How to Make a Surreal Mushroom Moon

painting Jul 05, 2022
How to paint a fantasy mushroom

Have you ever wanted to create a fun and unusual watercolor collage? In this tutorial, I'll show you how to make a surreal moon with fantastical mushrooms using watercolor and collage, explore both mediums for a fun square piece of art! 





  • Watercolor block (I’m using 9x12)
  • Compass
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Round paintbrush size 12 
  • Round paintbrush size 8 (optional)
  • Palette for paint
  • Cups for water
  • Watercolor paint (feel free to use your own colors if you don’t have these exact colors or create your own unique color palette)
    • Lunar Violet (Daniel Smith) or a dark neutral
    • Indigo (Daniel Smith) or a dark blue
    • Naphthamide Maroon (Daniel Smith) or a maroon purple
    • Opera Rose (Windsor Newton) or a bright pink
  • Scissors
  • Paint pens
  • Painted collage papers or other ephemera
  • Glue stick
  • Xacto knife
  • Kneaded eraser (optional to lighten pencil lines)
  • Palette knife (to remove paper from watercolor block)



Step 1: Make a Square

If you are working with a rectangular watercolor block, first measure out a square to work within. To do this, take the measurement of the shortest side of the rectangle. On my example of 9x12, that measurement is 9 inches. From one short side edge, measure the short side measurement and mark the line with a pencil. If you are working in a square block, you can skip this step.

Keep your pencil marks as light as possible. My pencil marks are darker to show on the photos.




Step 2: Find the Center of your Square

Find the middle of your square and make a light mark. If you are uncomfortable visually measuring the middle of the square, the following steps are one way to find the center: Divide your short side measurement in half. (In my case this is 4.5 inches). From roughly the middle of the side (4.5 inches in my case), use your ruler to measure this distance horizontally and create a light mark at that point. Then from the top middle, measure the same distance vertically with your ruler and make a light mark. You should now have a center point to put the center of your compass. 



Step 3: Make a Circle

Use your compass to draw a circle. Pick a radius so the edge of the circle is roughly one inch inside the edge of your square. (You could also use a plate or other round object to create a circle, but the compass will be the most precise). If the pencil lines are dark or heavy, use a kneaded eraser to lighten them.




Step 4: Create your Watercolor Moon

Using clean water, lay down a light wash in the circle. Load your round size 12 paintbrush with Lunar Violet. Tap the tip of your brush lightly to create dark spots and let the water spread them. Let this layer dry until it is just a bit damp or tacky to the touch. 




With Opera Rose, create a pink wash in the whole circle and the dark spots. If you need to, switch to the smaller brush for the edges of the circle. Let it dry!



Create shading on the lower half of the moon using the Naphthamide Maroon.. Brush the color on the lower half of the moon. Using just water and no paint, spread the water to cover the whole circle. This will allow for no lines but the color should mostly remain in the lower half. If the shadows aren’t dark enough, add more color to the lower edge. Remember watercolor will dry lighter than it is when wet. Let it dry completely.




Step 5: Create a Dark Sky Background

Using the Indigo, make a dark wash around the circle to create a night sky or dark background. I used the paint straight out of the tube with very little water to get this very dark look. Use your smaller brush around the edges of the moon. Be sure to paint over the edge of your square line. Let dry completely.




Step 6: Create Collage Mushrooms

While your watercolor layer is drying, create the collage mushrooms out of painted paper or any collage materials, be creative! To make the mushrooms, sketch the top of the mushroom on the back of your paper. Do the same for the stem and the underside gill area. For each mushroom there will be 3 separate pieces. Cut these pieces out. To ensure the underside fits with the top, sandwich the two together (but don’t glue yet) and see how they look. Adjust with the scissors to make it fit if necessary. (I had to trim extra pieces off).



Decorate the top of the mushrooms with the paint pens. Draw the gills on the underside piece with the paint pen.



Assemble the mushrooms using the glue stick. First glue the stem to the underside of the mushroom, leave a bit of the stem over the top of the underside. Glue the top of the mushroom to the underside and stem part. Keep the stems long so you can trim them to fit the moon.  




Step 7: Create Background Leaves and Grass

Cut out the leaf shapes and grass shapes for the background. Leave the stems long so you can trim them. Decorate with paint pens as desired. 



Step 8: Prep Moon Watercolor Background

Using the palette knife, separate the completely dry watercolor background piece of paper from the watercolor block. Trim the white edge off to get a perfect square. If your line that you created to mark the side of the square doesn’t show through the background paint, you may have to measure again and redraw them back in. I prefer to trim with an Xacto knife and ruler on a cutting mat  to get a nice edge, but you can also cut carefully with your scissors.




Step 9: Create Collage Composition

Put all your elements on the dried watercolor layer. Arrange the elements in the composition but don’t glue down yet. You may find that you need to make some adjustments at this step. For example, I had cut out 3 background leaves, but I found that I liked two better. Before taking bits off to glue, snap a picture with a cell phone so you can remember how you arranged things. As you take items off before you glue them down, use a light pencil mark at specific elements to indicate placement. I find this helpful for the elements that go behind other elements especially. 



Glue down your cut collage papers, starting with the background leaves. Put the glue on the back but not the very bottom part of the stems where they touch the bottom curve of the moon.) Let the stems of the leaves and the mushrooms extend beyond the edge of the moon. Glue all the items down. Use an xacto knife to trim to the elements to the curve of the moon by gently cutting the top layer of paper. (Don’t cut all the way through the watercolor paper). Then glue down any extra parts.




Thanks for creating with me today! I can't wait to see your surreal collages so make sure you tag Peggy (@thepigeonletters) and me (@ambergibbsdesigns) when sharing your work.


Amber Gibbs is a collage and watercolor artist living in the Portland Oregon. Her current passion is taking her work on paper and turning it into repeat patterns for wallpaper and fabric. She loves to see people create art and learn new skills.