Alrighty! So a couple people wanted to know how I drew the trees in my artwork Hare Hunt. I figured I'd throw this up incase anybody else wanted it.
This is how I draw trees, and it's not the end all of doing so. Feel free to modify this process to your liking!
There are pictures that go along with this to help, they can be found here.
I wrote this for FireAlpaca but I think it's understandable to other program users. If not please let me know where it's not clear, and how to improve it.
- (picture 1) Mid-dark brown base. Don’t worry about getting the edges perfect right now, that’s the next step. You can do just a straight rectangle to start and add roots like I added one here if your piece shows the base. I should have added 2-3 more here.
- (picture 2) Draw your bark ridges, I went for a lot of detail because that’s how I draw, you could probably get away with less. Bark flows downward along the tree, connecting here and there. References are your friend, especially with the roots. Don’t clip this layer yet, this is where you define your edges, so feel free to over/underlap the base layer. Make sure there is an unbroken line down each side.
IMPORTANT: This layer is used for the rest of the process, keep it separate and copy it when needed, don’t merge it or otherwise “erase” it.
- I’ve already done it here, so I’ll just describe it best I can. Erase your base layer where it pokes outside your main bark layer (MBL). Then DUPLICATE your MBL, and hide the original for a minute. Merge the copy and base layer, then turn on “Protect Alpha” (it’s next to clipping). Get a big brush size and color the whole thing the base color. Turn Protect Alpha off, and color in the gaps on the edges with a normal size brush. You now have your base that the rest of the layers will clip to.
- Turn on MBL again and clip it to the base.
- (picture 5) Duplicate MBL again, and move the copy below MBL. Turn Protect Alpha on for this new layer, and color it a darker brown than both layers. At this point you need to pick a light source for your picture to keep in mind. This layer is your MLB shadow to give your bark depth. Use the Move tool to shift this darker brown layer appropriately, in my case the light is coming from middle left, so I shifted straight to the right. Keep the edge of this layer underneath your MBL to keep your shadow connected.
- (picture 6) Blur this layer with “Gaussian Blur” (in filter tab). I recommend between 3 and 4. Lower the opacity if it feels too dark.
- (picture 7) Repeat steps 5 and 6, clipping it just above the base. With a mid-dark green, move it right in between the MBL lines, and use a stronger blur (closer to 5). This is to add moss between the bark and is optional, and you can modify it to be different colors of moss or weathering/debris. Again, turn down the opacity if it feels too dark.
- Now select your MBL. It’s easiest to do this by right clicking the layer and clicking “Import As Selection”. It is also super helpful to have “Highlight Outside” unchecked in the Select menu for the rest of this process to see how the colors work together better and so you don't burn your eyes with purple.
- (picture 9/9-Solo) Pick a yellow-green color and clip a new layer on top all the others. Here is where custom brushes can come in, a leaf brush or multi leaves brush is perfect here. This is going to be surface moss and give variety to our one brown tone MBL. Go with a small brush size and turn “Color Jitter” (NOT “Hue Jitter”) to about 25. Alternatively, you can draw this in one color and then cop-paste it, move it, and color it a close color. Use natural and random brush strokes with how you apply the 'moss'. Lines and patches are best! I merged them so I cant show them separately, but I also used a larger and lighter airbrush brush underneath my patches, still within the MBL selection. Mess with opacity and color to your liking. You may also want to blur your airbrush strokes if they are still too defined.
- (picture 10) With MBL still selected, on a new clippped layer pick a really thin brush in black. Bark isn’t totally solid all the way down the tree, it has breaks and cracks. These will be horizontal lines around the tree, branching off from each other. They should be wavy with a couple sharp corners here and there. This step is really up to your taste, I think less is more here, though real trees have a ton of this. Lower the opacity at the end, I have mine on 50%.
- (picture 11/11-Solo) Another brush, but this time over the whole tree, so just clip this layer on top. I’m using a hair texture brush in black, its just a series of semi-straight really thin lines and can be done manually then copy pasted a ton. Set the blending mode to “Overlay”, this should be low visibility, its just to add very fine texture.
- (picture 12) All that’s left now is major light and major shade. I’ll tell my process and a few pointers, but honestly you should stick with your methods so the tree blends well with the rest of your illustration. The important thing is with the roots and any branches you have. To make the roots visible there needs to be a defining solid edge to make it separate from the main trunk.
- (picture 13-15) I use the “Multiply” blending mode with the base brown and lower the opacity as needed.
- Add a darker shadow on the far side of the tree for the main darkest shadow.
- For the lighting, select your MBL again with right clicking the layer. Find a color for your light, the color will depend on your time of day, tone of the illustration, etc. Add your lighting in the selection only, I think this looks ten times better than placing it all over like the shadow.
So that’s pretty much it! Adding more roots and branches afterward isn’t a huge deal either. Just define the shape in the base color, and go one layer at a time adding in the branch. Make sure to continue the MBL lines onto the branch so it looks connected instead of tacked on, and remember that the branch continues in its own direction and doesn’t totally match the vertical/horizontal details of the straight vertical trunk.
Hope this was helpful for someone!