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Learn how to paint trees in winter scenes

"Can you teach me how to paint trees?" I am asked that question a lot. The simple answer is, “Yes I can!”. There are many ways of painting a tree. Different brushes help in creating different kinds of trees. And the style in which you paint will also influence how that tree will be painted.

If you’ve never painted before you can find information about all of the brushes I used for these trees right here.

And to make this learning experience even more enjoyable, I have provided a line drawing for use when following this tutorial on how to paint trees.

Evergreen Tree Using A Flat Brush

You can learn this free hand technique

Let’s start with a simple evergreen tree using a Flat brush. For this example I used a #8 Flat.

Load a Flat brush with green paint. Blend it on your palette and then use the chisel of the brush to create the trunk. Clean the brush and blot it.

Pick up paint on the left side of the brush (sideload) and blend it on your palette. Place the corner of the brush down at the tip to create the top of the tree. Now drop the clean side of the brush down and apply the paint horizontally from side to side. Re-load the brush with paint as needed.

Continue all the way down to the base making wider and wider strokes. Rinse the brush and blot it. Sideload the right side of the brush and repeat the steps above.

While still wet, add some highlights in the same manner using White. When dry, add some stronger highlights here and there to suggest snow.

Simple Evergreen Using an Angle Bristle Brush

Next we’ll learn how to paint trees with the Angle Bristle Brush, also known as a Foliage Brush. This brush creates wonderful texture when used in an up and down pouncing motion. We refer to this pouncing motion as “stippling”. For this example I used a ½-inch Angle Bristle brush.

Start by drawing a pyramid shape with a straight line down the middle. The line in the middle represents the trunk of the tree. The angle brush has its bristles cut at an angle creating a short heel and a long toe.

Your first step is to load the brush with dark green paint, pounce the bristles on your palette until you see there’s nice texture. Place the whole brush down with the toe pointing down and the heel pointing toward the trunk. Lift the brush and continue to stipple along the lower edge of the tree. Swing the toe of the brush from one side of the tree to the other while keeping the heel pointed at the trunk.

Continue stippling up the tree toward the tip leaving just a little space between the rows of branches. When you get to the tip use just the toe of the brush.

Next, load only the toe of the dirty brush into White. Pounce on your palette a couple of times. The toe should remain white but the heel should become a paler green. Stipple the tree in the same manner making sure to cover the spaces between the rows. And finally, clean the brush clean and blot it well on a dry paper towel. Load the toe into White. Add snowy highlights here and there to add interest.

Folk Art Tree Using A Round Brush

Here’s a fun way to learn how to paint trees using the Round Brush. This folk art tree is made up of comma strokes. Here’s a tutorial for learning how to do these pretty strokes.

Trace out the design. We’ll paint this tree starting at the wide base and up the treetop. In order to paint this tree you’ll have to turn your surface upside down.

In this example I used a #5 Round brush. Load the brush with dark green. Blend it well on the palette and re-shape it to a nice point.

Remove the paint from the tip using the edge of your palette.

Then load the very tip of the brush into White. Tap the brush once or twice on your palette to re-shape the tip.

Use the line drawing to guide you through the order in which each stroke is applied.

Place the brush tip down, apply pressure and pull the stroke toward the middle of the tree while releasing the pressure. You should see a nice streaky blend of green and white. Repeat in the order given, reloading the brush for each individual stroke.

Pine Tree Using A Flat Brush

And now we’ll learn how to paint trees in a slightly more realistic way. In this demonstration I used a 1-inch Flat but the actual tree featured here was done using a #8 Flat. Using the bigger brush makes it easier for me to show you the details.

Trace on the pattern for the bare tree. Use a #1 Liner brush to paint the tree with a dark brown.

Let’s make some easy pine needles, shall we? We’ll start by double-loading the flat brush. Load one side into dark green and the other into White. Make sure the colors touch in the middle. Blend on you palette.

Position the chisel of the brush with the green side touching the branch and the white side pointing out. Start at the base of the branch. Press the brush down leaving a chisel imprint. Move up the branch and as you near the tip pivot the angle of the brush so that the tip tapers. Make your way down the other side.

To fill and add roundness to the branch, add more of these strokes in between both sides of the pine needles you’ve just created. Repeat for each branch, overlapping the pine needles where they overlap in places.

I’ll be adding more and more trees soon so you can learn how to paint trees... some will be realistic and others not so much. We’ll paint birch trees, maples, weeping willows just to name a few.

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