A Simple Watercolor Painting Tutorial – Pine Forest

I got back to making this week and it really made me so happy.  I’ve been loving learning about watercolor painting and I’ve tried a bunch of different projects.  This week I went for something a little less abstract than what I’ve tried in the past and attempted a pretty Pine forest.  It was actually not particularly easy at first, but once I got through the learning curve of how to make a decent looking pine tree, you’ll see that I made a lot of them.  A LOT.

The inspiration for this painting idea came from a tutorial I found from through Pinterest, but the tutorial wasn’t “beginner” enough for me.  So I had a learning curve.  If you’re a true beginner to watercolors, then I got you covered.  I made all of the mistakes for you!f

Simple Watercolor Painting Tutorial – Pine Forest

Simple Watercolor Painting - A pretty Pine Forest

Watercolor painting is one of those things that seems like it’s going to be really difficult and take a lot of skill at first, but if you have the right materials and you practice a bit, these easy paintings are just that.  Easy.

For this painting I upgraded my watercolor paints and watercolor brushes and used my favorite watercolor paper.

I really love the Windsor Newton Pocket Box of watercolor paints.  It’s small and adorable, but more importantly the paints are beautiful.  The color is great. I was really happy with these.

The new watercolor brushes were good, too.  They are natural hair which is good for watercolors.  The one’s I bought have super long handles which I didn’t realize when I bought them and when they arrived, I was sure they would not be comfortable to work with.  But, I was wrong, they are perfectly comfortable and easy to paint with.

The thing that I’ve found has made the biggest difference, though, is using quality paper to paint on.  I love this Canson Paper.  It made a huge difference when I finally switched to it.  No pilling, the water is absorbed properly.  This is a must.

The only other thing you might need to make this pretty forest is patience.  I made a LOT of trees.


Easy DIY Painting to Try - Pine Forest

But hopefully following along with my instructions which were honed on a million mistakes and watching the video I included below, you will not need quite as much patience as I did!

How to Paint A Watercolor Pine Forest


Materials for easy watercolor painting.

Windsor Newton Watercolor Paints

Watercolor brush #6

Canson Paper (make sure it’s 140 weight)

Two small pots of water

Step 1:

Think about your composition.  You want to have the lightest trees in the back, then a deeper color in the middle and then the darkest trees in the front.  You also want some overlap.  You need to plan the different heights of the trees.

For a few of the paintings I made, I did a really light pencil sketch of where I wanted the trees and how tall they need to be.  This was extremely helpful because I don’t have that spatial awareness that  think natural artists have.

By the time I had made a half million forest paintings, however, I was able to wing it when it came to the composition.

If you do a pencil drawing first, just do it very, very lightly and then lighlty erase the pencil marks before you begin so that they are just barely there as a guide for you.

Step 2:

three different watercolor washes

To get the effect of depth in your forest, you want to make sure your trees have different shades of color.  For this painting, since they are all trees, we really only need to use one color, green.  I did add a little dark blue to my green just because I liked it.

You’re going to start with the very palest, lightest wash for the trees in the background.  Dip your brush in the water, then a tiny bit of paint and add it to the mixing tray in the paint container.  Add some water.

Test the color on a piece of scrap paper.  You want this color to be just barely there.  Continue adding water and testing the color until have the shade you want.

Step 3:

Make a tree.  This seems like it can’t be too hard, doesn’t it?

Well, perhaps there are some people who are intrinsically talented at making pine trees, but for me this took a while to nail.

The method that made my favorite trees was this.

Start with the tip of your pine tree.  This is just a quick, thin downstroke with the paintbrush.  From there you are going to paint the outer branches of your pine tree.

The fatal error I made over and over again when make the branches was starting from what would be the trunk area of the tree and drawing all the way outwards.  This made weird looking, unnaturally long strange branches.

how not to paint pine trees

Don’t do that.  Instead, start at the top of the tree, flick your paintbrush down and out to create a branch.  Just like a pine tree does, your going to be making a triangular shape with the branches, but instead of starting your branch from where the trunk would be, your going to start further out.

This was the game changer when it came to pine tree making.  You’ll understand what I mean better if you watch the video.

You also don’t want to fill every space with branches.  Skip spots, leave white space.  You’re going to go back and fill most of this, but your trees will look more realistic with some white space.

When you’re happy with the outer branches of your tree, start filling in the middle.  I used the same flicking down and out motion to fill in most, but not all of the bare spots.

I did this quickly, but I also stopped and looked at what I was doing often.  Don’t overfill your trees.

Finally, finish the tree with a small stump.  Just a little square of green at the bottom.  I know stumps aren’t really green, but it works for this painting.

Repeat this for the background trees.  Remember to leave space for overlapping the trees you will be making with the darker washes.  If your trees in the background are overlapping each other, let the first one dry before you start painting over it.

Step 4:

You’re going to repeat the process of mixing your paint from Step 2, but this time you’re making a slightly darker wash. You want your paint color to be a tiny bit darker for the second row of trees.

Remember to test the color on some scrap paper before you start adding to your painting.  For any trees that will overlap, be sure to let the first set of trees dry first.

Step 5:

You guessed, it repeat the process of mixing and painting.  For this darkest set of trees, I will caution you, they are the easiest to mess up.  Because you want the paint to be the darkest wash, you might find that you have a tendency to not use enough water on this set of trees.  Make sure you are still using plenty of water on your brush to get that sort of translucent, no brush stroke, watercolory look.

And that’s it!

Here’s the video with three different trees in each of the washes.

You should have a forest right now!  If your forest isn’t perfect, don’t worry. I made scores of horrible forests before I got one I was really happy with.

There’s a joy in the learning process if you can keep yourself from getting frustrated by it, I promise.

If you want more Simple Painting Tutorials, check out these posts:

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Need More Inspiration?  Try these posts:

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Looking for More Beginner Painting Tips?  Try this one!

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If You Liked It Then You Shoulda Put a Pin In It!

You can be an artist, you just have to try. This simple watercolor painting is really easy and I'll show you all of the mistakes to avoid!


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