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How to Draw a Leaf

Learn how to draw a leaf from artist Rebecca Schweiger in this Howcast drawing tutorial.


We're now going to learn how to draw a leaf. I suggest you find a leaf that you really love. I absolutely love the tropics, so I'm going to focus on a really big, green, lifelike leaf.

The leaf I'm looking at is almost the shape of a heart, so I'm actually going to start by just drawing a big, long heart. Instead of the tip being pointed, I'm just going to allow it to be a little rounded. I'm going to draw in the stem. All the stem is, is a curved line; it's almost like a big, elongated S. I'm just going to draw that in. I'm going to now start looking a little closer at the outline of the leaf.

When drawing the leaf, I'm not looking at the entire leaf. I'm going to break it down into little sections that are going to be either a straight line or a curved line. When drawing, if you can look at something as a series of straight lines and curved lines, you will absolutely succeed at drawing whatever it is you're hoping for.

I'm going to start where the leaf meets the stem. The shape really is a big U. If you can write and create the alphabet, you can start your leaf. There's a big U, and then it turns into, really, an upside-down U; it's going to loop right around. The same thing happens over here, except the edge of the leaf is a little tucked over. Rather than being a perfect U, there's a little bit of a straight edge, and then another bit of a straight edge. With a leaf, both sides are not always going to be the same.

I'm going to continue on this side, and I'm just looking at the outside; just looking at the lines to find the shape of the leaf. If you are drawing, it's always very, very helpful to have something right in front of you, to look at. Most people do not have the type of memory where they can remember exactly what something looks like. Because every leaf is different, just because you knew how to draw a leaf last week, now you're drawing a new leaf, so you start from scratch.

I'm looking at the leaf, and I'm really looking at these beautiful and unique curves of the outline of the leaf; again, just a series of curved lines. It does not need to be perfect, no one is ever going to look at your drawing and say, "That doesn't look like that one leaf." Every leaf is totally different, and there is not one correct way to draw a leaf. There are many, many possibilities.

I've drawn the outline, and now I want to start drawing some of the veins. There's a line that comes right down the middle of this leaf. As I'm drawing this leaf, I'm also allowing myself to connect to the subject matter, to the leaf. I'm somewhat thinking about being on a beach in the Caribbean with these beautiful, big leaves fanning me, so that certainly inspires the experience, as well. As you're drawing your leaf, you really want to connect to the subject matter, and you really want to bring in your own sense of self-expression. I we all drew the same leaf, all of our drawings would look totally different, as they should.

I'm going to now focus on continuing the veins. Guess what; the veins, all they are, are more curved lines. Basically, the veins will be mirror-images on both sides; however, if the leaf is turned, at an angle, or one side of the leaf is folded over, it will look different. You really just want to pay attention to that curved line. They're all going to come right out of that center vein that cuts right through the middle of the leaf. With the leaf that I'm drawing, some of the veins are quite big, and then some of the veins are very, very small and very, very detailed.

I'm going to continue to bring those veins through, again, curving very organic lines. Then I can start to bring in even more detail. I'm not going to do the entire leaf right now, but I'll just show you a section of what it might look like if you really got very detailed with the veins of the leaf. In between these major veins are these minor veins. Basically once again, it's a lot of different curves connected to various straight lines; a lot of various organic shapes. As you're drawing it, it is quite amazing to really look in detail at the construction of a leaf. Very often, we see leaves, or we see natures, but how often do we really pay close-up attention?

As you're drawing, it can be quite enjoyable. I would continue. It's almost like shapes of a kaleidoscope, but again, every leaf is totally different. I would continue if I wanted to throughout the whole leaf. The last thing I would probably do, since I'm drawing this in pencil, is I'd probably just darken some of these main veins, just so those pop out a little more than the ultra-detailed veins. If you want to continue to take the drawing a step further, you can bring in some shading by using the side of your pencil and coloring in areas to show where is the leaf darker and where is the leaf lighter. Even without that, you end up with a basic shape and the basic formation of a leaf.

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