I'm Back! What a great trip. It was fun to see the palm trees all decked out in Christmas lights and it was nice to be able to wear flip-flops again, if only for a few days. Whenever I go to S. California I love to draw palm trees, probably because we don't have any up here, it's too cold.
Coloring Pine branches or Palm fronds
In honor of the season, here's a quick tutorial on coloring palm fronds or pine branches. The steps are the same for either, it's just the climate that is different. The trick to coloring either type of branch is remembering your lighting. Pictures with more contrast are more interesting, so try to get light, middle, and dark into your picture.
1. Start with the background sky
If your background will be light blue then start with that FIRST. IF it's going to be a darker background, still color it first, but be more careful that you don't miss spots. The nice thing about a blue sky is that blue is one of the colors in green, and our trees are green.
Evenly color any area that might peek through the branches. On these pictures that I drew with a 0.1 mm multiliner, note that I went pretty deep into the drawn areas with my light blue. This assures me that once I layer in my greens there will be no spots of sky that I missed. If I accidentally colored over a bulb or ornament then I can use my blender and touch it up later.
2. Add your lightest green to the largest area.
In this case, I'm using G14, a nice, bright green. It may seem too bright, but trust me, it will get toned down.
Instead of coloring in circles, color in little flicking motions out from the middle of each branch/frond towards the tips (see the mini diagram in the photo). Don't worry about soaking through the paper, since our blends are different for something like this. Color the middle of the branch as well. Keep all your strokes consistent, but they don't have to be even on the ends. For something like this you can use the brush end of the Sketch/Ciao marker, or the fine end on a Copic Original.
At this point we haven't worried about a light source, since these are both base colors, but I've drawn arrows to show our light for the next step.
3. Add middle green
In this case I'm using G17. Add it stronger on the side of each branch that is farther from the light, but also add a few strokes on the sunny side. Where the two branches meet, go heavier with the dark green.
Pine branches will be denser and darker than palm fronds, so it's OK to use more of the middle green on these. Just remember to leave some areas of the light green for more contrast, particularly on the tips of each branch. Since they don't shed their needles, the tip of each pine branch is lighter green where new growth is taking place, so keep these lighter.
4. Add dark green
Just like on the last step, go darkest in the shadows, in little flicking motions that follow the growth on the branches. Use even less of the darkest, leaving areas of lighter green showing through.
On the palm tree, I used none of the dark green on the sunny side, since palm trees get more sun than pine. On the pine tree, note how I darkened the whole lower branch, leaving only the tip in light. I also am going to add a few hints of C8 to really darken up the pine's shadows. Now you can feel a difference between the two tree types, even though we used mostly the same colors.
How do I know if I've used enough light and dark?
I like to hold a picture a few feet from my face and squint at it. If you can still see good contrast between parts/branches, then you have enough contrast. If it all seems to blur together and you can't tell what's important, then try adding deeper shadows or leaving more highlights next time. Do this a few times while coloring, it really helps you get an idea for the overall picture and you can see better where your shadows and highlights are messed up.
5. Final Touches
This is where you finish coloring the pine branch with it's ornament and string of lights. Keep the highlight on the bulb consistent with your light source, and add shadows where the branches overlap the top of the ornament. I'm not adding any glow to the little string of lights (it's daytime they're not turned on), but if I were to add some glow, I would have needed to plan that in earlier and left the branches immediately around each bulb a little lighter.
The final, final touch is to add light back into the picture by touching in some Opaque white (go check out this link for another example of pine trees colored in). This makes the ornaments shiny, shows crisp definition on the pine needles, and adds some sunlight onto the palm tree. Remember, a little white goes a long way, so go easy on the white. One nice thing about Opaque white, is that if you do use too much, you can gently wash it away with a wet brush and it won't mess up your artwork underneath.
Here is my finished artwork, with all my notes erased and the Opaque white added. Look at how the picture seems to pop out of the page with all those layers of contrast. I hope this helps you make some fun images this holiday season. Again, thank you to all the fabulous people I met with on my trip this weekend.