I remember one of the first paintings I made in art school : I walked by these trees with such magnificent fall colors, and ran to the classroom to tell my teacher that I simply can’t stay inside to paint the model for now! ( that now turned into ever) I had very open and supportive teachers. Very lucky!
It’s fall again! This time I want to share a really fun and quick way to paint fall trees with watercolor! Even if you never painted before, you can do this in 10 minute, I promise!
By the way, I did not invent these techniques, there are many wonderful artists sharing these methods on websites and in videos, so a big thank you to all of them!!
Materials and tools:
- watercolor paper : there are many kinds of watercolor papers, some have a warm ivory tone to them, others are more white, you can compare the first and last image to see the difference. If you just want to play and practice, even this inexpensive paper will work!
- brushes: 2 are enough for this painting, I like using those with a nice pointed tip for watercolors, they are great for washes, and for finer details
- a tooth brush : this is a lot of fun to use, you will see!
- watercolor paint : they often come with a lid that can be used to mix colors. A white plastic plate is also great for mixing colors
- a dish to hold water for wetting and rinsing brushes
Let the brush soak up a lot of water, then touch the tip with a little bit of color, now place your brush on the mixing surface, you will have a very diluted wash.
Look at the canopy as clusters of clouds, and don’t worry if you “mess up”, every tree is different, and these shapes will guide us in the next step.
Step 2: Add deeper color washes
While the first thin washes are still wet, add more color to your paint brush, and paint on top of the first layer. Have a second brush handy, dip it in water and wet the paper a bit more if it feels too dry.
This technique is called painting on wet. It creates a nice colored area with soft edges.
I used some yellow, orange, and olive green. You can see all these colors flow into each other because they all have soft edges.
Tips: How to mix a natural green
A lot of times the ready made green are too saturated, as you can see that neon green up here. By mixing it with a touch of yellow and red (opposite of green), it becomes a natural olive green on the left. There are infinite variations of green, and that’s the beauty of it – you don’t need to mix the same shade of green every time!
Step 3: Paint the tree trunk and branches
Mix a little brown and black to get a grey-brown color, start with a pale wash( like in step 1) of the trunk form and a few branches in the canopy,then paint a deeper color over it, like in step 2. If you are unsure, always stay with the lighter washes, it’s easy to go darker later.
Step 4: Toothbrush splatters
This is so much fun! Wet the toothbrush, then dip it in a color, I started with yellow here, then run your finger on the toothbrush so the splatters end up in the area you want. After the yellow splatters, repeat with orange, and the olive green we made in step 2.
Step 5: Paint brush splatters
The toothbrush splatters give us some fine leaves and misty effects, In this step, we will make some slightly bigger splatters.
Let one brush soak up some paint, then tap it on a stick, or use the end of another brush. repeat with different colors for a richer effect.
Final touches: You can create a ground area with a little bit of thin washes of olive green, and some splatters. Darken some of the branches if they need to pop a bit more. Woohoo, finished!
If you always wanted to paint, don’t let fear holding you back. Try this simple tip: start with lighter colors and thin washes, build it up gradually, and always have handy a wet brush with no paint, just water, use it to lift off paint or to soften edges!
Enjoy your beautiful fall days and happy creating!