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Readers Respond: Tips for Painting Trees

Responses: 13


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.

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.

Painting Leaves

Don't forget the white and black along the edges of the leaves and a dash of yellow ochre. Give each group of leaves their own personality.

Painting Trees

In addition to the suggestions given already, I would add that painting in the sky through various places in the tree crown are extremely important. Some are large, but many are very small areas, and should be placed much like one would see them in real life. I prefer to paint in the darker shadowed colors first, then add the lighter, and eventually the brightest colors last.
—Guest Ray Brown

Another Way to Create a Tree

Try painting a silver birch by using black water soluble ink (Quink is best). Draw the trunk of the tree, then wet your brush, touch the edge of the line with your wet brush and pull up to the top of tree. Leave to leak in to the wet line and you will see yellows and blue coming out of the black line.
—Guest Francis

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