Tree Trunk Tutorial

tree trunk tutorial
This quick tutorial will show the steps on how to paint tree trunk, bark and branches.

anime scene

Tree Shapes

Tree trunk and branches define the silhouette and shape of trees. Sometime it is a good idea to draw them first before painting the leaves, so we would know how our trees will look like.

tree shapes
Image above show different shapes of trees. For painting, we can further simplify the painting by reducing number of branches splitting.

Drawing Tree Trunk and Branches

painting tree trunk
  1. Draw the base tree trunk
  2. Scale down brush size and draw smaller branches.
  3. Split the branches into another level.
  4. Lock layer transparency and start shading the tree branches with a brighther shade of colour.

Tree Branches

Tree branch can be seen as a fractal pattern. Another quick way to draw tree branch is to draw a simple shape, then duplicate and merge them to form a complex branch. Repeat the steps to form a bigger tree branch.

tree branch splitting
  1. Draw tree branch with a hard edge brush.
  2. Duplicate the layer then scale transform (CTRL-T) it and merge them.
  3. Repeat previous step.
  4. A complete tree branch.

Tree Trunk Shading

When painting tree trunk and branches, we are mainly painting cylinder shapes with rough and irregular surface.

tree shading
  1. Draw the contour of tree trunk/branches with a hard edge brush.
  2. Lock layer transparency and paint the bright area of the tree. Area between the light and dark area is known as terminator.
  3. Paint the shadow terminator area with vertical shapes to mimic tree bark pattern.
  4. Continue to paint different area of the tree with different shades of colour.

tree root shading
  1. Draw the contour of tree trunk/branches with a hard edge brush.
  2. Pay attention to light and dark area of the tree. Lock layer transparency, then paint the light and dark area of the tree.
  3. Paint vertical shapes to mimic tree bark pattern.
As we can see from the two examples above, the important steps on painting tree trunk and branches are determining the light and dark area. Then, adding in the smaller details of tree barks.

Tree Trunk Colour

There are many types of trees in nature. Birch tree have white colour bark, while other trees such as rainbow eucalyptus can have colourful tree bark. If we are painting an anime style landscape art, feel free to use a more vibrance colour palette for the trees.

tree colours
A quick way to add more colours to tree is by painting the area which receive direct (or specular) and indirect light.

direct and indirect colour
There are two more common tree shading we can apply into our painting. Alot of trees with smoother bark will have these horizontal lines on them. Some trees also will have patches and spot on the trunk.

tree bark patches

More details

Aside from the main tree trunk, we can add in extra details for the tree. Climbing plants like Pothus or vine, moss and fern are some examples.


Sun light on Tree Trunk

To add sunlight that fall on tree trunk. We just need to paint on another layer with additive blend mode such as Colour Dodge.

  1. Add a new layer using clipping mask.
  2. Set layer blending mode to Colour Dodge.
  3. Paint the light area.

Painting Video

Below is a tree bark painting timelapse video using Photoshop.

To learn more about painting tree leaves, read my anime tree painting tutorial.