How to Draw Mountains in 5 Easy Steps

Whether you want to draw mountains in the foreground or background, covered in snow or in trees, these vast, inspiring subjects can completely change a landscape drawing.

1. DIVIDE THE PAGE WITH THE HORIZON LINE AND PLACE THE MOUNTAINS ABOVE IT.

To begin, determine the position of the horizon line on your page and draw the outline of a mountain range above it. Usually a mountain range has a layered appearance: one layer of peaks overlaps the other. The more distant the mountains are, the simpler and lighter they look.

Each peak can be divided into two sides to create volume. One side will be darker than the other — keep reading for more tips on defining light and dark areas of your composition.

2. DIVIDE THE SUBJECT INTO TWO MAJOR PLAINS: LIGHT AND DARK.

No matter the medium you use, begin working on your picture with the shadows. Determine the darkest areas and shade them first, building contrast.

Deliberate contrast between the foreground and background often makes the picture. A better reference picture can make a big difference: Try to take photos that are not busy and flat but have lots of information, showing the depth of field as well as attractive lighting conditions.

3. DETERMINE THE DISTANCE AND TEXTURES TO USE FOR EVERY SECTION.

In the drawing above I used an ultra-fine point black felt-tip marker to sketch the mountains. Notice that every area has a unique stroke direction to describe the landscape. Location and the time of formation also affect a mountain’s appearance. In the first drawing in this post, the nearest mountains sit low and have a bit of vegetation, while the mountains at the distance have no detail and are lighter in value.

For the far-away mountains in your composition, use parallel strokes to create the essence of distant trees and mountains. Use the contour and scribble lines or crosshatching to depict the same subjects up close.

The same applies to your use of values. The up-close mountains are darker, brighter and with vivid detail as opposed to the bluish, light distant mountains.

4. SKETCH IN GRAPHITE.

After placing the biggest elements and differentiating between light and dark areas, mark the general position of the darkest values in broad pencil strokes and fill in the sky (and water, if your composition includes a body of water).

5. ADD THE FINISHING TOUCHES.

Finally, add any extra element, such as trees, snow or reflections in the water. Keep the sky soft to contrast the trees and sharper angles of the mountains.

EXPERIMENT DRAWING THE MOUNTAINS WITH VARIOUS MEDIA.

Try pen and ink, graphite, a combination of water colour pencils and pen and ink, or coloured pencils. When you feel confident drawing the mountains, try painting them preferably from life. Have fun! It’s not as hard as it looks.