How to Paint Trees Acrylic Step by Step Art Lessons
This week I’m revisiting another of my classic acrylic painting tutorials!
This one is a little different: I’m going into more detail to give you a specific acrylic painting technique for painting trees 🌲.
You’ll be able to bring this technique into pretty much any painting you do that involves trees, so it’s a great tool to have in your toolbelt 🔧!
These may look intimidating, but I will break it down into six very easy steps and once you get the hang of it, it’ll become second NATURE to paint trees (no pun intended! 😜).
This is actually a fairly easy painting for beginners.
Now let’s get started!
You’ll need the following painting materials; follow the links to purchase these art supplies if needed.
6 Steps to Painting a Tree
As usual, we’ll start by mixing colors on our palette.
You’ll want a very dark brown (I’ll call it black from here on out since it looks black), a dark green for leaves, a medium green for lighter leaves, and a medium yellow with a hint of green in it for highlights.
To get that last color, just mix some yellow and white and then borrow a dab of green from the medium green you’ve already mixed.
Now we’ll start our acrylic nature painting by laying down the outline of our tree’s trunk and branches.
I painted two trees here for extra practice, but you can do just one if you want to save time.
Dab your #8 flat brush in water and grab some black from your palette.
We’ll start with the trunk.
Start slender at the top with a light touch and then increase pressure as you move down the trunk to make it wider toward the bottom.
Now add branches in a random pattern up and down the trunk.
Remember that branches get slightly wider as they get closer to the trunk.
Now take your #0 detail brush, dab in water, and grab some more black.
Use the detail brush to add smaller branches, again in a random pattern to your preference.
Remember: this is just a layout and these branches will be mostly covered by leaves/needles so don’t go into too much detail!
Now we’re going to add the leaves (or in this case, needles 🌲) to our branches.
The layering technique I’m about to show you is something you can bring to any acrylic forest painting you do in the future!
Grab your #8 flat brush and get some black paint on the ends of the bristles, using no water (working dry).
If you’re painting bigger trees and you’d like to save some time, you can use a 1” flat brush (which isn’t included in my brush set).
You might want to practice this technique on a piece of paper first, but dab the ends of the bristles lightly on the canvas.
This will produce a beautiful fuzzy effect that looks like leaves or needles.
I want to strongly emphasize that a light touch is important here or it will end up looking flat and losing that texture!
Follow the outlines of the branches with your paint dabs.
Get denser/darker with your dabs towards the tree trunk, because that will account for the branches that are growing straight-on.
Make sure to leave some blank space between branches just like in real life.
Finally, remember that trees have more leaves on the branches further down.
Now we’ve got our basic tree silhouette all done! That was easier than you thought, wasn’t it? 😊
Now we’ll continue our tree by adding more layers of leaves.
This acrylic painting technique is great for adding depth to your trees and really making them pop.
Grab dark green on your #8 flat brush (working dry) and dab over SOME of the black leaves that you already laid down on the canvas.
Pick a side of the tree that you want the light to be coming from and apply more green to that side than the other.
Then grab the medium green and do the exact same thing, again applying more green to the sunny side of the tree.
Finally, grab some of your yellow-green and apply this same technique, but add the yellow more sparingly and just to the edges of your existing leaves.
This will be where the sunlight catches the leaves and creates a highlight.
Once again, add more yellow to the sunny side of the tree.
We now have four layers of color on our tree’s leaves, which adds a LOT more pop to the painting.
Now we’ll continue our painting tutorial by adding finer detail.
Wet your #0 detail brush.
Grab some black paint on your wet brush and swirl the bristles to get an extra fine tip.
With a light touch, add tiny branches poking out at the edges of your existing branches.
You can also go into the leaves and go over parts of your existing branches from earlier.
Add as much detail as you want, depending on if you like the softer, fuzzier look on your trees or want them to be more sharp and clear; it’s your choice!
For our final step, we’re going to add ✨highlights✨.
Wet your #0 detail brush, grab some yellow-green, and swirl the bristles again for fine line work.
On the sunny side of the tree, add yellow highlights to the outer edge of the tree trunk.
This step is my favorite because this is where you can see the tree come to life and really jump off the canvas as if it’s real!
You can also add little random yellow highlights on the inner parts of the branches where the sun touches them.
If you want to add some further detail, you can go back and mix some yellow and white for a bright yellow and further highlight some parts of the trunk and the branches where they meet the trunk.
I hope you enjoyed taking a microscope 🔬 to our technique this week and doing something a little smaller in focus!
Now you have a technique that you can bring to any acrylic landscape painting involving trees.
My goal is to keep building your fundamental skills so that you can confidently approach any nature painting you come up with.
Remember you can always view the video version of this tutorial here.
And remember, you can buy all the products I used in this tutorial below:
Let me know if you enjoyed this written tutorial in the comments below, and stay tuned for more coming soon.
Until then, keep creating!