Nature and landscapes are favorite subjects for watercolor painters, professionals and hobbyists alike. The flexible watercolor paint medium can create wispy, ethereal effects as well as sharper, more precise details. Whether you’re completely new to watercolor painting or are looking to expand your skills, a watercolor forest is a fun and beautiful subject for your next painting. Read on to learn how to paint an easy watercolor forest.

How to Paint a Watercolor Forest

forrest watercolor
A magical, moody, and surprisingly easy watercolor forest.

The beauty of watercolor painting is that no two finished products will look the same, so you can bring a lot of creativity and individuality to painting your watercolor forest. Having said that, following a few tried-and-tested steps will give a solid starting place. The steps below will show you how to paint a misty pine tree forest.

Paint a Magical Scene

Watercolor Forest Painting: Advanced Techniques Painting Light Filtering Through Trees

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

watercolor materials
The materials you’ll need to paint a watercolor forest.

If you’ve painted with watercolors before, then you probably have everything you need already to paint an easy watercolor forest. If not, you’ll need:

  • Watercolor paper
  • Tape
  • Watercolor brushes in various sizes, including a large brush and a flat brush
  • Two jars of water
  • White ink
  • Watercolor paints: two blues and one brown/ochre are recommended for this project
  • A sponge or clean cloth
  • Watercolor paint mixing palette

Step 2: Practice Different Techniques

watercolor of trees
Student work by Stephanie Rault for Painting Landscapes : A Watercolor Misty Forest.

If you’re new to watercolor painting or would just like some extra practice before diving into the forest scene, take a few minutes to practice different types of trees on your watercolor paper pad.

Using wet-on-wet or wet-on-dry watercolor painting techniques can change the way trees look. Using a variety of brushes can also make a huge difference, as can painting a light water wash over finished trees. To create a misty, snowy effect, you can also paint over dry trees with white ink. 

Remember that watercolor paints can be reworked to a degree, even when they’ve dried, simply by adding water. Spend some time practicing and seeing what you like the look of.

Step 3: Tape Your Paper to the Table

Watercolor paper soaks in a lot of water and, while it doesn’t tend to buckle as much as other papers would, it can ripple and curl when it’s wet. To minimize this, tape your paper to the table or other stable surface with an easy-to-remove masking tape.

Step 4: Mix the Colors

Add a dab of each watercolor paint color to your mixing palette, along with water. Mix them to create the shades you want—ideally, a few different light and dark hues.

Step 5: Wet the Paper

Taking a large, completely clean brush, wash water over the surface of the paper. The whole surface should be wet.

Step 6: Paint the Base Colors

Paint the foundations of the forest.

With a loose hand, add a light base color to the paper. The idea is to build up the paint step by step, and it’s a good idea to start with a loose background. Imitate the rough form of trees without worrying too much about the details. Let this dry.

Step 7: Paint in the Trees

watercolor trees
Paint the trees layer by layer.

Now, wet the paper lightly with a sponge—there’s no need to completely wet the paper this time, as you did above. Using the tree painting techniques you practiced earlier, begin painting in the trees. Start with the background by painting mistier, more abstract tree shapes in the background at the top of the page, and then add more clearly defined trees in the foreground below. Keep wetting the paper with a sponge as needed.

Step 8: Add White Ink

watercolor trees
Adding extra effects with white ink.

To add a snowy effect, add white ink somewhat randomly to the tree branches, especially those in the foreground.

Step 9: Admire Your Work

watercolor trees
Student work by Babayaga Illustration for Painting Landscapes: A Watercolor Misty Forest.

You now have a beautiful misty forest to display or to keep in your watercolor painting collection and refer back to as you progress on your painting journey.

Paint Your Forest to Life

After you’ve tried painting an easy watercolor forest, why not try bringing your forest to life with extra details? You could experiment with different types of trees, add snow to an evergreen forest, leaf details to the trees, flowers on the forest floor, or woodland animals and birds. Watercolors are such a flexible type of paint, making trial and error so much fun. Enjoy the process and see what wonders you can create.

Learn the Foundations of Watercolor Forest Painting

Painting a Watercolor Forest Scene with Depth and Light

Written by:

Elen Turner