Watercolor paints are a versatile medium that can be used to create all sorts of figurative and abstract subjects. To paint a lovely snowy tree—as a standalone subject or as part of a larger winter-themed painting—follow these easy steps.

Step 1: Paint 7 Green Stripes

Start your tree by painting seven loose stripes, representing the branches of the tree.
Start your tree by painting seven loose stripes, representing the branches of the tree.

Imagine your tree as a rough cone or pyramid shape, with a wider base and progressively narrower toward the top. Start by painting a long branch in the bottom third of your page. Then paint six progressively shorter branches as you work your way up to the point of the tree.

Loose brushstrokes create an organic look, and are most appropriate for free-flowing watercolor paints. Mix quite a lot of water into your paint at this stage.

Step 2: Add Pigment to Create Depth

Add darker pigment to create more depth to your tree.
Add darker pigment to create more depth to your tree.

Once your first layer has dried somewhat (which doesn’t take long when working with watercolors), add a stronger, deeper layer of pigment to create depth. This can be achieved by mixing less water into your pigment. You don’t need to retrace the base layers exactly: just add some finer details with a stronger pigment.

Step 3: Accent Snow With a Light Blue Wash

Add a light blue pigment to give the effect of snow.
Add a light blue pigment to give the effect of snow.

To add your first hint of snow on the branches of the tree, mix plenty of water into a light blue pigment to create a light wash. Dot these atop the branches of the tree, and all around its base—imagine a fir tree standing in a snowy forest.

Step 4: Sprinkle Salt on the Blue Wash to Create a Snow Texture

Sprinkle a pinch of salt onto the wet blue paint (snow) to create texture.
Sprinkle a pinch of salt onto the wet blue paint (snow) to create texture.

Take a pinch of table salt and sprinkle it on the blue wash at the base of the tree when it’s still wet. Salt absorbs water and will draw the pigments up into it, creating a textured, speckled effect.

Step 5: Let Dry for 20 Minutes

A finished example of a simple watercolor snowy tree.
A finished example of a simple watercolor snowy tree.

Once the water and pigment is dry, wipe off the salt with a soft cloth. Dab gently so you don’t smudge any areas of thicker pigment.

Paint More Plants and Nature

Watercolor in the Woods: A Beginner’s Guide to Painting the Natural World .