9 Tips to Paint Better Watercolor Trees in Any Season

Depending on what type of paint you choose, landscape paintings can look drastically different. Watercolor, with its carefree fluidity, is a fantastic medium for expressing the beauty of nature — especially trees.

Learn tips for painting trees in watercolor for every season!

When painting trees in watercolor, their appearance will change based on the time of year.

Trees painted in watercolor will change based on the time of year.

For comparison purposes, I divided a sheet of watercolor paper into four sections and drew roughly the same tree.

Sketch of treesSketch of trees

Painting trees in winter

Painting of a tree in winter

In winter, you won’t see any leaves on the trees — they’ve all fallen to the ground! Because of this, you’ll concentrate your colors on neutral colors like brown, black and gray.

Keep these tips in mind:

1. Your tree will have its branches visible, featuring several large limbs that splinter into much smaller ones. A liner brush will help when painting these.

2. There will be a silhouetted quality to the trees, so it’s important to focus on the overall shape of the plant.

3. With the cold temperature and snow, the landscape often appears gray. Even your blue skies will have a tinge of that color.

Painting trees in spring

First layer of a painted tree in spring

Spring is a time for rejuvenation. The leaves on trees gradually start to reappear, and some of them produce flowers. Concentrate your colors on brighter hues like greens, reds, and pinks. Here, I’ve painted a flowering tree.

Remember these details when painting spring trees:

1. The wet-on-wet technique makes for a great base for the blooms on this tree. It will convey that there are “bunches” of flowers on these branches without having you individually paint each one. 

2. Once the wet-on-wet technique is dry, use a liner brush (or other fine-tipped brush) to paint several detailed blooms. 

3. Vibrant blues and greens will give add to a feeling of regrowth.

Finished painting of a tree in spring

Painting trees in summer

Painting of a tree in summer

During this time of year, things are in full bloom. The branches are brimming with leaves and the grass is a luscious green.

Use these ideas to paint stunning summer trees:

1. Paint the overall shape of the tree — don’t worry about the individual leaves.

2. Like the flowers painted for spring, the wet-on-wet technique works well for implying texture. The feathering effect creates the implication of leaves. 

3. To make the giant leaf shape more visually interesting, try combining techniques: add salt! Paint a layer of paint, allow it to dry for a few minutes, and then sprinkle salt over it. The spice will collect the watercolor and create additional texture.

Painted tree in summer Finished painted tree in summer

Painting trees in fall

painted tree in fall

In fall, the leaves are changing from green to brilliant oranges and reds. These colorful trees can be the most fun to paint.

A few tips for painting fall foliage:

1. To imply all of the beautiful colors that happen during this season, dot your branches with a variety of reds, greens, oranges and siennas.

2. Scatter these same colors on the ground, showing that leaves have started to fall.

3. Enhance the rapidly changing leaf colors with a light blue sky.

Finished painted tree in fall

Like any type of painting, there are a myriad of ways to express a single subject. Depending on your preferences, you can create trees that are hyperrealistic or impressionistic. I prefer the latter, as it focuses the essence of a landscape, communicating more than just fine details, such as the movement of the trees and feeling you get when you’re there.

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