- Welcome to my how to draw a palm tree tutorial!
- Let's learn about palm trees!
- Exploration and study: Discovering a palm tree's basic shape
Welcome to my how to draw a palm tree tutorial!
Welcome to another article in my how-to-draw series. This article is all about palm trees and how to draw them! If you want to add more beach and “fun in the sun” feel to the ocean and sand of your art, draw palm trees! A simple palm tree, coconuts, and some tropical fruit can create moods for your drawing that say “vacation and Mai Tais” or “building sandcastles with the kids.”
As you go through this article, you may notice that I’ve changed my format a little bit this time by leaving out the lighting (shadow and light) part. I’ll clarify that choice toward the end here, but, first, let’s focus on learning how to draw a palm tree!
Once you learn to draw a palm tree with all its parts and detail–from the silhouette to the curved lines of the tree trunk, and the round crown to a palm tree’s leaves–you can render your finished drawing however you choose: realistic, cartoon, anime. You’ll be covered by what you learn how to draw here!
First, we explore and study all the shapes and forms that make a palm tree look like a palm tree. Then, we’ll start constructing the basic shapes and forms, move into practicing with palm tree silhouettes, dig into some step-by-step palm tree drawing tutorials, and draw a palm tree in perspective.
I’ll cover the basic shapes, forms, & silhouettes of palm trees and all their parts, including the palm tree trunk and palm tree leaf. Our first step is the same as always: references!
Let’s learn about palm trees!
Palms, including palm trees, are from the family Arecaceae. They are a family of flowering plants with several growth forms, all commonly known as palms.
Most palm species, characterized by large evergreen leaves called fronds, are found in tropical and subtropical environments.
As one of the best known and most cultivated plant families, palms show extensive diversity in physical characteristics that allow them to inhabit nearly every kind of habitat. Being so well cultivated means palms, from their wood to their fruits, have several uses in human society, including palm wood, carnauba wax, palm syrup, dates, oils, jelly, and coconut products.
Exploration and study: Discovering a palm tree’s basic shape
Study sketches help us build our design process. In this step, we must take the time to understand the “thing” we’re drawing. Without this step–or without spending enough time with this step–drawings and designs will likely fall flat.
Since we’re not interested in polishing turds, let’s learn about the shapes and forms that make a palm tree!
Shape breakouts and natural variations
Palm trees have fairly basic overall shapes. To begin an amazing palm tree drawing, choose a few simple shapes and forms.
I started outlining the basic shape breakdowns first because it communicates our goal in this step more clearly. However, it’s important to note that exploration doesn’t start with the shape breakdown sketch you see above; it starts with a messy and thorough exploration of your subject with all its parts and variations.
Here are my exploration study sketches:
First, I explored all the parts of the palm tree: palm leaves, the palm tree trunk, the different directions of the fronds, and individual leaf construction information for several types of palm leaves.
The challenge and complexity arise when it’s time to draw all the details and textures–a lot of small and irregular shape details– that give palm trees that recognizable feel and character.
My hope and encouragement for you are that you don’t forget or skip the exploration drawings stage before jumping straight into the palm tree step by step tutorials coming up.
Trust me, your step-by-step practice will level up much further the more you study palm trees through sketching exploration.
How to draw a palm tree: form construction
Completing our palm tree exploration sketches gave us a decent grasp of the parts of the palm tree. We have a solid idea of the lines, outline, silhouette, and edges that we need to create our own palm tree drawing.
Our study into how to draw a palm tree allowed us to wrap our minds around where we need to be drawing curved lines vs. horizontal lines or a straight line and showed us which basic shapes and forms we have to work with.
As we continue to learn how to draw a palm tree, let’s jump into practicing the tree’s form construction.
The bulk of form construction on a palm tree lies in drawing the trunk while drawing a palm leaf–called a frond–calls for drawing slightly curved planes without much volume apart from the palm frond base.
Most of the trunk is a simple long cylinder, but the portion at the top that resembles a fat cylindrical drum (and sits between the leaves and the trunk) has much more volume and thickness from the forms of dozens and dozens of pruned/shaved fronds.
If you could use more help with drawing forms, please check out my Form in Art and Art Fundamentals for Beginners articles.
A word about research…
Looking up palm tree drawings or palm trees on Google images gives the impression that most palm trees are just long and skinny with a few floppy fronds and a sprinkling of coconuts. This impression is mostly true of young palm trees or palm trees that have been more heavily pruned through shaving.
To learn how to draw a palm tree, I took a look at how trees get that shaved, skinnier look:
Here’s what I see around my neighborhood:
The point I’m trying to make here is: Always do your research and then find the best references you can because a basic search will only get you what everyone else has drawn, and that’s never the whole story of all that’s available for your designs.
Palm tree silhouette
I mentioned at beginning of this tutorial that I’d changed my format a bit for this article, and here’s why:
When you start exploring palm tree drawing (or any tree…or hair…or fur…really any highly textured thing, you get the idea ???), it quickly becomes clear that drawing the leaves of a palm tree one at a time is a huge pain in the butt!
The studies alone that I drew showed me the last thing I wanted to do was draw the fronds one at a time. So, when the shapes are small or many and squished or layered, what tip can we use to save us pulling out our hair? Introducing, Silhouettes!
How to draw a palm tree with silhouette, step-by-step tutorial
There isn’t one right way to draw silhouettes. What I’m showing below is only one way to approach it. Please approach this in the most intuitive way for your drawing process.
Here are a few I drew by hand during my exploration stage.
Drawing with silhouettes helps us visualize our overall subject and its gesture without allowing us to get bogged down in details.
Since most of what we see of trees is their general silhouette and light effects on their shapes and forms (small shapes make textures!), using silhouettes to draw palm trees gets us further along without all the hair-pulling ?.
Once we’ve experimented with a few silhouettes (they should totally be messy, not precious at this stage!) and chosen what we like, we can flesh out the internal shape and form information by drawing over our palm tree silhouette.
Palm tree silhouette draw over, step by step
To do this digitally as I have:
- Create a new layer over your silhouette and fill it completely with white, and then lower its opacity until you can clearly see your palm tree drawing silhouette enough to draw and trace over it.
- Create another new layer on top of your white trace layer and begin sketching the internal shape information over the top of your silhouette, including texture information.
- Use as many layers as you’d like to experiment with as many interior shape designs as you can. Simply hide the layers of your other design iterations to help you focus on the current layer’s work.
If you started traditionally on paper, you can also complete this step by photographing/scanning your drawing for your base palm tree drawing layer and then follow the steps above.
To do this traditionally:
- Get some tracing paper and overlay it onto your drawing.
- Begin sketching the internal shape information over your drawing onto the tracing paper. I recommend using pencils for this so you can easily make changes as you sketch. It’s also fun and useful to have multiple pieces of tracing paper for trying different interior shape designs.
A light box, if you have one available, is also a useful tool for this step when you’re working traditionally. Here are a couple of options from Blick & Amazon.
I found this to be one of the most interesting and enjoyable steps for how to draw a palm tree, and I encourage you to work loosely and have a blast with it.
Easy steps palm tree drawing
Now, we come to the how to draw a palm tree step by step parts of this tutorial. This is the easiest version of this tutorial. I plan to create a more advanced and involved version in the future.
Since the planes and lines of a palm tree can get overwhelming quickly, I break the drawing process down into lots of digestible steps.
First, choose the simple shapes you want for your leaves and trunk and create a simple silhouette as shown here.
If you want to add some fruits, like coconuts, now is a good time to add their shapes as well.
Next, we begin to construct the forms from our thumbnail.
Here I drew the middle “drum-like” part that sits between the fronds and the trunk.
Draw the long trunk attached to the “drum-like” part.
Draw the overall container or “envelope” shape you want for the palm tree leaves. This step helps you begin blocking in the gesture and direction of your leaves.
Overlay the palm leaf gesture lines onto your envelope shape. This gesture line step helps you place the tree’s leaves in the position and direction you want them.
On top of the gesture lines from the last step, draw your leaf shapes.
Begin adding texture details to your leaves by using lines to “cut” into the edges/contours of each leaf.
Next, I added simplified oval shapes to represent the shaved/pruned fronds on the “drum-like” part of the tree.
More texture adds to the palm tree feel of the drawing.
Before cleanup, add some texture to the trunk.
The highly textured feel of a palm tree trunk comes from lots of frond leaves that were pruned/shaved as the tree grew.
Once you clean up your lines and edges, erasing where there is some overlap of shapes and lines you don’t need, you’ll be all done!
Palm tree drawing in Perspective
Knowing how to draw a palm tree in perspective is useful for placing your trees in any scene you want. Below is a quick visual demo for drawing palm trees in two-point perspective.
Color and light and palm trees
I know there’s a lot more to cover to help you understand how to add color and light to a palm tree, but that’s a whole other discussion trust me. I will write another article to cover the color and light area on its own so it’s not confusing ?.
In the meantime, if you’d like to add some light to your tree, please try out my Fundamentals of Light article. It will help you get started with the basics of light and shadow in art.
More details and coloring of palm trees
Without getting into the weeds too much, I thought it would be useful to do a quick visual once over of the textural details palm trees possess.
Here you’ll get an idea of the other textures and some very useful references for your drawing! For quick color experiments, I recommend using colored pencils or pastels.
FULL DISCLOSURE: I do not own these images! I found them on Google Images under the “Creative and Commons” usage rights filter.
Palm tree trunk dissection reference
Palm tree trunk texture reference
Palm fruit reference
Fond wishes and a warm farewell until next time!
I hope you found this to be one of those easy drawing tutorials, and I hope the art and explanations here have helped you digest the more difficult aspects of how to draw palm trees.
Thank you for spending part of your day with me learning how to draw a palm tree! I appreciate you stopping by, and I’d love to hear your feedback. If you have any questions or ideas for improving this article, please leave them for me in the comments below.
Stay safe, and Happy Drawing!