Knowing how to draw a variety of plants can significantly aid your scene creation and boost the realism of your artwork. Today, I'll be covering step by step how to draw trees, leaves, flowers, and grass strands. Everything in this tutorial is done by hand, without texture brushes, so that it can be recreated regardless of what brushes you have access to.
To see the full process of each tutorial, check out my YouTube video above in which I go over everything as well. Now let's get started!
Brushes, Settings, and Layer Corrections
The Forjjol pack makes for great texture, especially when drawing leaves or bark. It’s seen throughout this Helpful Guide in all of the step by step tutorials.
Forjjol Blur ①
Forjjol Brush ⓧ
Forjjol Brush ④
SAI風厚塗り主線 is a wonderful brush for smooth detailing of petals and close up leaves. Alter its brush settings such as Amount of Paint, Density of Paint, and Brush Density to achieve a wide range of capabilities.
BOKEブラシ provides a romantic effect of lighting, perfect for application atop your scenes or individual flowers to give them flair. It can be seen in Step Fourteen of Rose Painting.
戦場塵ブラシ / Battlefield Dusts Brush makes for wonderful textured dust or dew effects on your scenes or flowers. It can be seen in Step Twelve of Rose Painting.
:: TONAL CORRECTIONS ::
Tonal Corrections can help you to achieve a more balanced and natural looking finished product. We’ll be using them throughout the step by step tutorials.
There are two ways to access Tonal Corrections; (Layer) -> (New Correction Layer) for having the correction appear on all lower layers OR (Layer) -> (New Correction Layer) for having the correction appear on only one layer with a fixed edit. I have demonstrated both methods of access below with images.
Tone Curve alters the contrast of your image and can brighten or darken the individual values within the work. It is used in…
- Step Seven of Aspen Tree
- Step Eight of Aspen Leaf
- Step Nine of Orchard Grass
- Step Eight of Rose Painting
Hue/Saturation/Luminosity changes the colors in the image, adjusts how vibrant everything is, and darkens or brightens the product. It is used in…
- Step Nine of Oak Tree
- Step Nine of Oak Leaf
- Step Five of Willow Tree
:: GRADIENTS ::
Foreground to Transparent Gradient makes a singular smooth ray of color when you drag and drop your mouse across the canvas. It is used in…
- Step Nine of Tree Bark
- Step Eight of Oak Leaf
- Step Four of Willow Tree
- Step Three of Willow Branch
:: LAYER CLIPPING ::
Clipping a new layer to your base layer allows you to draw anywhere on your canvas and have it only appear on top of your base layer. To use this tool, click “Clip to Layer Below” on your layer panel. It is seen throughout these step by step tutorials.
Tree bark is difficult to illustrate due to its extreme texture. While Clip Studio offers many textured brushes on its Assets page for speeding up the time it takes to draw bark, I’ll be free hand drawing it step by step for you to recreate regardless of what brushes you have access to.
- Step One ; Starting off with a brown base, I begin sketching out the general segments of my tree bark. These shapes can vary depending on what tree you are drawing, so I suggest reviewing a reference photo to confirm.
- Step Two ; Next I grab my Forjjol Brush ④ and start adding depth to the segments. No need to get into much detail yet as we’re currently establishing the base colors which will go below everything.
- Step Three ; To add a pop of color and make my base more diverse, I use a warmer value, complimented by a darker, muted value to give the tree a bit of an ashe hue. These colors are placed roughly using the Forjjol Brush ⓧ to provide texture.
- Step Four ; I begin blending all currently existing content for my tree with the Forjjol Blur ① brush. This step is optional, but I feel it allows for the colors to flow more naturally.
- Step Five ; After blurring, I redefine my bark segments once more using a darker shade than they were originally drawn in. To increase realism, try making these lines unsteady and rough, rather than perfectly smooth. You can easily achieve this by decreasing brush Stabilization as needed.
- Step Six ; Start creating a textured surface. I color select the lightest tint in my image then lighten it even further using my color wheel. Having a grasp of where your light source is before laying down the details is important, as that will greatly impact where texture is most visible. Keep in mind the surface is not smooth; It has raised and uneven ledges where the bark may begin to peel off the tree. Highlights are generally more prominent on the edges of raised bark strands that are facing the light source.
- Step Seven ; Begin laying down an even darker value to emphasize the primary bark strands once again. Then, continue adding details and texture to the bark, gradually building up the contrast between lights and darks. Take care not to make your texture too uniform in pattern, but rather vary the shapes you use over the entirety of the tree.
- Step Eight ; We’re getting close to the end! On a new layer set to OVERLAY, use a warm hue towards your light source. Erase where necessary if this layer starts to wear down some of the depth you’ve established.
- Step Nine ; Using the Gradient (G) tool set to Foreground to Transparent, on a new layer with MULTIPLY setting on, create a shadow coming from the opposite end of your light source. Build up this shadow as necessary by creating additional MULTIPLY layers on top of each other. And you’re done! You could continue adding additional texture details if you’d like to further increase realism, but I’ll be stopping here.
The oak tree can be found throughout the world and consists of 600 different species of oak. Because of this, its leaves, size, shape, and color can vary greatly depending on the individual species you select. Before you begin drawing your tree, decide which variation you’ll be making and double check to confirm that it would thrive in the scene you’re placing it in.
- Step One ; Sketch a rough outline for where your tree bark and most visible lower branches will sit. Use a color for your line art that will blend well with your future base color.
OR, immediately jump to painting in the outline instead of first sketching.
- Step Two ; Fill in the base by creating a new layer and coloring beneath your line art layer. I use the Forjjol Brush ④ for this step to provide texture. Then, merge the line art with the base color for easy blending later.
- Step Three ; With Forjjol Brush ⓧ I paint in the base for my leaves. To easily fill in even the back edges of the tree with the bark still showing, create two new layers for the leaves, one placed above your Tree Trunk layer and one placed below it.
Notice that the outline of the tree leaves is not perfectly round; it has uneven edges and protruding bumps where some leaf bundles are placed higher than others.
- Step Four ; With a darker value of green, start creating depth on your tree leaves by outlining the edges of the leaf bundles loosely. They should start towards the tree trunk and work their way outwards.
- Step Five ; Using a lighter color, highlight the tops of the individual leaf bundles where the light source will be hitting them. Start to blend in your colors then and create leaf texture to signify individual leaves around the edges of the leaf bundles.
- Step Six ; Continue to blend in the colors and start further highlighting the very edges of leaf bundle tops in an even lighter color.
- Step Seven ; On layer used for the tree trunk, use a darker shade of brown to define the panels of the tree’s bark. Blend this color in loosely with the original, lighter brown shade used for the tree trunk in Step Two to imply additional shadows.
- Step Eight ; Apply further emphasis on the tree trunk’s panels by darkening the edges and using a brighter, warm tint of color for highlight. Grab a lighter tint of green and add pops of additional highlights on the top of the leaf bundles in the tree, and some darker values color to the branches of the tree leaves to add contrast.
- Step Nine ; As the final step, go to (Layer) -> (New Correction Layer) -> (Hue/Saturation/Luminosity) and make color adjustments to your tree until it’s the correct shade as commonly seen for the species and lighting.
:: OAK LEAF ::
Now that you know how to draw oak trees from a distance and their overall composition, we’ll begin learning how to draw individual leaves for closer, foreground subjects.
Oak leaves can vary greatly depending on the individual species of oak tree you are drawing so be sure to research in advance what variety grows in the climate of the scene you are creating. The following tutorial will be for a white oak tree leaf, which grows best in rich soil and direct sunlight. This species is native to North America.
- Step One ; Begin with the outline of your leaf. It should be somewhat symmetrical, though it is not necessary to make it perfectly symmetrical. To achieve easy symmetry, use the symmetry ruler OR, draw one half of the leaf, duplicate the layer, flip it, and move that duplication to the other side before using your fill tool to fill it in with color.
- Step Two ; Lock your base color layer and draw on top of it, OR, create a new layer and clip it to the lower base layer. Then apply overall highlights closest to where the light source is coming. Leaves are often curved to some degree when attached to a tree in nature, instead of a flat surface, so keep this in mind when coloring.
- Step Three ; Blend in the highlight using a textured blending brush. I use the Forjjol Blur ① brush for this step.
- Step Four ; Using a darker color, start drawing the leaf’s veins. As this oak leaf has considerable curve to its surface, the veins follow the curve of the leaf to help indicate this.
TIP ; The pattern of the veins is called the venation. It varies depending on the species of tree and leaf you’re drawing.
- Step Five ; Using a light pop of green, add more pronounced highlights to where the leaf is most exposed to light. This is generally the most elevated parts of the leaf.
- Step Six ; As our leaf has depth to it, we’ll select a darker shade of green and add in shadows on the side of the center vein not facing the light source.
- Step Seven ; In a bright color, zoom in so that you can see your leaf’s vein clearly and add individual highlights and glossy effects along the vein and stem.
- Step Eight ; Add additional emphasis to your light source by creating a new layer above everything set to OVERLAY. Clip it to your base layer OR use (CTRL + Clicking base layer) to select only your base layer, then use GRADIENT (G) on the Foreground to Transparent setting to make a smooth ray of light. Repeat this step from the bottom of the leaf with layer set to MULTIPLY and a darker color to get your smooth shadow.
- Step Nine ; For the final step, go to (Layer) -> (New Correction Layer) -> (Hue/Saturation/Luminosity) and make color adjustments to your leaf until it’s the correct shade as commonly seen for the species and lighting.
Aspen trees thrive in cool regions and can be found in a variety of soil types and elevations. It is shade intolerant. A notable specialty of the aspen is its extensive root system, sprouting clones of itself from these roots and forming a colony with identical DNA.
The quaking aspen is the widest distributed tree across North America.
- Step One ; As aspen trees are primarily whiter in color, make sure your background isn’t too light that it would wash out the tree itself. The first step is to then, on a new layer, create the narrow outline of your tree.
- Step Two ; A characteristic of aspen is the dark spots that stand out on their primarily light bark. Add in some spots, or dashes, to give your tree character.
- Step Three ; Loosely add in the outlines for your leaves. Due to the small, rounded leaf shape and often lesser quantity of leaves that the tree holds compared some like the oak tree, the aspen’s leaf outline should be spotty and less plentiful.
- Step Four ; With a lighter color, dot in where the highlights will hit from your light source. The dots will also help signify individual leaves.
- Step Five ; Using a darker color, dot in your shadows beneath your highlights and at the bottoms of your leaf bundles. Like with the highlights, use dots rather than broad strokes, to better indicate the textured surface of your aspen.
- Step Six ; Taking into consideration the location and surroundings of your aspen, use a color that compliments the light source and ambiance to make shadows on your wood. As this tree has its leaves turning yellow for autumn, add in some falling leaves to make it more realistic to the season.
- Step Seven ; To allow my aspen to stand out even further, I go in with a light cyan in a layer behind the tree and paint roughly around the leaves. Additionally, I use a deep red to make the shadow that the tree is casting on the ground.
Grab a dark, near black shade next and better define the edges of your aspen. Finally, use the Tone Curve via (Layer) -> (New Correction Layer) -> (Tone Curve) and create any color adjustments as desired to make the image more vibrant.
:: ASPEN LEAF ::
In elevations from 8,000 – 10,000 above sea level, aspens will begin changing color for autumn from mid-September. Most trees will lose their vibrant colors and many of their leaves after intense snow or wind. If planning on viewing the leaves, it's important to monitor the weather and go before bad weather occurs.
- Step One ; Begin with a somewhat symmetrical outline of your leaf. Aspen have uneven edges, and take a circular tear drop shape.
- Step Two ; Use a lighter color to create a manual gradient starting from the bottom of your leaf.
- Step Three ; Using a combination of a redish hue and a yellow, add texture to the center of the leaf and outline some of the edges. I use the Forjjol Brush ⓧ for this step.
- Step Four ; Draw the veins of your leaf and its stem. It helps to zoom in closer to your leaf for this step so that you can easily see what you’re drawing. Rather than perfectly straight veins, apply some degree of curve and uneven width to best achieve realism.
- Step Five ; Further texturize your leaf with deep reds and bright yellows. I apply a deep red to the top of the leaf to counter the yellow bottom.
- Step Six ; Make the vein of the leaf stand add with apparent volume by closely shading the vein on the side opposite to the light source. Then, with a brighter color, add gloss along the vein where the light will hit it.
- Step Seven ; On the ADD (GLOW) layer setting, I place the overall leaf gloss closest to my light source and where the light will most reach.
- Step Eight ; - Step Nine ; Finally, go to (Layer) -> (New Correction Layer) -> (Tone Curve) and make color adjustments to your leaf to make the colors more vibrant and life-like.
Originating in China as a sign of rebirth and immortality, the Willow tree has spread throughout the world in temperate areas. It grows especially well near water.
There are over 400 different species of willow, ranging in size and shape.
Finding ease under the tree during his exile on the island of St. Helena, Napoléon Bonaparte was later buried underneath a willow when he died.
- Step One ; Draw the outline for your tree trunk. A majority of the trunk will often be obscured by the willow’s draping leaves, so no need to get too detailed with the outline yet in its early stages.
- Step Two ; Place the general shape of the leaves on a new layer, above the tree trunk, and a new layer, below the tree trunk, for easy filling. Some erasing will occur on the leaves to clean them up later and refine them so having these in their own layer can save time.
- Step Three ; In a darker color, mark the general outline of each leaf bundle. Willow’s leaf bundles fall vertically unlike many trees.
- Step Four ; Select the GRADIENT (G) tool set to Foreground to Transparent, lock your leaf layers, and make the bottoms of the leaves darker. This will help apply depth to the tree.
- Step Five ; If your tree is getting too lightly colored, use the Hue/Saturation/Luminosity Layer Correction to decrease the Luminosity. This will make highlighting later much easier and place stronger emphasis on the soon to be added brighter values.
- Step Six ; It’s time to work on detailing the individual leaf strands! As seen in the blue numbers 1-3 ;
(1) Start with a mid-range colored shadow for the strand facing away from the light. Work your way down making the shaded strand like a frayed rope.
(2) Obtain a brighter color to use on the side facing the light source. Repeat the process for 1 but with this color, and on the opposite side as 1.
(3) Using a new darker color, decrease brush size slightly and place more attention grabbing shadows to add additional contrast between the lights and darks.
I use the Forjjol Brush ⓧ for this step as it creates great detail and texture.
- Step Seven ; In a new layer set to OVERLAY, obtain a warm color and an opposing cooler color to make lighting effects. Now you’re done!
:: WILLOW LEAF ::
The leaf of the willow tree is long and narrow, featuring a light green color. The leaves are attached to a long, vertical stem and diverge outwards on either side.
The weeping willow got its name due to the resemblance of tears that raindrops have when falling from its branches.
- Step One ; Start with a narrow branch and stem outline. While the branch itself may have some thickness, the center leaf stems are quite thin the further down you go.
- Step Two ; Make a new layer, above Step One. On either side of the stems drawn in Step One, make brisk leaf strokes starting at the top and going downwards.
- Step Three ; Lock your leaf layer. Now, grab a lighter color and use the GRADIENT (G) tool on Foreground to Transparent to make the bottom of the leaves lighter. This will create a sense of depth.
- Step Four ; With a darker color, proceed to add shadows to the leaves. The shadows will be most prominent on the leaves facing away from your light source.
- Step Five ; In an even darker color, add additional shadows closest to the center stems.
- Step Six ; Using a bright highlight matching your light source, create gloss on the leaves and branches where the light directly hits it. This will often be at the highest point of the leaf or branch.
- Step Seven ; Make a new layer above everything set to OVERLAY and clip it to your leaves. Go in with a bright, warm color to form additional lighting effects. Repeat this for a new MULTIPLY layer, using a darker cool color for shadow effects.
There are 111 species of pine tree, with the size, needles, and color varying significantly from tree to tree. Pine trees can be found across the world and are highly versatile, some varieties such as the scotch pine and red pine surviving even in average cold temperatures of -50°F.
- Step One ; In a darker muted brown color, draw a singular line that tapers off at the top. The bottom of the line should have a thicker width than the top of the line. This will be your pine’s tree trunk.
- Step Two ; Obtain a muted green color and in brisk, fluffy strokes make the pine needle outlines. These should circle around your pine trunk and obscure it to some degree. It may help to think of these shapes as horizontally stretched clouds.
- Step Three ; With a darker muted green, give the green outlines volume by applying shadows to the bottoms and randomly around the centers of the clusters.
- Step Four ; Use a lighter tint of green to create the highlights of your needle outlines. This should be done at the tops of the individual green clusters, and randomly around the centers.
- Step Five ; In a darker shade than used during Step Three, further define the shadows of the tree on the opposite side of your light source.
- Step Six ; Let’s make the individual needles more prominent by using a lighter highlight to form rounded spikes within the leaf clusters. Dot a few rough oval shaped highlights occasionally in the shaded regions to signify strands that are sticking out from the shadows.
Add highlights and detail to the trunk of your tree as well.
- Step Seven ; To form additional lighting, make one new OVERLAY layer above everything and clip it to your needles. Picking a warm bright color, use the GRAIDENT (G) tool set to Foreground to Transparent and make a smooth ray of light on the side of the tree your light source directly hits. Then, on that same layer, use a cool color to make a ray of shadow from the opposite end.
:: PINE BRANCH ::
Pine are evergreen trees, which means they will retain their green state and needles year ground. They are also coniferous; they can reproduce by sprouting cones from their branches to protect their seeds.
- Step One ; Draw a rough, uneven outline for your branch. Rather than a smooth, straight line, insure the form is coarse and has textured edges.
- Step Two ; Using a dull green, make individual strands jutting out from your branch. The ends of the strands should be rounded to be some degree, rather than sharply tapered. Vary the length of these strands throughout the branch so that they are uneven, with some of the smallest noticeable at the base of the branch. Rather than making every strand straight, use curves and angles for diversity.
- Step Three ; Lock your Step Two needle layer and make shadows on the individual strands using a darker color. These shadows are most evident close to the base of the branch. The ends of the strands should generally not be shaded, as they are often the highest point and reach the most lighting.
- Step Four ; Texture your branch with a darker color. This texture can easily be applied by zooming in closer and making vertical, rough, uneven C shapes down the entirety of the branch.
- Step Five ; Apply additional shadows to the individual needles and add highlights to the branch. Gloss is also starting to be placed on the ends of the individual needle strands.
- Step Six ; Darken branch shadows and brighten the gloss effects to give further depth and contrast to the form.
Orchard grass is common for use in pastures due to its safe consumption for all varieties of livestock. This species also works well for erosion control due to its extensive roots.
- Step One - Three ; Start with the outline for a few of your grass leaf strands. Gradually build up the number of strands. Note that the grass is not perfectly straight lines; it has curves and varying width to it to indicate natural growth and dimension.
In Step Three, a thin strand with cactus-like branches jutting out is drawn. This will be a strand of Orchard Grass that contains seeds.
- Step Four ; Make individual diamond shapes along Step Three’s stem ends. These outlines will help visualize the placement of the seeds later.
- Step Five ; Fill in the diamond shapes made during Step Four, and use a brighter color to add dots of highlights along the side facing the light, and a darker color to make dots of shadows on the opposite side. This should be done roughly to form the texture of the seeds.
- Step Six ; With a lighter and darker color, begin defining the individual grass strand’s highlights and shadows.
- Step Seven ; Bright pops of highlights add gloss at the highest point of the leaves and seeds, while dark shadows begin to better define the individual strands at their most shaded points.
- Step Eight ; Setting a new layer above everything to OVERLAY, the tops of the grass strands are smoothly colored in a warm hue for additional lighting effects.
- Step Nine ; If your grass is lacking depth, apply a tone curve via (Layer) -> (New Correction Layer) -> (Tone Curve) and increase the overall contrast of the plant.
- Step Ten ; To quickly achieve a different color for your seeds to better distinguish them from the rest of the grass, make a new layer set to COLOR and clip it to your lower seed layer. Go over the seeds in a brown, cream, or gold and decrease opacity as needed for smoother transitioning.
:: BELL FLOWER ::
The campanula, known as the bell flower, often symbolizes gratitude, humility, attractiveness, and everlasting love. It can also be seen planted on graves due to its association with death.
There is about three hundred different species of campanula, ranging in shape, size, and color. Blue or purple tends to be the most common color.
This flower is a perennial, meaning it lives for two years or longer. It generally begins blooming in June and lasts until frost occurs.
- Step One ; Start with the flower’s stem. This has some curve to it, especially where the flowers will hang off. The edges of the stem are thicker, as they will be what attach the flower.
- Step Two ; Make the outline for your flowers at the ends of your stems. This outline is shaped like a bell; it features a rounded base and flared out edges.
- Step Three ; Form the outline for your individual petals by adding onto the bell shape created in Step Two. Keep in mind which direction your flower is facing, as that will alter the overall outline.
- Step Four ; In a lighter color, make textured highlights on your flower. I find it best to do this by zooming in closer and making blended stripes from the base of the flower to the end of the petals.
- Step Five ; Using a darker color for the shadow, define the bottoms of your individual flowers to create depth. This shadow is quite general for this step without much detail, as we’ll be further texturing the shadow in Step Six.
- Step Six ; Detail your shadows more to give the flower additional texture. This texture can be easily done by making blended stripes from the base to the edge of the petals, like done in Step Four. Outline the edges of your petals but keep in mind to not add too much shade where the light source will be hitting.
- Step Seven ; Continue building up the shadows for additional contrast and work on shading and highlighting the green stem.
- Step Eight ; Bright pops of cyan are used to bring attention to the highlights of the flowers. These highlights are found at the highest part of the flower’s circular base. The stem also receives some gloss effects.
:: ROSE ::
Originating in China, the rose has made its way across the world as a symbol of love and passion. It comes in a variety of different colors and often has thorns along its stems to deter consumption from animals.
- Step One ; Draw an uneven circle with two lines coming down from it on either side. Then, add a triangle shape attached to the inside of one end of your circle. Make a small swirl inside that triangle. This will be the center of your flower.
- Step Two ; A spiral pattern starts at the side of your circle and goes around, eventually stopping after making two loops. Add some curved lines to occasionally break up the spiral into segments.
- Step Three ; The middle layer of petals is formed by stacking uneven curves on top of each other.
- Step Four ; Finally, we get to the outer layer of petals. As if making the blades of a windmill, create overlapping uneven curves. Vary the sizes of the petals so that there is some diversity.
- Step One ; Begin with the lineart you created during the Rose Outline segment. Make sure the color of the line is a darker shade of what your flower’s base color will be.
- Step Two ; Fill in the outline of your flower with its base color. You can easily fill in lineart in Clip Studio by using (Magic Wand) -> (Click Outside Your Lineart) -> (Invert Selection) -> On new layer below your lineart (Fill).
- Step Three ; Blur the lineart with a blur tool. Using a textured blur tool may help.
- Step Four ; Add shadows to the edges of the petals. The center of the flower will often be the darkest, as there petals are especially close together.
- Step Five ; Further build up your shadows with an even darker value. Redefine the outline of the petals if it’s getting too blended.
- Step Six ; With a light color, add highlights to the highest points on your petals. Defining the edges of the petals now using this brighter color can also help add contrast and separation.
- Step Seven ; In an even darker color, zoom in closer to your flower and further define the edges of the petals while creating more detailed folds and curves in the shapes.
- Step Eight ; If your image if getting too dark or too light, or you’re having trouble bringing out the contrast between lights and darks manually, now is a good time to do a Tone Curve to make it stand out. To do so, go to Tone Curve via (Layer) -> (New Correction Layer) -> (Tone Curve).
- Step Nine ; If your flower is looking too bland and uniform, consider adding more interesting color and vibrancy by making a new layer set to COLOR, clipping it to your below flower layer, and blending in a few more saturated values.
- Step Ten ; Make two new layers clipped to your flower layer, one set to OVERLAY and one set to MULTIPLY, to create further pops of light and dark. Darkening the center of the flower as needed is easy to do with the MULTIPLY layer now.
- Step Eleven ; In a new layer above everything clipped to your flower layer, use your GRADENT (G) tool on Foreground to Transparent mode and make rays of light on the top of your flower and a casting shadow on the bottom.
- Step Twelve ; For additional effects, try adding some particles from the 戦場塵ブラシ / Battlefield Dusts Brush on top of your flower. Now you’re done drawing the rose itself!
- Step Thirteen ; To make a simple backdrop, grab your Forjjol Brush ⓧ and on a layer below your flower, begin making a shadow on the canvas. Blend this shadow around its edges if you’d like with Forjjol Blur ① .
- Step Fourteen ; On a new layer above everything, add splashes of bokeh with the BOKEブラシ brush. Then set it to the GLOW DODGE layer setting.
Thank you all for reading! Be sure to leave a like and comment if you found this helpful. I really appreciate any feedback on how I can make my tutorials better for the future! ٩(◕‿◕)۶