Realistic Leaf Drawing in 4 Steps With Photoshop

A focus on a realistic leaf drawing is helpful in making a good floral scenery. The final resulting leaf drawing in this guide should illustrate that even the most detailed drawings can be done with the simplest of drawing tools.

While typically green, most leaves will typically change colors in the autumn months to prepare for winter. The colors can range from yellow, orange, or red. Leaves have many different shapes and can live in water as well as on land.

There are many ways to use leaves in art. The most common way for artists wishing to capture the beauty of nature will often draw foliage (collection of leaves). On the flip side, If they wish to view to capture subjects like insects, a blown up drawing of a leaf can be used as the backdrop.

Leaves can even be used to indicate motion. When an invisible force like wind is involved, physical indicators of direction such as leaves, paper, or dust, are generally used. Use this opportunity to build a realistic leaf drawing so you can use it to expand on other drawings of nature.

Sketching a realistic leaf drawing

Leaves are broad, flat, and thin to maximize the sunlight it can receive. The latter piece of information will give you an idea of how to angle your leaf drawing when you are factoring a light source. Aside from that, leaves do have an anatomy to study.

The main components are the petiole that connects the leaf to the stem or branch, the midrib that acts like a central canal, the leaf blade itself that defines the entire shape of the leaf, and the veins spreading out from the midrib that carries water to the entire leaf.

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The initial sketch of your leaf will consist of two layers: the simple gesture drawing that shows the main components and a backdrop layer. The backdrop is just a simple neutral color filling of the leaf shape that contains basic shading.

After both of these layers are drawn, merge it together to form one layer. This process is a quick and easy way to flush out any 'holes' you may have in the leaf. The goal here is to use the gesture lines to form guides to create additional details.

Smudging the realistic leaf drawing

In this step of creating a realistic leaf drawing, you will be smudging out the drawing lines. Two areas to smudge out first would be the veins and the blade edges. This serves to blend in the colors as well as finalizing the look as you smudge the blade to form possible edges.

After the smudging is complete on the veins and blade, use the eraser to define the shape of the leaf. The random jagged edges will give it variety. You may also choose to align some of the edges with how the veins angle out to make it look more natural.

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Drawing the midrib is a technique that you will use for the complicated veins in the next step. First, start by drawing a smooth dark line. Then, switch to a lighter color and draw over top the dark line to create the midrib. This will make it stand out.

The final part in this step would be to draw blobs for the dew. On a separate layer, draw very strong circular blobs. There are no particular way to draw the blob shapes nor is there any set placement pattern. The more random the shapes, the better it will look.

Detailing the realistic leaf drawing

The veins are the next objective in this guide. First, lock down the leaf object so you can't draw out of its boundaries by accident. Then, using a small brush, draw simple lines to indicate the veins. The secret here is to 'fork' out every vein to form a 'Y' in every vein you draw.

As mentioned with the midrib, the veins are a combination of two different lines being drawn together. Once you have drawn enough veins, you will trace over each vein with the opposite value. It may take some time as you want to go over the same veins as close as possible.

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Once you are done with the veins, go back to the layer that has the neutral colored blobs. It isn't as complicated at all to draw dew. The trick is to lock down this layer and then draw in a light color around the outline to make it look like water bubbles.

After that, blur the entire layer with a global blur filter. Assuming that the entire layer is still locked, blurring the bubbles will blend in the colors inside the blobs without blurring the edges. After that, draw some light areas inside to blob to make it look like light reflections.

Shading the realistic leaf drawing

Sometimes, the dew may look unrealistic or too strong. Since the dew is drawn on a separate layer, you can just simple adjust the opacity level to reduce its transparency. If that's still not enough, consider changing the entire blend mode of the layer to 'soft light'.

This particular blend mode will hide the neutral tones, based on the layer below it, while enhancing any light colors like the drawn in edges. This means that a translucent effect is created as it allows texture from the layer below it show through.

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For the light source, a cast shadow will also need to be drawn in just underneath the dew. On a different layer just underneath the dew, use a soft brush and gently glaze in a very small shadow. This cast shadow is used to signify the direction of the light source.

If the dew is too sharp when compared to the rest of the drawing, you can also sharpen the entire drawing using a global sharpening filter. Doing so will help it match the sharpness of the dew as well as bringing out the veins more clearly.

On the flip side, try drawing foliage underneath the leaf object. You can create a copy of your existing leaf drawing and blur it out several times to create a background of leaves. This blurring technique will give clarity and focus to the leaf.

When everything is in place, glaze in a unifying directional light source on a separate layer. Again, if the light source is too strong, you can always dial it back down using opacity settings or a layer's inherent blend mode to get the color effects you are looking for.