What’s the key to painting tree bark?
Emanuel Warburton, Wales
Tree bark differs from species to species so you need to decide what kind of tree you want to represent. For this example I’ve selected the bark of an oak tree.
Oak bark is covered by deep fractures that divide the surface into smaller, rougher areas. Within these fractures there will be moss, dust or wood of a different colour.
I start by selecting the right colour of the trunk. I avoid choosing a brown that’s too saturated. Once I’ve sketched my lights and shadows, I create a new layer where I trace the veins of the bark with a darker colour. I always use hard-edged brushes with rough textures. Then I create a new layer and add lighter areas. As a final touch I paint traces of moss and knots to accentuate the irregularity of the whole tree.
The vein pattern that I trace has to follow the shape of the tree in a natural way, so it shouldn’t look too tidy.
The key is suggesting the bark’s roughness. Photoshop’s basic sponge brushes are ideal.