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How should I go about animating a growing tree?

Just using scaling and shrinkwraping does make it look kind of like it's "growing" but it's not how a tree really should grow.

My idea is, to have the tree go from a single twig as a sapling, then adding on new branches and "leaves" as it grows further. If I just scale it, then a fully grown tree looks the same as a sapling, just bigger (duh) so it doesn't really feel like it's growing.

I can't get shape keys to work, as I would need to increase/reduce the amount of vertices and also, I'm using the skin modifier, but I can't get the vertex radiuses to animate to make the branches thicker/thinner.

Is there an easier way than just manualy animatin every single vertex? Maybe if I make intermediate models and transition between them if that's possible?

Also as an extra, would it be also possible to add on bones as the tree develops, as to add wind effects and other interactions?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ why not bones and use their scale to make the tree fatten or scale on the Z axis etc? $\endgroup$
    – moonboots
    Commented Aug 17, 2020 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ that does work, but at some point I would like to transition from a straight twig to a developed tree and I'm not sure if I can just add a bone to an armature in the middle of an animation. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 17, 2020 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ you can juste align all your bones at the beginning then they begin to grow and rotate, I've given a try it's pretty easy to do $\endgroup$
    – moonboots
    Commented Aug 17, 2020 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ okay I'll give it a try and see how it goes! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 17, 2020 at 13:40
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Post the result as an answer. It's a valid method and should be seen between the answers =) $\endgroup$
    – Leander
    Commented Aug 17, 2020 at 19:25

1 Answer 1


So I'll just post this as an answer but if anybody has a better suggestion feel free to share!

So I managed to get it to work thanks to moonboots's comment

Growing tree

As suggested I made an armature and just scaled down each branch seperatley and then rotated it so it's hidden inside the mesh. It looks fine from a distance but not so great up close

Up close view of branches inside the mesh


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