Illustrating a Forest Landscape Scenery





Trees are all around us but have we ever thought what are they? What makes a tree a tree? Let's try to define them by observing its look and structure.

A tree is a plant and can be recognized from its woody nature and tall height. Structurally, a tree has a trunk (or trunks), branches on the upper part of the trunk(s), and leaves stemming from the branches. The roots can be seen on the above ground or hidden entirely beneath it.

There are all kinds of shapes of trees. From the most common-looking ones, like oaks and pines, to strange-looking trees like baobabs and dragon blood trees.

Now, let's talk about forest. What about forests? What are they consisted of?

We can think of a forest as a group of trees covering a huge area. The trees are normally from diverse species in most natural forests but there are also forests with limited species such as commercial plantation forests.

In this tutorial, we will try to explore how to sketch two most common-looking trees: an oak tree and a pine tree. After that, we will try to put them in a forest landscape scene and paint an illustration of it. Let's begin!


Let's begin by creating a new document. I used a 1600 x 1600 px 72 dpi document for this tutorial.

For the sketch, I will be using the default [Real Pencil] brush since it gives really nice textures. Feel free to use any brush you like.

To sketch the trunk and branches, I used primarily three shapes. They consist of straight shapes, twisting shapes, and curved shapes. The shapes can be combined together to make a convincing look of a tree.

To sketch older looking trees, we can use twisting and curved shapes and thicker size on the trunk and branches. We can also show their roots above ground instead of beneath it to emphasize the age.

For younger looking-trees, we can use primarily straight shapes for the main trunk. We also need to make the trunk relatively thin and hide the root mostly beneath the ground. For the branches, we can use combination of the three shapes. Note: you don't have to sketch all the branches unless you want to draw a winter or dead tree.

To sketch the foliage, I used primarily curved zig-zag shapes. You can combine and vary them randomly (either in the direction or the density) to get the look of foliage.

When drawing foliage, I mostly begin with the outline of it first. After that, I will add the inner foliage to be used as a reference for adding shadows later.

Let's put this tree in the right-third of the canvas for the illustration. For the concept of the illustration itself, I was thinking of a "mysterious" oak tree surrounded by pine forests in a meadow among the mountains.

Next, we can begin to sketch the surrounding environment of it.

Let's start by sketching the meadow below the tree. After that, we can sketch the pine forests on the side of the canvas.

To sketch the pine trees, I used the same zig-zag lines technique but pointed upwards. I also shaped them into a triangular shape.

After that, I sketched the background mountain and the clouds.

Finally, we can add light and shadows to the sketch. I set the light source (the Sun) angle to 45° to make it look interesting. We can use the Parallel line ruler and a bigger brush size to add the shadows.

For the oak tree, I still used the same zig-zag shapes for the shadows while following some of the outlines on the inner foliage. For the pine trees, I covered them all since they usually in dark green color and also primarily function as the background of the illustration.

With that, the sketch is now finished and we can move on to the next step.

Making the Brush

Before painting the illustration, let's begin by creating a brush for the foliage.

In the past, I've experimented with all kinds of brushes when trying to paint a tree. The current best version of the brush I've found is the one with the shape of a leaves stem. This brush shape is quite good at depicting the foliage of a semi-realistic tree.

To begin, let's create a new 720 x 720 px 72 dpi document and draw this shape on a monochrome layer.

Feel free to use any brushes you want so long as the end results looked like a silhouette of two leaves in the opposite direction. I used the default [G-Pen] to do this.

After that, you can convert the layer into grayscale and blur the layer using Gaussian Blur with strength set to "12". This is done to make the brush look a bit softer.

After that, we can register the brush shapes using menu [Edit] → [Register Material (Image...)].

Next, we can duplicate the default [Marker Pen] and modify its settings into this.

We need to turn the [Color Jitter] options so that we can automatically blend the main colors with the other colors (in this case, we will use browns to complement the green color of the leaves). Set the [Dynamics] to default.

Set the [Tip shape] into the leaves shape we've made earlier. After that, set the [Thickness] and [Angle dynamics] as shown in the image below.

Lastly, set the [Stroke] with settings shown below.

For convenience purposes, I've uploaded my created brush here.

And with that we can now move on to painting the sketch we've made on the previous section.

Painting the Forest Landscape Scenery

For the forest landscape scenery, I started by painting the oak tree first since it will be our primary focus.

I started by lowering the opacity of the sketch first (~16 %). After that, I began painting the main trunk and branches by using the brush we made earlier. Use a very dark bluish-green color to do this since it's primarily in the shadows. You can erase the outline using the default [Kneaded Eraser] if you feel it's too jaggy.

After that, we can now paint the foliage using the very same brush. By loosely following the sketch, we can start by painting the one that is hit by the light and the darker ones that are in the shadows. I did this simultaneously since it's relatively easier than painting the shadows first and then the midtones etc. Still, paint them on two separate layers since we will try to add some effects on the shadows later on.

These are the approximate colors I had used for this illustration. For the shadow, I used the same color as the trunk and the branches. For the midtones, I used a saturated yellowish green color. Use brown for the Sub color to soften the greens and make it look more natural.

Don't forget to leave some "holes" both in the light and shadow to add some realism to the foliage. I assumed that the foliage in the top part of tree are fuller than in the bottom part so I painted them like that.

After finishing the foliage, we can add the sunlight that passes on the shadow part of the foliage (known as komorebi, 木漏れ日). But first, I duplicated the shadow layer since I thought it wasn't dark enough. Then, I created a new layer above it and set it to [Clip to Layer Below]. Paint the light rays using the same green color as the midtones angled roughly the same as the main light source. I used the default [Flat marker] brush to do this.

Next, we can paint the meadows still using the same brush we created earlier. This brush is quite versatile since we can make it look like grass too. Paint it fuller on the top and getting looser on the bottom. Add some browns on the bottom to expose the ground beneath the grass.

After that, using the same foliage brush, we can paint the surrounding pine forests using darker bluish-green color. I used a slightly smaller brush and angled the strokes upwards.

Next, we can paint the background mountain and the sky. For the background mountain, I painted it with slightly lighter blue from the pine forests.

Since we've done painting the main subject and the surrounding environment, we can now add a sky background on the illustration.

Create a new layer below the foreground subjects and fill it with a saturated sky blue color. After that, add a very light blue gradient on the bottom.

To paint the clouds, I used this amazing brush from CLIP STUDIO ASSETS. You can turn off the sky layer first or export the sketch and use it for reference to paint them.

Paint the clouds with some parts overlapping the oak tree to make it look interesting.

Next, we can paint some greenish white leaves to indicate the younger leaves on the very top of the foliage.

Since the pine forests looked too flat, I added the lights hitting them with a light blue color.

After that, we can add the komorebi which bounces off the main trunk and branches of the tree. I used a reddish brown color for this. After that, set the layer mode to [Add (Glow)].

Duplicate the layer and blur it using [Filter] → [Blur] → [Gaussian blur] with [Strength] set to "30". After that, set the layer opacity to 16% then move the layer above the original layer. This will create a nice glowing effect on the outlines of the lighting layer.

Next, we can add shadows to the grasses using the same color as the foliage shadow. Add them on the places where they supposedly be blocked by the tree and other objects.

After that, we can add atmospheric effects on the forest and the mountain by using light blue gradient on the bottom. I also added bounced lights caused by the surrounding environment on the shadows of the oak tree and the meadow using the same green as the foliage midtones. For the shadows on the oak tree, I used [Gradient tool] so that the bounced lights looked softer as it went above.

Since the clouds didn't look fluffy enough, I blurred the clouds using [Gaussian blur] with [Strength] set to "20". I also added a few more leaves on the oak tree and clouds running down the mountain.

Next, I used [Soft airbrush] to add some reddish brown color to the foliage and the grass to make it softer and look more natural.

After that, to enhance the emotion and the mood, I painted the lights coming from the background itself (mostly from the clouds and the sky) to the foreground subjects. I used the same [Soft airbrush] to do this while picking colors from the background itself. Paint the lights on the very top layer.

Now that it's almost done, we can finally add bloom effects to enchance the mood of the illustration.

To do this, I merged the base painting into a new layer first. After that, I duplicated the layer and blurred it using [Gaussian blur] with [Strength] set to "20". Next, I set the layer mode to [Soft light] and layer opacity to 40%.

Repeat the previous step but this time set the blur strength to "40". After that, set the layer mode to [Lighten] and layer opacity to also 40%. Put the resulting layer above the [Soft light] layer.

The painting is now finished.


With that, the tutorial is now finished. I hope you can learn something new from it and you can use the knowledge to do interesting and amazing stuffs on your next illustration project. Thank you for reading!



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