Non-realistic tree tutorial

In this tutorial we’ll do something you would usually want to avoid, making a non-realistic tree, whilst still getting a pleasant result. to achieve this we’ll use a computer generated tree and two volume materials.


First off we need a tree. Blender has an addon, sapling,that does just that, but if you would like to use arbaro you could do that aswell. Personally I think arbaro offers more control, but to keep things simple I’ll use sapling here.

Sapling is an addon that comes with blender. To use it you’ll first have to turn it on. Click on file and on user preferences, then browse to the addons tab. Seach for sapling and check the box to enable it.

enable the sapling addon

Now add a tree by pressing shift > a and curve > add tree.

add tree


Now an enormous amount of settings will appear in the tool shelf. You can adjust the settings but there are two basic things that have to be done for this technique to work.

Check bevel, to add some thickness to the curve and set the amount of levels to three.

Preparing the tree

Note that we do not need leaves, so if you do have them, delete them now. If you have made your tree with sapling, you’ve got a curve object. We’ll need a mesh so convert it by pressing alt > c and click on mesh from curve/meta/surf/text.


Now select the tree and hit tab to go into edit mode. Select a vertex of the trunk, and hit cnrl > L to select the whole trunk. Now hit p and click on selection. This seperates the trunk from the rest of the mesh.

Next we’ll need to create some more volume. This totally depends on your preference. If you want more/denser leaves you can increase the volume.

The volume can easily be increased by using the shrink/fatten tool. Select your brances and hit alt > s. the amount of scaling differs per case, you can always make it larger/ smaller later.



This is the most important part. Start off by giving both objects a new material and name them accordingly.

For the leaves we’ll use a volume material. So set the material type to volume. Usually volume materials are used to colour smoke, but they’ll also do a great job colouring our leafs.

Copy the settings from the picture:

explanation of the settings:

  • density: the density of the leaves
  • density scale: makes density more consistent
  • scattering: makes the leaves more visible
  • emission: gives the colour to the leaves
  • step size: makes the leaves even denser


For the trunk I also used a volume material, but ofcourse a bark texture could be used too.

Scene setup

Even though the trees have to be unrealistic, I got the best results by using a sun lamp. So delete your lamp and add a sun or change the current lamp to a sun. rotate it a bit to get a nice angle.

Next positon your camera as you prefer.

Finishing touch

Basically you are done now, but for a nicer effect I always add a paper background to my renders.

A nice spot to get free paper textures is this page with 70 sources for free paper textures.

Next some node magic:

important nodes are:

  • The image node, found under input > image.
  • The scale node, found under distortion > scale. Forgetting this node will result in a stretched paper texture.
  • The alphaover node, found under color > alphaover

And of course the renderlayers and composite node. I added the rgb nodes to colorcorrect the paper and the tree a bit.

Hooking up the nodes like on the picture should then give you your non-realistic tree: