Winter Effects: Painting Snow-Covered Trees and Bushes

The green of trees and shrubs poking through a fresh fallen snow is a beautiful sight. This bit of color reminds us of their presence in the new winter landscape.

Have you ever wondered how to paint snow on trees and bushes? Here are some tips on how to create the effect with your paints and brushes!

Preparing your plant

Prepare your evergreen of choice in your composition. Here is a sample of a shrub and then a tree. Each will show a slightly different way to create the same effect.

Image 1:

For the shrub, I formed my 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.

This method works well when you want a more detailed look to your work. It is 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.

Image 2:

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.

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.

Applying finishes

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

Snow-covered shrub:

The leaves of the shrub are painted next. 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.

I have added a little shading under some of the leaves to enhance detail. And 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.

Snow-covered tree:

This method is more free form. You 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 or as I did, just deepen the color just where the branches are deepest in the shadows.

Next, paint in the vegetation. My tree is a spruce, so I painted needles.

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