Hello everyone! How about a colorful bookmark to chase away those winter blues? I've found that using watercolor to paint landscapes can not only be therapeutic but also a lot of fun. Who's ready to escape for a bit with me?
I'm Katherine from @katherine.urban.art and I feel so honored to teach yet another watercolor tutorial for you all! I spent three wonderful years living in the mountains of Colorado and discovered how beautiful aspen trees are especially in the winter. Those aspen trees are the inspiration for this little bookmark. I can't wait to see what we can create together.
- Cold Press Paper 140 lb
- Scotch Expressions Washi Tape (my personal favorite for pristine borders)
- Round Brush Size 8
- The Pigeon Letters Brush Round Size 2
- Watercolor Paint
- Mixing Palette
- Eraser Shield
- Plastic Bookmark Sleeve and Tassel
Step 1: The bookmark size
Begin with a 2 by 6-inch piece of watercolor paper. I prefer to add a quarter-inch border to the paper. For this painting, you can also bleed the paint to the edges of the paper if desired.
Step 2: Tape the border
Tape the border of the bookmark using washi tape. I have had many artists ask what brand I use and for me, the Scotch Expressions brand works best. It doesn't rip the paper and I have less paint bleed underneath. Be sure to press the tape firmly into the paper.
Step 3: Creating the aspen trees
Cut two pieces of washi tape slightly shorter than the bookmark. Using scissors hand cut each side of the length of the washi tape to make the edges more organic like a tree. Nothing in nature is perfect so don’t worry about it being a little uneven.
Cut each piece into a curve for the bottom of the tree. Once you cut both pieces, place each on the paper. Press the washi tape firmly onto the watercolor paper so the paint will not bleed underneath.
Tip: You can also place the washi tape on a cutting mat and trim each side with a craft knife.
Step 4: Draw the snowy horizon
Using a pencil, lightly draw one or two hills about a third of the way up from the bottom of the paper.
Step 5: Painting the sky
Using pale yellow, paint from the snow line upward through about half of the sky. Paint right across the washi tape trees. Note: I do not wet the paper first when creating this sky.
With light blue paint start at the top of the paper and paint down to the yellow paint, fading the blue as you get closer to the yellow. The fade will keep the blue and yellow from becoming green in the middle.
While the paper is still wet add in a brighter yellow along the snow line allowing it to bleed upward into the pale yellow. If the color blend is not as smooth as you want, try blending the paint together with a clean, damp brush.
Add a small line of orange or pink paint along the snow line directly on top of the wet yellow paint. I love to watch the darker paint bleed into the yellow! No worries about having pink snow, the paint will only bleed into the wet areas of the paper.
Tip: Use two water containers when painting with watercolor. One for dirty water when rinsing the brush and the other for clean water to add to the paint.
Step 6: Colorful snow
Along the top of each snowbank add a little yellow to give the illusion of the sunlight reflecting on the snow. You can also add small amounts of other sky colors! Have fun and experiment.
Step 7: Cast shadows
Draw cast shadows for each aspen tree in pencil. The shadow lines will start at the base of each tree and become farther apart toward the bottom of the paper.
Next, add a little pale purple behind the first snowbank to separate the snow. I love using pale purple for shadows in the snow. Paint the aspen tree cast shadows with the same purple. The shadows will be darker closer to the tree and fade toward the bottom of the paper. Then let the paint dry completely before the next step!
Tip: If using a heat gun or hair dryer to dry the painting faster, heat causes the washi tape to become less adhesive, which will, in turn, cause the paint to bleed underneath the tape. Unless filming a video, I prefer to let my paint air dry.
Step 8: Painting the Aspen Trees
Once the paint is dry carefully remove the washi tape from the trees. Peel very slowly and at an extreme angle to keep the watercolor paper from ripping. I love this part because peeling tape is so satisfying and you can start to see the painting come together!
Paint a light gray line down the right side of each tree. While the paint is wet feather lines across the tree trunk to give it the aspen look. Slightly curve the paint lines to make the tree appear more three-dimensional. I do not add paint to the left side of the tree, it will stay the white of the paper.
With a small brush add a darker, almost black line down the right side of each tree. Aspen trees are darker at the bottom of the trunk and I add more lines to create a cross-hatching pattern. Then choose places along the trunk to add black marks in the middle of the gray areas. Remember nothing in nature is perfect!
Step 9: The reveal!
Once the painting is dry it is time to remove the tape. This is my favorite part! Peel the tape off slowly, always pulling away from the painting. The slower that you remove the tape, the less chance you have of damaging the paper.
Tip: If you have unwanted pencil lines showing after you remove the tape, use an eraser shield to erase the pencil. It will keep the dry paint from smudging into the border when you erase it.
Step 10: Finishing the bookmark
I use a plastic bookmark sleeve to protect the artwork. Be sure to wait until the paint is completely dry before placing the bookmark inside the sleeve. Then top with a matching ribbon or tassel.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and I’d love to see your creations! Feel free to tag me on Instagram @katherine.urban.art!
If you loved this watercolor tutorial, check out Peggy Dean's Skillshare class Watercolor: 10 Easy Projects Anyone Can Paint!
Hi! I am Katherine Urban and I have been creating art for as long as I can remember. I am an artist, a full-time high school art teacher, wife, and mother of two amazing girls. I grew up on the east coast of Florida and have always loved the beach and the outdoors. You can find my art on Instagram @katherine.urban.art and in my Etsy shop, TheCreativeEasel.
Hey YOUUUU. Want to save this for later? Pin this thing!