How to create interesting forests




from books to movies to RPG sessions, forests are a really common scenario in fantasy stories. If you're here, you likely want to draw your own forest, but every time you tried to your forest didn’t look as alive and interesting as you wished for or you got lost trying to add color and detail. But don’t worry because in this video I’ll show you step by step how to create forests.

this tutorial includes a video version on youtube!

Story is key

First things first before you do anything you need to decide what story you’re gonna tell . Trust me this will make the process way easier.

Just write one or two lines about what’s happening in this scene and why it matters. Maybe it's a happy group of travelers passing by, a lost spirit looking for the way home, or just a tired adventurer resting on giant tree!


Okay, so how do we take something so chaotic and organic like a forest, and arrange it in a composition?

First of all, we need to define what is our focal point, in this case, the giant tree and adventurer. Now let's populate this forest! I like to start by adding some big shapes to be the trunks and the foliage, then add some medium shapes to be the tree branches, and finally some small ones to add details.


After adding those shapes I use them as a base to do my sketch, This is specially helpful if you're having trouble to keep your sketches clear and cohesive. Remember to check references to add some variety of vegetation so your forest doesn't feel too uniform.

Lineart and details

Trees can be pretty complex depending on how you paint them. However, you don't need to paint every single tree with the same level of detail. Keep in mind the reason why you're adding those details and what story they tell.

Use the details to draw attention to your focal point and remember that if something is really far from the camera, you probably wouldn't notice it anyway so don’t bother adding a ton of details in those areas, unless that’s important for the story!

Colors and lights

My initial plan was to make a bright background with a spot light on the character but I ended up deciding to make the background darker to create more contrast with my focal point.

After applying some base colors I started to work on the lights. It's important to keep in mind the feeling you want to transmit with the piece, int his case I wanted a very cozy and peaceful forest so I'm going with pretty warm tones.

When working on the lights I love to use blend modes to make the piece more cohesive. Add (glow), overlay and Glow dodge are some of my favorites!

Final details

To give my illustration a more finalized look I spend quite some time adding textures and effects. In clip studio asset store you can find a lot of great paper textures!

And that's all for today's tutorial. I hope you find this useful ^^




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