Students create a crayon drawing of a tree using contrasting colours to make highlights and shadows.

Required Time

40 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 3 to Grade 6


Art Techniques


analogous colours colour contrast highlights pigment shadows value


Crayola Crayons - 24 Count Crayola Marker & Watercolour Paper or Crayola Sketchbooks

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HOW TO DRAW A TREE WITH CRAYONS – Highlights, Shadows - Step One

Step One

  1. Use a pencil to draw the outline of a tree with lots of branches.
HOW TO DRAW A TREE WITH CRAYONS – Highlights, Shadows - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Imagine where the light hits the tree.
  2. Colour patches of yellow to show where the light is hitting the tree.
  3. Colour right over the pencil lines.
  4. Let the colour lead your eye through the tree.
  5. Colour the trunk yellow too.
HOW TO DRAW A TREE WITH CRAYONS – Highlights, Shadows - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Fill in the rest of the leaves with green.
  2. Let the colours overlap and mix a little.
HOW TO DRAW A TREE WITH CRAYONS – Highlights, Shadows - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Use dark brown to colour the branches and part of the trunk.
  2. Let the colours overlap and mix where they meet. 
  3. Colour green on top of some of the branches to make the tree look more 3-dimensional.
    - you may need to erase the branch colour to be able to add green
  4. Add strokes of green and yellow at the base of the tree for grass.
HOW TO DRAW A TREE WITH CRAYONS – Highlights, Shadows - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Imagine where the darkest shadows would be in the tree.
  2. Use a purple crayon to lightly colour patches of shadow over the green.
  3. Let the colour lead your eye through the tree.
  4. Colour a small edge of purple along the outside of the trunk.
  5. Add a few strokes of purple in the grass at the base of the tree. 

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • create a crayon drawing of a tree;
  • use contrast to show highlights and shadows;
  • explain their process;
  • express opinions about the drawings; 
  • support their ideas with evidence found in the drawings.


Have students:

  • apply their crayon skills to create an Anatomy of a Tree brochure that includes information about leaves; branches and twigs; layers of the trunk; and roots.
  • share and discuss their work with their peers.


  1. Download images of trees from the Internet, for example,
    Sugar Maple
  2. Gather and make available books about trees, for example, The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups, by Gina Ingoglia; Trees, Leaves & Bark, by Diane Burns; DK Eyewitness Books: Tree, by David Burnie; Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Trees, by Patricia Daniels; and Tell Me, Tree: All About Trees for Kids, by Gail Gibbons.
  3. Download and display the Colour, Value and Contrast posters available on this website.


  1. View and discuss several of the tree images. Draw attention to:
    - overall shape of the foliage
    - size and shape of the trunk and branches
    - highlights and shadows
    - how foliage overlaps some of the branches
  2. Ask students to share what they know about using crayons.
  3. Explain that crayons are a combination of wax and pigments (a substance that contains colour). You can:
    - colour with them with hard or light pressure
    - colour one colour over another to make a new colour
    - rub your fingers with hard pressure over a finished drawing to melt and blend the colours
    - rub your fingers lightly over a finished drawing to polish it
  4. Discuss the posters, drawing attention to:
    - analogous colours on the colour wheel (green, yellow-green, yellow)
    - complementary colours (yellow, violet)
    - intensity (brightness of a colour)
    - value (lighter values seem closer to the viewer than darker values)
    - contrast (dark beside light)
  5. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a crayon drawing of a tree.
  2. Use contrast to show highlights and shadows.
  3. Explain your process.
  4. Express opinions about the drawings. 
  5. Support your ideas with evidence found in the drawings.

The Process

  1. Make sure everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I:
    - create a crayon drawing of a tree
    - use contrasting colours to show highlights and shadows
    - keep the paper in good condition
    - accurately describe how to make the drawing
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Observe students as they work. 
  5. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into small groups. 
  2. Ask them to: 
    - Compare their work and describe to each other something they find interesting and why.
    - Discuss the things that are especially effective and why.

    - Talk about what they found difficult and what they found easy to do.
    - Discuss how they might use what they have learned in another way
  3. Share ideas with the whole class. 
  4. Ask students to tell how they felt about doing this project.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting
  2. Observe students as they discuss the experiments – active listening, insightful contributions, supporting ideas with evidence found in the artwork and from personal experience.
  3. Use a checklist to track progress. (Downloads – CrayonTree_tracking.pdf)
  4. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Downloads - CrayonTree_self-assessment.pdf, or CrayonTreePrimary_self-assment.pdf))