Full Menu:

Blog Summary

  1. Flash XML loops and accessing data Joel Reinke 13-Mar-2013
  2. The Latest: Apps & PHP customization Joel Reinke 20-Jun-2012
  3. Photoshop Tree Tutorial Joel Reinke 07-Nov-2011
  4. Developer Resource - Papervision3D joel reinke 27-Sep-2011
  5. Photoshop Landscape Painting Expanded Joel Reinke 09-Sep-2011


Web Design Mountain : designers : photoshop : photoshop-tree-painting

Photoshop Tutorial

Photoshop Tree Painting

How to paint a tree in Photoshop with basic brushes

I came up with a method for painting any type of tree in photoshop with basic included brushes.  This method mirrors how one would paint a tree in oil, watercolor, or acrylic mediums.  It will require manipulation of various brush settings in photoshop.  You can use a mouse or a pen tablet to acheive the desired effect, however, a pen tablet may yield better results (especially for craggy or knarled branches).

I have used CS3 for this. Any later versions will also work and I believe this will work with any CS version.

Video Tutorial Version (or continue below for Text Version with slight variations)

Deciduous Trees

Most of this tutorial will be about a more detailed approach to painting deciduous trees.  Evergreen trees have a different method and may not be added until latter. 

You paint a tree from the bottom up.  You paint it like it grows in nature which can make it a very fun process.  Select a dark brown color for the base color.  First paint in the base color and then later add the contour highlights for bark, shadows and highlights.

Here's how to set up the brush:

Pick a standard photoshop brush with a sketchy or painty texture. Here are two that I have worked with:

  • Thick Heavy Brushes: Smoother Round Bristle (thicker)
  • Natural Brushes: Stiple Dense 56 Pixels (sketchier)

Then adjust the size of the brush to the width your tree's trunk will be.  Lets use the Smoother Round Bristle for this example.  Next...

  1. Turn on the brushes Shape Dynamics > 0% Size Jitter > Control: Fade, 800 Steps, Minimum Diameter 0%> The rest Off
    This makes it like a paint brush where the paint is running out the farther you go and works great for the trunk, big branches, small branches, etc.  However...
  2. These settings depend on the size of your canvas so adjust if your canvas is smaller.  The example canvas is 3000 pixels wide by 2000 pixels tall -- the height being the most important factor
  3. For this example your size of brush is 175px for the trunk.  Start close to the bottom of the canvas and move up with some wiggle, or wave, or kink depending on the type of tree.
  4. For the second upward stroke it may be a slight offshoot of the trunk or a main branch.  Most likely, decrese the brush size 1 step.  Start from the same place you started the first brush stroke and trace it for a while until you want to branch out and start growing the structure of the tree.  This may take some experimentation to get right.
  5. Next, decrease the brush size again and reduce the number of Fade Steps by 100 or so.  Start the brush stroke a little bit up the trunk and branch out.
  6. Continue decreasing the brush size and Fade Steps until you have a bare tree with lots of detailed branches.
  7. You can also go down from the trunk to make roots if needed.  Use the same technique but maybe make the roots more twisted than the branches.

That's all for now, in my next installment I'll go into how to add texture to the tree.  Happy Painting!