Drawing the trees: an oak tree by the roadside





In this tutorial, I will explain my method for drawing a tree using Clip Studio Paint. Note that it is applicable with other software, because for this drawing I didn't need to use any really CSP-specific features.

1/Tools and technique

The technique I use mixes black pencil, watercolor and pencil highlights. It allows strong contrasts with both large areas of black and other lighter and nuanced ones obtained by a kind of "glaze". So I only use two different brushes.

With this technique there is not such a clear separation between drawing and coloring (both in the final rendering and in the various stages of work) as in other more "standardized" drawing methods, it allows therefore a more intuitive approach and quite close to painting or pastel in traditional technique. The main advantage is that we use few layers and that we don't need a very thorough mastery of the software. The main drawback of this way of doing things is that it takes much longer.

2/References and influences

The term "tree" being quite generic, it is necessary to define more precisely what one wishes to represent. It won't be the same thing to draw an oak tree, a palm tree or a fir tree. Not only will their shape be different, but so will the environment in which they are located.

As far as I'm concerned, I chose to draw an oak tree in the middle of the fields, drawing inspiration from the Normandy countryside where I grew up.

This is the time to look for photos of trees or to take them yourself, in order to build up documentation that you can use later. In addition to photographic references, it can be useful to look for artistic references, and to make a list of works by other artists before you who have tackled the same subject, if possible with a pictorial technique close to the one you use.

The history of art is full of representations of trees or forests, whether as decorations and backgrounds, or, more interestingly in my opinion, as the main subject, and this in all possible codes of representation, from the most "realistic" to the most stylized. Personally, I particularly like the works of Ivan Chichkine and Albert Bierstadt.

Besides landscape painting, animated film sets are a great source of inspiration.

3/Preparatory work

This step has two parts.

The first consists of sketches allowing you to become familiar with your subject. In my case, an oak tree. To make my job easier, I made my sketches from photos of trees in winter, which helps to clearly identify their silhouettes, made more readable by the fall of the leaves.

The second step is to make several sketches that will be used to place the different elements of our drawing, and to choose the best to finalize it. The first thing to do for this is to choose a format. The most obvious for a tree would be a vertical format, suited to the fact that trees are mostly taller than they are wide.

In my case, I opted for a square format. After testing several fairly similar compositions, I chose one that I will end up modifying slightly during the process (I will remove the kinds of menhirs that surround the oak, add a path and lower the horizon line to have a composition in three thirds).

Ideally this step is quite fast and the drawings are much smaller than the final drawing, so as not to waste time on the details. If you have trouble drawing quickly, the easiest way is to set a time limit for each small sketch.

4/ Penciled

This intermediate step consists of placing the different elements of the drawing and then specifying them further for the next step. The level of precision to have depends on the experience and the preferences of each one. When in doubt, the simplest thing is to make the drawing as precise as possible. Of course, drawing in blue is not mandatory, it just helps to better visualize the different stages and adjust the contrasts and details when drawing in black over it.


Finalization involves three steps.

The first corresponds to a mix between a pencil more advanced than that in blue and an inking. For readability, I start by lowering the opacity of the blue layer. It is not a question of simply ironing, but also of specifying the drawing for the next step which will be the coloring.

The leaves represent a particular difficulty: from afar, you have to suggest them and not try to draw them one by one. The easiest way to do this is to start drawing large black or dark masses that we will detail later by redrawing on top with lighter tones.

The second step is a very succinct work of coloring, preceded by the laying of a few flat gray areas (on a layer in "multiply" mode) which serve to create a neutral background easier to work with than a white background to adjust the contrasts.

I then add a layer which will be the general shade of the drawing (on a layer in "overlay" mode), here green, and finally I place some flat areas with the watercolor brush (again, on a layer in " multiply").

The last step is the longest in terms of time, but it is not the most important: all the big choices on the subject or the composition of the drawing have already been determined before. It consists of a mixture of watercolor brush "glazes", highlights with the pencil brush, smudge (the finger tool for the clouds in the sky) and filter effects (the Gaussian blur for the background or for the herbs in the foreground), all on quite a few layers that I regularly merge.

To help me, I regularly take screenshots right from the sketching stage, which I color quickly. This allows me to test different things, and why not make some changes along the way, like here with the composition of the image (more centered at the very beginning, and without the path), or the general tint, which went from rather cold green/blue tones to more sepia tones.

This tutorial is now complete, I hope you enjoyed it :)
I just created an Instagram account to share my drawings, do not hesitate to follow me there:



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