Whether you want to paint a landscape, do some urban sketching, or just love botanicals, trees are delightful things to paint with watercolor. They don’t have to be difficult either—here are three simple watercolor trees to paint.
Trees don’t require very many supplies, which makes them perfect for painting en plein air (that’s me being fancy for ‘outdoors’).
- The Pigeon Letters Studio Round Brush 3 Piece Set
- Watercolors (greens, brown, yellow, orange, red, black)
- Watercolor paper (such as Canson XL Watercolor Paper) or a watercolor sketchbook
- A water vessel (I’m using one of The Pigeon Letters ceramic vessels)
- Paper towel or cloth for drying your brush
Prefer watching the tutorial instead?
Step 1: Paint evergreen trees in watercolor
Start by mixing up some dark green and loading up a round watercolor paintbrush. Next, use scumbling (painting in a light, haphazard way) to paint a loose line as high as you want your tree to be.
Starting at the top, use the same scumbling technique to paint branches down to the bottom of the trunk. Make the branches progressively wider as you work your way down.
You can either paint all the way to the bottom, or leave a small amount of trunk free from branches. If you choose to leave some, drop in a tiny amount of brown paint and let it bleed a little and darken that area.
These easy-to-paint evergreen trees look great as a whole painted forest, or just by themselves.
Step 2: Paint a deciduous tree using watercolor
Now that you’ve mastered painting evergreen trees, let’s try our hands at a deciduous version. We’re going to paint a lot of leaves on this tree, so it will take a little longer to complete, but I promise it’s just as fun.
Just like with the last tree, we’re going to start by painting the trunk first. Mix up some brown watercolor paint and use a small, round, brush to paint a trunk and a few branches.
Let your trunk dry, and start mixing up some yellow, light green, and dark green paint. Now, imagine there is a warm golden sun in the top right corner of your paper, shining down on your sweet little trees. The leaves that are closest to the sun will be the lightest, while the furthest part of the tree will have more shadows.
Start by painting your whole tree, using little dabs of light green paint. Leave some space in between to let the white of the paper show through. Feel free to paint your tree a little wonky, with bits sticking out, because trees are rarely the perfect little circles we used to draw as kids.
Next, mix up some dark green paint and just dab on some leaves around the bottom part of your tree, furthest from your imaginary sun.
To finish off your tree you could add a little yellow to the top part of your tree to give it some color variation, but that’s optional.
Want to keep exploring how nature and watercolors come together? Grab Peggy's Guide to Nature Drawing & Watercolor.
Step 3: Paint a colorful fall tree
The last tree we’re going to paint together is a colorful fall tree. The type of tree I have in mind for this one is an Aspen.
Just like the last two trees, this one starts with the trunk. You could choose to paint it brown, but I’m using a pale grey. This trunk is also a bit taller than the last one.
Once your Aspen trunk is dry it’s time to start adding the first layer of leaves, starting with yellow. Using the same dabbing technique we practiced in the last exercise, create the outline of your tree, then start to fill it in a little.
Next, add orange and red leaves to your tree, allowing some of the yellow and the paper to show through.
The last little details to add are some darker grey lines to the trunk of your tree. Use your smallest paintbrush for this step, and make sure your leaves are dry so they don’t bleed into your lines.
There you have it, three easy-to-paint watercolor trees! We’d love to see what you painted, so if you share to social media make sure to tag @ThePigeonLetters and @BrownPaperBunny so we can give you some love on your masterpiece.
I’m Jessica Mack from BrownPaperBunny and painting is my jam. My favorite things are watercolor and ink, chonky cats, and things that make me snort laugh. I live in Colorado, overlooking the Rocky Mountains, with my human and fur family.