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Readers Respond: Tips for Painting Trees

Responses: 18


From the article: Tree Painting Mistakes
How do you paint realistic trees? What colors do you like to use, do you mix your own greens or use tube colors? Do you have a favorite shape or type of brush? Do you paint wet-on-wet or wet-on-dry? Share your tips on painting trees here.

Tips for painting trees

For me leaves are painted as per their reach to the light. Some deep green, some sap green and some partly yellow. I use watercolour.
—Guest shangala

Painting Trees on a 9 by 12 canvas

Use a cosmetics sponge or cotton balls. Make the lower leaves darker and the higher ones brighter/lighter. Dab the sponge/ cotton ball on the canvas. Leave spaces where light can break through. Paint those spaces bright with light. Use one brown for the trunk. mix that brown with a peachy color and you have the base. then use that same brown without the peachy color mixed in to give the trunk texture and make it look like bark.
—Guest Veronicaaaa

Painting is About Learning to See

Whether painting a tree or group of trees, the challenge is to really see the shapes and colours and to interpret what you are seeing. Real life trees are complex and so much more interesting than imagined prototype trees. I try to really see the tree and to create an impression of the colours, shapes, and patterns, rather than a precise realistic copy of the image.
—Guest Jude

Observation is Key

Trees are as unique as snowflakes so observation of shape, texture and how light and shadow influence the colors of the tree are important to consider. Highest leaves may actually take on the color of the sky. Trunks and branches may turn violet toward a strong sun. Each tree painted should be treated the same as a portrait where you look for its distinguishing features to provide its character. If a branch is inconveniently placed or a trunk too large for your composition, don't be afraid to change it to suit your needs.
—Guest Sharron

Observing nature... in fast movies!

Do not forget too, how a tree in nature grows up (roots, trunks, branches, foliage and according to types of tree: weeping willow, poplar, oak and so on...) to better translate its features in drawing and painting, so to be believable. It reminds me of famous trees drawn by Dürer or Van Gogh or painted by Mondrian who, however, in their time... didn't know fast movies!
—Guest Yover

Three Colors

I use a curved brush to dab three type of colors -- yellow, greenish yellow, and dark green -- at lower side.
—Guest yamuna

Add Ddditional Colours

Do not forget additional colours in shadows, red for summer or violet for autumn trees.

Tree Bark

Brown is not a common colour in my experience, beech is grey, birch is silver-white and all barks are varied beyond description.

Dabbing Leaves

When painting leaves I sometimes use a soft to medium stencil brush and put a little paint on the end and just dab it into the branches
—Guest walterroc

Tree Painting

For a deciduous tree, use three greens, a yellow green for the sunlit leaves, a medium green for the medium tone leaves and a dark bluish-green for the shadowy leaves. Trunks are always at least two colors, a lighter one where the sun or light is, and a darker one where the shadow is on the trunk. In watercolor, work from light to dark.
—Guest Anne

Painting Trees

Remember branches don't just go to right and left, they go backwards, forwards, all ways! Get inside your painting and feel the 3-d space. Walk around the tree. That goes for the leaves too - be aware of the bunches at the back.

Stencil Brush for Trees

When painting leaves on trees or a treeline I have had good results using various sizes of stencil brushes. Just dabbing them in paint then dabbing them on a paper towel adjusts the amount of paint I want to put on the canvas.
—Guest Walt Rock

Painting Trees in Threes

Use three colors for the foliage . . . ultramarine for the shadow side, Hooker's green for the mid-tones, lemon for the lights. Daub in the foliage first, in some interesting shapes, leaving sky holes for your sky color. Then add the trunk and branches, which are GRAY, not brown. Again, three colors/values on the wood to create the feeling of volume: darkest mix of crimson and Hookers on the shadow side, dilute Payne's Gray for the midtones, anything warm for the lights. The foliage is much more interesting than the structure. And branches are made up of sharp angles, not curves.
—Guest Edgar Coudal

Do's and Don't's for Trees

Don't try to paint every leaf! Very few actual leaves should appear! Instead look for large general leafing shapes - make the edges uneven, poke sky holes in and use different greens within - lighter on top and sunlit sides, darker green below. Don't paint a whole branch- use a hit-and- miss method. You don't see the whole branch because of leafing anyway. Show a few smaller twigs through your sky holes. The sky color in your holes should be a smidge darker than your original sky. Greens on trees vary thoughout the seasons - more yellow-green in spring, more dark with brown-blue green in early fall. Watch your fall colors - not all leaves are orange, some are yellow or brassy, some brownish, some red according to the species of tree. Be careful with the overall shape of tree. If you are not looking at the real tree use a reference photo or book. All branches do not point up. All shapes are not round. How branches leave the main trunk are all different. Do your homework - don't guess!
—Guest Janet

One "DO" with the "DON'T's"

DO look at the way Cezanne painted trees to learn how to add variety with simplicity.

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