Layering with Watercolors: Trees, Forests, and a Hands On Project

Caitlin Sheffer, Watercolor Artist & Designer

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9 Lessons (43m)
    • 1. Introduction and Supplies

    • 2. Two Ways to Paint Trees: Flat Shader and Round

    • 3. Practice Layering Exercise

    • 4. Project: Wash

    • 5. Project: Row 1

    • 6. Project: Rows 2 and 3

    • 7. Project: Gift Tag

    • 8. Project: Hand Lettering

    • 9. Project: Wrapping Up


Project Description


Follow along and create your own gift tags from your forest painting, and share your photos in the Project section of the course. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Painting Supplies

- Watercolor paper, cold pressed

- Brushes, round and flat shader

- Water 

- Paints 

- Paper Towel

Craft Supplies:

- Scissors and paper trimmer 

- Wrapping paper 

- Ribbon

- Tape

- Pen and Pencil 

- Hole punch

- Ruler or straight edge


Create a light background wash using the wet on wet method. Use water to create a more transparent wash. When that layer is dry, mix a green that is faint but darker than your background. This will be our “distant” line of trees, so you want them to appear far away. Decide which brush method you’d like to implement (flat shader or round brush) and begin painting trees from left to right (or reverse if you are left handed). Paint a midline for the trunk of your tree and then do side-to-side movements dragging paint from top to bottom, making your strokes narrow at the top and wider at the bottom (just like the shape of a tree!) Stagger the heights of the trees and leave variations of space between the trees. Most forests aren’t completely uniformed! 

When your first layer of trees are dry, add a little more paint to your palette so it’s darker than row 1. This will give the illusion that these trees are closer to you. Continue to vary height and distance in the row, and fill “windows” from layer 1. Repeat with as many rows as you want! Leave at least and inch of the background wash on the bottom. This will be where we write the name of the gift recipient.

When all layers are dry, use a ruler to outline your painting (I did mine in a large rectangle). Divide the length into even increments- these will be your gift tags. 

Trim paper down with paper trimmer or scissors. For added charm, snip the top corners at an angle. Use a hole punch to put a hole in the top of the tag. This is where the ribbon will go! Using a brush pen or regular pen, write the name of the recipient on the bottom of the tag.

Wrap your gift, thread your tag through some ribbon, and tie! Voila - you have a beautiful and custom gift!

Last but not least, photograph your finished product and share with the class in the project section! I love seeing your work and often feature students on my Instagram account. So let’s see what you come up with!


Student Projects

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Lenna Heide
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