How to paint a tree trunk and branches

How To Paint Tree Branches With Acrylics

by Tracie

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Do you struggle with painting tree branches? It is a technique that many beginner acrylic painters struggle with.

This blog post is part of a mini tutorial series I create to help beginner painters with basic techniques!

The step by step tutorial below will show you a guideline of how to paint basic branches using two different paint brushes and black paint.

A quick note about brushes! In my opinion, there is no one standard brush for branches. You can use a round brush, a flat brush or an angle brush. You can also use a tiny liner brush for thinner branches. It really comes down to your preferences.

In this tutorial, I will be showing you how to paint branches using a #4 round brush and a 1/4″ angle brush. I am using Royal & Langnickel Moderna brushes.

Materials Needed

Active Time 10 minutes

Total Time 10 minutes

Difficulty Easy


  • #4 Round Brush
  • 1/4" Angle Brush
  • Mars Black Acrylic Paint
  • Water In Jar
  • Palette (I use a paper plate or plastic palette)
  • Watercolor Paper, Acrylic Paper or any Practice Type of Canvas Sheet


Step By Step Instructions

1. Load your palette with some mars black & slightly water it down

When you water down the black slightly, it will allow the paint to flow better. Swirl you brush in some water and then apply it into the paint on your palette.

2. Start with the base of the branch and paint a thick/ triangular shape

Use your #4 round brush to paint this base of the trunk. It should start out thick and then get thinner (like a triangle).

3. Split your branch off into two sections

Use the tip of your brush and “light pressure” to split your branch into two sections. These lines should be thinner than the base branch you first painted.

4. Switch to an angle brush for really thin branch lines

The nice thing about the angle brush is that you can utilize it to create both thick and thin lines. When you use the full width and apply hard pressure, it will create a thick line.

If you hold it so the bristles at the very top of the angle of the brush touch the canvas, it will create thin lines.

Load your angle brush in the slightly watered down black. Then paint a thin line on your branch. Use the very tip part of the angle to make the thin line.

Hold your brush so the top pointed part is on the left and paint the branch. Use just the tip of the brush to create the thin line.

Tip: remember that if your black is not “flowing” slightly add water into it.

5. Paint more thinner branches stemming off from the main ones

Continue to use the angle brush to paint more thin branch lines. Have your branches go off in different “forked” directions.

6. Make some of the branches thicker

I like to do this to my branches to make them look more natural. Go back and make some of your base branches thicker/ a little “wobbly” on the sides.

7. Paint more thinner branches

Then simply take the angle brush and paint more branches. You can even have some overlap each other.

The lighter you hold the angle brush, the thinner your branch will be.

Practice, practice, practice!

Mixed media pads & water color pads are great for practicing techniques such as branches! Keep practicing and you will get the hang of those branches!

Ready to learn more?

You can check out similar blog posts for beginner painters such as:

  • How To Paint A Tree With A Fan Brush
  • How To Paint Mountains
  • How To Paint Simple Roses

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How to Paint Thin Tree Branches for Beginners

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Table of Contents

  • Learning to paint thin tree branches can drive you bonkers but, I promise, it’s not as hard as it looks!
  • Mastering the Art of Skinny Lines
    • Pressure
    • Water
  • Best Brushes to Use When Painting Sticks and Thin Lines
    • Round Brush
    • Script Brush
    • Angle Brush
    • Comparing the Brushes
  • Common Tree Branch Painting Mistakes and How to Fix Them
    • The Tree Branches Are Thicker Than The Trunk
    • The Tree Branches Don’t Look Natural
  • YouTube Recommendations for Painting Different Types of Trees and Branches
  • Final Thoughts on Painting Thin Tree Limbs
  • Remember, thin tree branches, sticks, and twigs are perfectly imperfect so Relax and Loosen that Grip!
    • Articles Related to Painting Skinny Branches and Trees:

Learning to paint thin tree branches can drive you bonkers but, I promise, it’s not as hard as it looks!

All around you, you see artists who seem to be able to paint thin tree branches like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Meanwhile, you’re wondering, what the heck is my problem, already?!

Every single artist has been there! Trees can be complicated little rascals. You’ve got the gnarled roots, the rough bark on the trunk, the leaves, and then there are the thinner branches and sticks. It can be totally overwhelming, I hear you, friend!

So, instead of focusing on learning how to paint an entire tree, from the trunk to the leaves, let’s zero in on what you need to do to succeed at painting twigs and thin branches.

We’ll talk about what types of tools will give you a better chance of mastering your tree branch skills, common mistakes and how to avoid them, and my personal YouTube recommendations so you can practice painting all the glorious skinny tree branches without chucking your paintbrush out the window. Don’t do that, ‘kay?

Mastering the Art of Skinny Lines

This really does come down to two simple rules; pressure and water…..and, of course, the right tools but we’ll talk about that later. It kinda sounds like a science experiment, doesn’t it? All joking aside, painting thin tree branches becomes easier once you know exactly what you need to do and practicing how to do it.


When I mention pressure, I’m specifically talking about how much you’re pushing your paintbrush onto the canvas. To paint thin tree branches you don’t need much pressure at all and therein lies the problem.

It’s hard to hold your paintbrush loosely and to gently glide it across the canvas, am I right?

So, then, how do you hold a brush to help with how much pressure you’re applying? This is going to sound so funny but, seriously, hold your brush far back on the handle and extend your pinkie like you’re about to take a prissy sip of tea. I’m telling you, this works so well to lighten your pressure!

Just keep adjusting how far back on the handle you need to hold your paintbrush for you to get the right level of pressure. Everyone will have a different preference on this but, for me, holding my brush closer to the mid-way point is where I tend to get the best thin lines and branches.

It will probably feel uncomfortable at first because you won’t have as much control over your brush but that’s the whole point. When you look at thin tree branches in nature, they aren’t a perfect line, right? They’ve got some wobbly bits, some twists, and sharp angles. Holding your brush loosely allows you to make these types of skinny, wonky lines without putting too much thought into it.


Make water your bestie when painting any skinny line, including twigs and branches. Thinning your paint out a bit will allow the paint to glide off of your brush much easier.

If you think about it, when you start running out of paint on your brush, you add pressure to deposit more paint on the canvas, right? That is the exact opposite of what we want to do here.

We need to keep our pressure super light so we don’t make the mistake of ending up with fat tree branches when we want skinny twigs.

On the other hand, you don’t want to add so much water that your paint drips down the canvas as you’re working (unless that’s what you’re going for).

Here is my method of watering down my paint without going overboard:

  • Dip your brush into your water jar but only about halfway up the bristles
  • Tap the brush on the lip of the water jar a couple of times
  • Grab a small amount of paint from the side of the paint blob on your palette and drag it away from the rest
  • Using your wet brush, mix the small amount of paint with the water that’s on your brush
  • Hold your palette vertically (up and down) and see if the thinned paint starts to drip downward
  • If so, add a bit more paint
  • You want your paint and water mix to look thin but not drippy

Best Brushes to Use When Painting Sticks and Thin Lines

Every artist eventually finds their favorite brush to paint thin lines when painting bare tree branches and you’ve probably heard a lot about using a round brush. However, there are other brushes you can use to paint skinny branches so you really don’t have to limit yourself to one style of paintbrush.

Before we get into it, you’ll probably notice that some of my limbs and branches are thicker than the one before it. I wanted you to see how your eye is drawn to it because, even subconsciously, we all notice when things are a little off. I also did it because I really want you to embrace the imperfect. Some of the best art out there is imperfect and doesn’t give two flying hoots to “the rules”. Don’t be afraid to embrace the out-of-place. It will give your art a unique look that will draw the eye.

Now, let’s take a look at some of the options you have for painting tree branches, including the round brush, and do some comparing.

Round Brush

So, let’s start with the most obvious option, the round brush. As you can see, you can make beautifully thin lines with this bad boy so it’s not surprising that it’s a popular choice when painting thin sticks and branches.

Script Brush

The script brush isn’t that different than the round brush but, you’ll notice, it does have much thinner bristles and they’re longer, as well. The script brush is fantastic to use when you want your tree limbs to be extra thin with lots of angles. It’s especially well-suited for painting spooky trees on a moonlit night! Just do yourself a favor, though, use a different brush to paint the trunk of your tree. You’ll thank me later…

Angle Brush

Lastly, we have the angle brush which, admittedly, isn’t the easiest of the three but it’s not terrible. If you use only the longest bristle of an angle brush, you can make some awesome thin tree branches. You’ll want to make sure the longest bristles are closest to you, though. Otherwise, you’ll end up crushing the longest bristles backward which will leave you with thicker branches.

Comparing the Brushes

Each brush has a bit of a different twist on how the tree branches will look but all of them are great options the next time you decide you want to paint a tree.

In my opinion, the round and the script brushes are the easiest to work with. The angle brush works but you have to be able to control how straight you keep the bristles. If you even slightly tilt the brush, you’ll get a thicker line than you want.

If you have all of the brushes mentioned, it’s worth digging out a piece of scrap paper and practicing with each one so you can find which brush is going to feel most comfortable to use.

Common Tree Branch Painting Mistakes and How to Fix Them

There are some very common mistakes that all artists have made when trying to paint thin tree branches so don’t feel like you’re the only one! Remember we were all beginners at one time.

The Tree Branches Are Thicker Than The Trunk

I see this so often and it’s such a shame that it causes so many beginners to give up before they’ve even really gotten a good go on. So, here’s a very simple explanation of how a tree grows.

The trunk is the thickest part of the entire tree. Attached to the trunk you’ll have a few randomly placed branches that are a bit thinner than the trunk. Sprouting from each branch, you’ll have more branches that are thinner still and, from these branches, you’ll have even thinner branches, and so on.

That being said, go up and reread what I wrote in the above section, titled “Best Brushes…” Things don’t always have to be done within the confines of rules. Be a rebel and break a few, now and then!

However, if it’s really bugging you, and you’ve had this problem in the past, just remember that the pressure you put on your brush should continually lighten, as you move away from the larger branch, until you have complete liftoff. So, the amount of pressure you use when you start your new branch at the base, that’s the most pressure you’ll ever use on that particular branch.

Remember this little mantra: “Plant, drag, lift”

It also helps to work on tree branches in sections. After you’ve got the trunk painted, work on your largest branches, continue making thinner branches on one of your largest branches until you’re happy with the number of sticks and twigs you have. Once you’re satisfied move on to the next of your largest branches.

If you already have a WIP (work in progress) and you don’t want to start over, you have three choices:

  1. You can work your way backward until all of the branches you’ve already painted are thicker than the one before it (don’t forget to make the trunk thicker too!), or
  2. You can cut in with your background color and paint over the outside edges of the thicker branch, making it as thin as you like (but, remember, each branch that comes off of that branch has to get skinnier), or, lastly,
  3. You can paint over that section of the branch with lots of lovely leaves! Easy peasy and movin’ on!

The Tree Branches Don’t Look Natural

Most times, when I see this, it’s because the tree branches have all been curved and I’ve been guilty of this as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I love bright whimsical tree paintings where all of the branches curve and curl until they end in a thin point. So fun looking! In fact, I’ve got a fabulous wonky tree tutorial for you from The Art Sherpa but we’ll get to that in a bit.

If you are going for something that looks a bit more real, you’re definitely going to want to keep the curves to a minimum so you can have angles too. Most tree branches that I’ve seen in nature have sharp angles as well as a few curvy bits.

If you really study tree limbs, you’ll notice that the angles seems more pronounced on really thin tree branches and the curves are more likely to happen on the thicker branches. If you feel like you’ve got too many curves going on, don’t worry, this is an easy fix.

All you have to do is straighten out your branches wherever you see a curve that you don’t want. It’ll mean that your branches will be a bit thicker than you originally intended but that’s also an easy fix, using one of the methods I mentioned for fixing branches that are thicker than the trunk.

Another issue that will make tree branches look unnatural is if they are too symmetrical. Mother Nature knows that there is beauty in the imperfect and, so, to keep your tree branches looking natural, be random with your placement. One side may have more branches than the other because the sun only hits one side of the tree. Or maybe there are a ton of really small thin branches in one particular area of the tree. Maybe a tree branch is a lot longer than its neighbors or it is really skinny compared to the others.

All of those little imperfections are what make trees so interesting so try not to think too much about placement and keep it general. The more thought you put into your brushstrokes, the more precise it will look.

YouTube Recommendations for Painting Different Types of Trees and Branches

Of course, you could continue to practice on a piece of scrap paper but it’s so much more fun when you can practice while making a beautiful piece of artwork that you can give as a gift or display proudly in your home. Let’s look at some of my favorite YouTube tutorials that show you how to paint trees, branches, skinny twigs, and even leaves (useful for when you make a boo-boo and don’t want to paint one. more. #@%$ branch!

Let’s start with a really fun whimsical tree called “Abstract Bohemian Tree” by The Art Sherpa. This is a great little tutorial to get used to the proportions of thin branches, with thicker branches, and how that all relates to the tree trunk. Relax, grab a bunch of bright colors and get ready to curly-cue some tree branches!

Next, we’ve got “Midnight Gathering” by Painting With Jane. If you want to practice using a script brush, this is the one for you! Not only that, this little painting has a limited color palette and the video is only 22 minutes long!

And, lastly, Joni Young is going to show you how to paint a “Colorful Tree in The City”. She uses a small filbert to paint her tree but you could use any one of the paintbrushes listed above. Joni shows you how staying loose and free with your brush strokes makes the best thin tree branches.

Final Thoughts on Painting Thin Tree Limbs

So, we’ve talked about different brushes, how to hold your brush, some common mistakes and how to fix them, why pressure matters, and why water is your BFF. All of these things will help you to up your skinny branch painting game by leaps and bounds!

In the end, it’s about practicing and becoming comfortable with your tools, as always.

What do you find most helpful to you when painting thin lines and branches? Let me know in the comments below.

Remember, thin tree branches, sticks, and twigs are perfectly imperfect so Relax and Loosen that Grip!

Articles Related to Painting Skinny Branches and Trees:

  • How to Paint a Pine Tree
  • What Colors Make Brown Paint
  • How to Mix Your Own Green Paint

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How to draw a tree: 35 options for every taste

May 20, 2021LikbezDo it yourself

Create simple images with markers, paints, pencils and pastels.



How to draw a tree with a black marker or felt-tip pen

Frame: DrawinGeek / YouTube

What you need

  • Paper;
  • black marker or felt pen.

How to Draw

Draw a zigzag horizontal line to represent grass. Draw two vertical curved lines. From above, between the parts, make several arcs. Get a trunk with branches.

Frame: DrawinGeek / YouTube

Above the arcs, draw two cloud-like shapes. Behind the figures, make three more, but larger. This is a crown.

Frame: DrawinGeek / YouTube

Show the texture of the bark on the trunk. To do this, draw a lot of curved lines. Also mark several arcs nested inside each other.

Frame: DrawinGeek / YouTube

The full version of the master class can be viewed here:

Other options

An easy way for beginners:

Here they show how to portray cherries:

If you want to draw a realistic tree:

Even a child will cope with this tree:

An unusual tree pattern with roots:

if you are going to draw a cartoon tree with eyes:

This tutorial shows how to draw two palm trees:

A fun drawing that is easy to repeat:

How to draw a tree with colored markers or felt-tip pens

Frame: Like ART / YouTube

What you need

  • Paper;
  • colored markers or markers;
  • black liner (optional).

How to Draw

Draw two vertical curved lines with a black marker pen or marker. This is a stem. Mark the branches from above with segments. You can use a liner at this stage if you wish.

Frame: Like ART / YouTube

Draw a rounded crown with an uneven outline. Mark wavy segments above the branches.

Frame: Like ART / YouTube

Color the barrel with a light brown marker or felt pen. To show the shadows and texture of the bark, you need a shade slightly darker than the previous one.

Frame: Like ART / YouTube

Make large dark green spots on the crown, leaving some free space. Fill in the empty areas with a light green color.

Frame: Like ART / YouTube

Outline the grass under the tree. With a black liner or felt-tip pen, draw a series of wavy segments on the crown. Emphasize the shadows on the trunk and branches.

Frame: Like ART / YouTube

Details - in the video:

What other options are there

A simple drawing of an apple tree:

Master class for those who want to depict an autumn tree:

9008 902 paints Frame: PENCILS AND PAINTS / YouTube

What you need

  • Paper;
  • simple pencil;
  • wide brush;
  • gouache;
  • palette;
  • water jar;
  • fine brush.

How to draw

Draw a long line to show the horizon. Mark the trunk with two vertical lines. It should be narrower at the top than at the bottom.


Draw a V-shaped branch with sharp tips. Add small branches of different sizes. Draw the roots going into the ground - they resemble curved triangles.


On a palette, mix white gouache with a small amount of blue paint. Paint over the background with a wide brush, being careful not to touch the tree. Add white and pale yellow spots to the leaf. So the drawing will look more interesting.


Using a thin brush, cover the wood with brown paint. Then add some black to it and apply the resulting color to the branches on the left. Make light brown and yellow strokes on the trunk and roots.


Use broad strokes to mark the green leaves. Try not to overlap the entire branches: then the image will look more realistic. Mix gouache with some yellow and white paint. This shade should also be placed on the crown.


Draw thin brown branches on top of the leaves. Make the space below the horizon line light green. Use a more saturated shade to draw individual blades of grass. Outline a black shadow on the trunk on the right.


The full version of the lesson with artist's comments can be viewed here:

What other options are there

A method for those who want to draw a landscape with a tree:

Master class on drawing a realistic tree with detailed comments by the artist:

Here they show how to portray a birch with watercolors:

And here - how to designate flowers with simple spray:

simple drawing of flowering wood with gouache gouache :

Draw a tree in spring, summer, autumn and winter at the same time:

Here they show how to draw a tree using pointillism technique:

Landscape with several realistic trees:

Even a child can do this drawing:

How to draw a tree with crayons

Frame: Rio Art Club / YouTube


  • colored pencils.
  • How to Draw

    Mark two vertical curved lines with a brown pencil. Get a palm tree trunk. Make horizontal strokes along the entire length of the part. This is how you define the texture of the bark.

    Frame: Rio Art Club / YouTube

    Shade the trunk so that it is darker on the left than on the right. Draw a few short lines at the base. Draw green fruits of different sizes. They are oval in shape.

    Frame: Rio Art Club / YouTube

    Color in the fruits. To set the direction of growth of the branches, outline curved lines. On the sides of each, make a lot of short dark green strokes. Place them as close to each other as possible. Add a light green tint to the leaves.

    Frame: Rio Art Club / YouTube

    Use green and black lines to represent the ground below the picture. So it will not seem that the palm tree is floating in the air.

    Shot: Rio Art Club / YouTube

    See the entire painting process here:

    What other options are there

    View of the redwoods from below:

    A fascinating drawing that is not easy to repeat:

    Here the artist shows how to draw a realistic tree in 40 minutes:

    Try drawing a baobab with pencils on black paper:

    How to draw a tree with pastels

    Frame: Tiku Art / YouTube

    What you need

    • Paper;
    • simple pencil;
    • oil pastel.

    How to draw

    With a simple pencil, mark a horizontal line at the bottom of the sheet. From it, release two broken vertical lines upwards. Get a tree trunk.

    Frame: Tiku Art / YouTube

    Draw four massive branches. They are widened at the base, and sharper closer to the tips. In the example, the parts have creases. This makes the drawing realistic. Add small branches directed in different directions.

    Frame: Tiku Art / YouTube

    Shade the trunk and branches on the right with brown pastel - this will show the shadow. Beige chalk is suitable for the left side of the picture.

    Frame: Tiku Art / YouTube

    Make dark green spots on the branches, consisting of many small dots. Add a light shade around the edges.

    Frame: Tiku Art / YouTube

    To indicate the texture of the bark, draw small lines on the trunk and branches with a simple pencil. If desired, you can draw several arcs nested inside each other. Sketch the grass at the base of the tree.

    Frame: Tiku Art / YouTube

    Nuances - in the video:

    What other options are there

    Another easy way to draw a realistic tree:

    Dry pastel is required for this image:

    This instruction will help to portray baobabs:

    Master class on drawing autumn wood with oil pastel:

    This drawing will be easily repeated by experienced artists:

    Read also 🧐 9000

  • How to draw spaces: 19 of the option: 19 of the option , which everyone can repeat
  • How to draw snowdrops: 17 options for every taste
  • 14 ways to draw a beautiful cone
  • How to draw an elephant for a child and an adult
  • How to draw an owl: 21 easy ways
  • How to draw trees, bark, knots, branches and leaves plan.

    This tutorial will help you learn how to draw trees and their bark, branches and buds, crowns and leaves. We start with general principles.

    Nature is beautiful. For starters, just look at this beauty for a while. All the amazing elements of nature such as trees, mountains, hills, leaves, flowers, etc. can be broken down into simple forms. Try not to get upset ahead of time, looking at all this huge amount of detail that is present in the tree. Instead, as you look at the tree, try breaking down what you see into simpler shapes like ovals, lines, and cylinders. After reading this article, you will feel much more confident in drawing trees.

    An artist must train himself to be observant. Through experience, he learns to see in objects unfamiliar to him forms familiar to him connected with each other. Through establishing such connections and comparing shapes, many problems in drawing are greatly simplified. Observe in the illustration above the comparison of different tree shapes with geometric bodies. Notice that the upper right box shows silhouettes of different trees. The nature of a tree can be determined by its silhouette.

    In the open air, a student of drawing will notice that it is easier to draw a tree that is far away than one that stands nearby. This fact removes many of the problems associated with rendering details and lighting. Before you start drawing, analyze the shape and proportions of the tree. Set the location of the light source and shaded areas. Carefully consider the contour and nature of the object.


    As you study the tree, determine the intensity of its tone relative to the background. Ask yourself: is the object darker or lighter than everything behind it? On a clear day, if the sun does not shine too brightly, a tree can have only one gradation of tone relative to a lighter solid background. This is especially true for trees located at a distance. Sometimes the tree may look lighter than the background.

    Now look at the lower left block of the example, where the different masses of foliage are divided into simple oval shapes. Halftones and highlights are also shown as simple tonal planes. This basic outline will serve as a framework for drawing the crown of your tree.

    To draw a twig, you need to take a few basic steps, which are indicated as 1, 2 and 3 in the illustration above. Studying the branch, remember the location of the kidneys. Consider the leaf scars located at the end of each section of the bud and their relative position - these are the places where the leaves are attached to the branch. A bud at the end of a branch is called a growth bud. The kidneys below it are the lateral or axillary kidneys. Each new bud has a leaf scar right underneath it. They are also located at the end of each growth zone.

    Tree building techniques. Basic structure


    A, #1 (top) illustrates the rigid vertical frame of a tree. Now feel the rhythm given by the curved line in fig. No. 2. This last line is called the line of influence. This is a pretty smooth curve. It will give your tree a "zest" and grace. When transferring his object on paper, the artist does not have to be photographically accurate. Some liberties are quite allowed, which, in his opinion, will make the final work more interesting and exciting.

    Fig. B shows the basic construction of a tree trunk and main branches using motion lines. Looking at fig. In note for yourself how the lengths of large branches and smaller knots are distributed inside the circle (No. 1) depending on their weight.

    C, No. 1 shows a simplified method for arranging roots. It is not enough to simply draw a tree trunk sticking out of the ground like a pole. The tree must be rooted in the ground as shown in #2.

    D, No. 1 leaves grow radially in different directions. #2 illustrates how to represent leaf arrays with multiple circles. In number 3 you can see how to start drawing foliage on the tree skeleton.

    Learn more