How to Paint Snow-Covered Trees and Bushes for a Perfect Winter Scene

watercolor snow covered pine tree

The key to the perfect winter scene: painting snow. And if you’re working on a landscape, knowing how to effectively (and beautifully) paint snow on trees and bushes is a must. Here’s how to do it.

How to Paint Snow on Trees and Bushes

Level: Easy

What You Need

  • Watercolor paper
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Watercolor paints
  • Instructions

    1. Prep Your Picture

    graphite bush and tree

    For this tutorial, we’ll be painting a bush and a tree. Each will show a slightly different way to create the same, snowy effect.

    For the shrub, we formed a planned outline with leaves and then a rough line outline to complete the entire shape that will need to conform to its place in a composition.

    Good to Know: This method works well when you want a more detailed look to your work. It’s helpful when you need to see just how the plant life will work in your artwork, especially if it needs to be specific. The greenery is now easy to see and paint, while leaving the rest white. This creates the snow-covered effect.

    For the tree, draw a simple line outline of the size, shape and area where you will be placing your plant life. Try to keep your pencil lines light here because they will need to be erased as you draw in the exposed greenery.

    tree and shrub snow

    After you have a shape that conforms to your compositional needs, fill in some branches here and there, as if they have pushed their way through the layer of snow.

    2. Apply Finishes

    watercolor finishes on shrub and tree

    For the shrub, apply a soft blue wash all over. For the tree, apply only a wash behind the tree. The only difference between the two different wash approaches will be that we want the snow on the tree to be really white and the background color will give the contrast we need. But really, it is just a matter of preference.

    3. Paint the Bush

    watercolor snow-covered bush

    Paint the bush’s leaves. Some are defined and clearly poking all the way out of the snow mounded on the plant. Other leaves are partially exposed and some are “ghosted,” which simply means painted lightly so they look to be just under a thin layer of snow.

    Add a little shading under some of the leaves to enhance detail. Then add a little shading just where partially exposed leaves are emerging from the snow.

    Next, you can really bring out your snow-covered bush with a little blue shading where the snow may have softly cracked away at the bottom of the shrub and deepening your background hue behind the snow on the shrub.

    4. Paint the Tree

    watercolor snow covered pine tree

    This method is more freeform than painting the bush. Wet the areas where the branches are exposed and saturate them with color. A method that will allow for one of the lovely traits unique to watercolor paints — seepage of saturation in a wetted area that forms its own effect even if you are still mostly in control.

    When your color is dry, you can add more layers of color, just deepen the color just where the branches are deepest in the shadows.

    Next, paint in the vegetation. Then you’re done!

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