How to Draw a Landscape


Posted on June 1, 2014 by

Landscape drawing is capturing a scene from nature, and drawing it on paper. Scenery drawing has always been attractive and pleasing to all art lovers.

Planning the Landscape:

Most landscapes are drawn and painted in a horizontal ‘picture plane’. A ‘picture plane’ is referred to the paper or canvas you are drawing upon.


Composition is critical in order for a landscape to look appealing upon completion, and is thus the key to any good scenic work of art. It is important to know where to begin when drawing a landscape. If all the elements to be drawn are placed right, the final product will end up being a well-composed picture. When you are drawing on the spot, and standing at a point to draw, you tend to admire the whole scene and want to place it all on your paper or canvas. This, however, should not be attempted. Only a part of the scene should be chosen and depicted in a drawing. It is also good to take photos of the spot to better choose your composition.

Horizon Line:

On a horizontal picture plane, the first thing to be defined is the horizon line. The horizon line should never be placed in the center of the page as it makes a drawing boring and static. Ideally, the horizon line is placed at 1/3 the distance from the top or the bottom of the page to give the scene more visual appeal.

Focal Point:

Your drawing must also have a focal point. This is the main object in your scene and is where the viewer’s eye should be lead, the center of interest. Just as a horizon line in the middle of the page can be boring, the focal point should not be placed in the center in order to keep the composition of the landscape interesting.

Picture #1:

landscape picture 1

Here I have chosen a landscape with a good portion of sky, a good depth into the distance and a portion of water to show reflection of the sky as well as some trees. The trees on the right are going to be my focal point as they are in the near distance and can be most detailed.

Using a light 2B pencil, I have roughly drawn a sketch. Using lines, I have marked places where the horizon line, bushes, trees and river are going to be.

Picture #2:

pic_2 (edit)

In the 2nd picture, I have added some more details to the initial drawing. I have made the objects in the foreground a bit darker and more elaborate.


The objects that are at a far distance should appear dim to human eye; it is a rule of nature. The further away an object is from the eyes, the dimmer it appears. While drawing a landscape the distance is depicted by making the objects in the background appear hazy with limited detail. Objects should lose their detail as they recede from the eye and should be softly and gently blended and melted into the receding sky. This will also give a pleasant effect to the ambiance of the landscape.

For instance, you can see that there is a tree in the distance, but you cannot see each and every branch of it or its leaves. Thus, it should only be suggested when you are drawing and let the imagination see the detail. You should not attempt to add any detail to the far off objects. Sometimes your brain might tell you to add details, as they are stored from memory, but use your better judgment, and try to avoid overdetailing distant objects.


It is not necessary to add all the details even in the foreground. Leaving some objects unfinished adds character to the whole picture. The drawing should not be overworked. If it is overworked it may lose its vitality and become flat and expressionless.


When you have finished drawing the lines indicating all the elements to be drawn, you can begin your detailing.

In every landscape, be it in any medium, you always start your shading, detailing or painting with the object at the furthest distance. As you want to create depth and depict the whole distance, be very careful of how you add in details.

I have started by shading the bushes that I perceive to be the furthest away. I used very delicate and small strokes of my pencil. I still used a 2B pencil, just exerting slight pressure on it.

When you are shading, the pencil should be a bit slanted and not held upright, like you do when writing; this helps avoid any unnecessary details to distant objects.

The distant shading can be delicately blurred using a tissue or blending stump if you like. The goal is to depict the depth of the scene but with a blurred, hazy look.

The angle of the strokes also depicts distance and gives character to a drawing. For instance, the clouds are done using horizontal strokes and the reflection of the bushes in the river will be done vertically. The objects far away are drawn with a weak and delicate line, whereas at a nearer distance the lines become stronger.


Clouds should be drawn and shaded carefully as they play a great role in giving the sense of space to a landscape. It is not necessary to give them a complete outline, but they should be just shaded slightly where needed.

Tonal Values:

Value is the darkness and the lightness of a color or shade. When drawing a landscape, the tonal values are very important. To get the right tones of shading you will want to first determine the source and direction of light.

In most landscapes the sunlight is the main source of light and we can see it all over the ground. Dark shades and directional light occur when there is a presence of dark clouds.

In the landscape I have chosen to draw, the sunlight is visible throughout, and the direction of light seems to be from the top. I can clearly see the shadows and highlights of the sunlight. The trees and bushes have very vivid dark and light shades. These will provide the tonal values for the overall picture.

Dark, medium and white are the tones mainly used. I have however added some color to make the drawing a bit more interesting.

The areas where the sunlight is most visible, should be left white, and grey should be the area with a little less light and the dark areas are the areas in shadow.

Picture #3:

pic_3 (edit)

You can see I have started to add some color to the landscape. I used pan watercolors by Winsor & Newton Cotman:

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I have given a pale shade to the sky using ‘cobalt blue’ which as we go down, blends into ‘cerulean blue’ and then fades. If you observe carefully, the sky is bluer at the top and as you lower your gaze, and the sky meets the ground, it becomes paler; this change of shades also adds to the depth.

Picture #4:

pic_4 (edit)

I have added some color to the sketched landscape as well. If you want to add color, the distant objects should be colored in cool colors. As a rule of thumb, the further the objects are, the cooler the tones should be. The greens that I have used are a mixture of ‘viridian green’ and ‘hooker’s green’. They should be added with a little blue so it remains set in the background and doesn’t bounce to the foreground. Moving a bit ahead I have used ‘hooker’s green’ with a tinge of yellow and ochre so they get warmer as they grow closer to the eye.

Picture #5:

pic5 (edit)

Next, I have colored in some parts of the foreground. The reflections in the river are also shaded in. While shading the water, your strokes should be horizontal to give the right effect. The river should have white and light blue patches where the sky is reflected. The shadows that are most visible are also shaded in. I have changed the tone of my colors to a warmer palette. I used ochre and yellow and viridian green as it is, so there is a visible difference of distance maintained.

Picture #6:

pic6 (edit)

In the next picture, you can see more details completed. I have colored the trees on the right and added some foliage too. If you want to shade them with pencil, that can be done using the flat side of a pencil. At this point, the pencils to be used should be darker, 4B and 6B. I will be filling in more details and drawing more details in the next few steps.

Picture #7:

pic7 (edit)

Again, further detail has been integrated into the landscape. The trees are colored using ‘burnt umber’, ‘ochre’ and ‘burnt sienna’ shades. I have added more foliage using the tip of a #3 watercolor brush and have complimented the scenery by adding some grass. I have drawn in the tall grass using very dry strokes. The very tip of the #3 brush produces a fine line, so I have used that to draw the fine tall grass blades. The colors used for the grasses consist of yellow, ochre and viridian green.

I have also done some rough strokes at the base of the tree on the left. This is where I can see twigs and bushes in the dark area.

Picture #8:

final_photo (edit).

I took a step back to look at the whole picture and decide where more work was needed. The bushes on the left should have been drawn further back, for instance. So I gave them a little touch up with a very light shade of violet color. The coolness of colors forces the object to recede into the distance. Similarly, I had to give a few strokes to the little bushes on the right side, in the distance. A few horizontal strokes are given to the river as well, as it looked like it needed a bit more attention.

I gave some more dry strokes to the foreground as well and added some bright yellow grass blades. Finally, I took a brown charcoal pencil and gave little dark strokes to the bases of the trees and bushes, just to add a bit of life to the picture.

Final Picture:

In the final picture shows the finishing touches.

final_fixed_with_photshop (edit)


Landscapes are fun to draw, and if the basic rules of perspective, distance and composition are followed you can draw beautiful pictures. Scenery landscapes are fairly simple and there is a whole wide world out there to be captured, so grab your sketchpad or canvas, and get started!

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