the bark, following your observations.
  • Add the Details: Now, it's time for the details. Use varied line weights, sharpness, and shading to depict the texture of the bark. Remember, no two trees are the same, so don't shy away from adding unique features!

There you have it—your guide on how to draw realistic tree bark. But remember, just like with any skill, practice is the key. So, keep drawing, keep observing, and soon, you'll be creating tree bark so real, you can almost feel its rough texture under your fingertips!

How to depict depth and distance

Moving deeper into our journey of learning how to draw a realistic forest with light filtering through, we come across another important aspect - the illusion of depth and distance. After all, a forest is a vast expanse filled with layers of trees, shrubs, and more. So, how do we translate that three-dimensional depth onto our two-dimensional drawing surface? Let's find out.

Size Matters

One of the simplest ways to show depth in your drawing is through the size of the objects. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Foreground Trees: The trees in the foreground should be larger and filled with more details. This gives the viewers the impression that these trees are closer.
  2. Background Trees: Conversely, the trees in the background should be smaller and less detailed. This creates the illusion of them being farther away.

Play with Colors and Values

Another effective way of showing depth and distance in your forest drawing is through the use of colors and values. Here's what you need to know:

  • Darker Foreground: Objects that are closer to the viewer are usually darker in color. So, make the trees in your foreground darker and richer in color.
  • Lighter Background: As objects recede into the distance, they appear lighter due to atmospheric perspective. So, use lighter colors and values for your background trees.

By using these simple yet effective techniques, you can create a sense of depth and distance in your forest drawings. And remember, the key to mastering these skills is through practice and observation. So, grab your sketchbook, head out into the forest, and start drawing!

How to Draw Different Types of Trees

As we journey further in learning how to draw a realistic forest with light filtering through, it's important to remember that not all trees are created equal. A forest is a diverse ecosystem with a variety of tree species, each with its unique features. So, let's learn how to capture this diversity in our drawings.

Understanding Tree Anatomy

Before you begin drawing, it's essential to understand the basic anatomy of a tree. A tree generally consists of the trunk, branches, and leaves. But, each type of tree has unique characteristics. For example, a pine tree has a tall, straight trunk and needle-like leaves, while an oak tree has a broad, spreading crown with lobed leaves. Spotting these differences will help you draw more realistic trees.

Creating a Tree Library

One effective way to practice drawing different types of trees is to create a tree library. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Research: Start by researching different types of trees. Pay attention to their unique shapes, leaf patterns, and bark textures.
  2. Sketch: Sketch each tree in your sketchbook. Try to capture their unique characteristics. The more you practice, the easier it will be to draw these trees from memory.

Adding Variety to Your Forest

Once you've practiced drawing different types of trees, it's time to add variety to your forest drawing. Don't just fill your drawing with one type of tree. Instead, mix and match different types to create a more diverse and realistic forest.

Remember, drawing a realistic forest with light filtering through is not just about accuracy. It's also about capturing the spirit and diversity of the forest. So, don't be afraid to experiment and add your own artistic touch!

How to Use Light and Shadows Effectively

When it comes to figuring out how to draw a realistic forest with light filtering through, mastering the art of light and shadow is key. Not only does it add depth to your drawing, but it also sets the mood and atmosphere of the scene. So, let's dive into some practical tips on how to use light and shadows effectively in your forest drawings.

Identifying the Light Source

First things first—you need to identify the light source in your drawing. Is it the sun peeking through the treetops, or perhaps the soft glow of the moon? Knowing your light source helps you understand where the shadows will fall, making your drawing more coherent and realistic.

Creating Shadows

Shadowing is not merely filling in spaces with a dark pencil. It's an art in itself! Here's a simple way to approach it:

  1. Observe: Look at real-life examples or photographs of forests and observe how shadows fall. Notice the different shades in the shadows. They are not uniformly dark, are they?
  2. Draw: Start by lightly shading the areas away from the light source. Gradually build up the darkness, keeping in mind that shadows are darker closer to the object casting them and lighter as they get further away.

Adding Highlights

Highlights are areas where light directly hits an object. In a forest, these would be the tree tops, the edges of the trunks, or the forest floor where the light filters through. To create highlights, leave these areas lightly shaded or even white, depending on the intensity of the light.

Remember, when drawing a realistic forest with light filtering through, it's the interplay of light and shadow that brings your forest to life. So, keep practicing and you'll have a luminous, lifelike forest before you know it!

If you enjoyed our tips on drawing realistic forests and want to take your illustration skills even further, we highly recommend checking out Carolina Vázquez's workshop, 'How to Bring Your Illustrations to Life.' This workshop will provide you with valuable techniques and insights on how to breathe life into your artwork, making your illustrations truly stand out.