Aren’t birch trees glorious? Their bark is just phenomenal . . . so much that I honestly couldn’t tell you what birch leaves even look like right now. Which doesn’t matter to paint birch trees in Winter – the trunks alone are enough. And that’s why I chose them for my January calendar. If you missed it, go grab some free wallpaper for your phone or desktop computer. Or better yet, paint your own!
And yes, my friends, we’re using watercolors. WATERCOLORS. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe this is my first tutorial using watercolors. But make no mistake, I am a total beginner with so much to learn. So please forgive any blatant errors as I’m learning the way I learned to paint murals – fake it til I make it.
I realize I’ve been using watercolors nearly exclusively for the past while – because I absolutely love them! – but I did a faux birch craft a while back with craft acrylics you might like.
I also realize that any painting tutorial is easier to understand with video and I’m working on it. I know. I know. I’ve said that a gazillion times before but I really am now! To paint these birch trees though you really don’t need a video, it’s that simple.
Paint Birch Trees with Watercolors
There are a lot of differences between acrylics and watercolors, especially when it comes to the color white. With watercolor, it’s easier to mask those parts out, like the birch tree trunks. Painter’s tape is perfect for this.
Step 1 – tape vertical lines for your trunks, tearing the tape with rough edges on one side for randomness.
To paint this wash, add water to black, same to burnt umber, and maybe a little white as well. You want enough water to make the color very light. Keep in mind that watercolors dry lighter than when they are wet though.
After the colors are mixed and wet, moisten the paper with your brush where you want your background trees, then load your round brush with the grey-brown color and paint the section. The upper edge will have curves and the bottom will be uneven with no distinct shapes.
Confused yet? Don’t be. It’s much easier than I make it out to be, ok?
Notice the difference in the shades even though I didn’t paint more than one layer. It depends on how wet your brush is, how much color is on your brush and how wet the paper is.
You don’t control watercolors. At least I don’t. I have such fun watching the paint after I’ve applied it. Paint, watch. Paint, watch. It’s meditative and relaxing, really.
Huh. Who knew doing something you can’t control is relaxing? I should’ve painted with watercolors when my kids teenagers.
Keep in mind they’re background so no big deal. If you want some help freehanding branches, check out How to Paint a Spooky Tree.
It doesn’t matter if your outlines are thin or thick, even or random. As a matter of fact, you could skip this step altogether because you’ll add more outline layers in darker colors. I happen to like lots of layers because it adds depth to paintings.
You still want a very watery combination of paint though. Notice in the photo above how one trunk is more on the grey side and the other has more brown tones. You could forgo the brown altogether but I like how it softens the tan/grey/black a bit.
Use my painting as a guide or google ‘birch trees’ to get a better idea what they really look like. Just don’t get too intent on getting your painting to match the photo. Oh, how I used to spend hours and hours doing that and the time I invested was never even noticed.
Paint, watch. Paint, watch. Move on.
As a matter of fact, I think I’ll do a video class (or two) on them. One for acrylics and one for watercolors.
Again, use the photo as a guide, if you wish. But I bet at this point your painting is already beautiful and the branches are just the cherry on top. Seriously! This is a great beginner or intermediate or advanced painting.
You might wanna make one branch long enough for a bird or two to perch upon.
Let me know how you like this tutorial and if you’d like more watercolor paintings. As I mentioned, I’ll be doing video classes primarily in acrylics but I’ll throw in easy watercolors here and there too.