Wintery Holiday Watercolor Elements | Neesha @PaperWand | Skillshare

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Wintery Holiday Watercolor Elements

teacher avatar Neesha @PaperWand, Watercolor | Illustration Studio

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

14 Lessons (49m)
    • 1. Intro & Overview

    • 2. Misty Trees

    • 3. Simple Snowflakes

    • 4. Holly (2 Ways)

    • 5. Snowmen

    • 6. Candy Cane & Peppermint

    • 7. Cute Red Bow

    • 8. Gingerbread Man

    • 9. Floppy Green Bow

    • 10. Elf Shoes

    • 11. Three Presents

    • 12. Ornaments

    • 13. Bonus: Hand Letter "JOY"

    • 14. Wrap Up & Post Your Work

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About This Class


In this class you'll learn how to create fun iconic holiday elements.  These can be used for Christmas cards, or Gift tags... Or simply just for fun!

SUPPLIES -  For this class, you'll need:

• watercolor brushes in a variety of sizes - I recommend round brushes like these

• watercolor paper - I recommend a high-quality one like Arches

• good quality watercolors - Artist Grade or Professional Grade will work the best

• 1-2 containers of water, for rinsing brushes

• paper towels, or art rags

• this printable lettering sheet PracticeJoy.pdf  (attached pdf file)

• opaque white paint, like acrylics or gouache (optional)

We'll start with the simple elements and then build on our painting skills as we create some more layered elements.  All are fun and totally do-able!  I'll walk you through each one step-by-step!

OVERVIEW of the Winter Holiday Lessons:

• Lesson 1: Misty Trees

• Lesson 2: Simple Snowflakes

• Lesson 3: Holly (2 ways)

• Lesson 4: Snowmen

• Lesson 5: Candy Cane & Peppermint

• Lesson 6: Cute Red Bow

• Lesson 7: Gingerbread Man

• Lesson 8: Floppy Green Bow

• Lesson 9: Elf Shoes 

• Lesson 10: Three Presents 

• Lesson 11: Ornaments

• Bonus, Lesson 12: Hand Lettered word: "JOY" 

• Final Project: 
Included in this class is a downloadable & printable pdf, for lettering the word JOY.
See the Bonus Lettering Video and the Attached Printable PDF, on how to create this easy phrase. 


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Neesha @PaperWand

Watercolor | Illustration Studio


Like catching fireflies at summer's dusk, PaperWand creations are a way of making time stand still—if only briefly—to celebrate whimsy and wonder. They invite you to reconnect with your imagination and relish the big magic in little moments.

Our workshops and classes are inspired by the most timeless of emotions: a little bit of nostalgia, an endless well of delight. We hope they inspire you to play, laugh, and make believe a little more each day.


I'm Neesha. I'm an illustrator + designer with an online home at

Following 15 years in the graphic design industry, I've explored many creative paths. Ranging from being an art teacher, a kids' book illustrator, and nursery muralist. I love t... See full profile

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1. Intro & Overview: welcome. It's the holiday season. This class is all about winter holiday watercolor elements. My name is Nisha. I'm an artist and an illustrator, and in this class there are 12 lessons. Each one is a simple watercolor element, some of my favorite things to paint for the holidays. There's even a bonus video on hand lettering. The word joy and I will walk you through each of these step by step so you can create greeting cards or gift tags or simply paint for fun. I can't wait to see what you dio. 2. Misty Trees: okay, We'll start with light blue paint and just the end of the brush. Make little lines. This is the trunk of the trees. In the very tops of the trees. Make little small triangles. This will help in the proportions of your branches and your leaves, so you know your smallest and you know your largest, and then you can fill in. As you move up through the middle. This first layer will be really, really light. We'll keep them soft and misty and let the watercolor kind of do a natural bleeding and blending on its own. Okay, so while the trees air drying a little, we'll put in the ground just a light blue and then using water to blend out the edges. So while the trees is still damp, I'm putting in some purple along the bottom. This is the shadow part and letting that natural blend happen. This is what on what technique? Keep some of them really light and some of them more saturated with color that will give you a nice push and pull. On contrast, you can also add in a few more soft ones in the background and build up a few layers like a little forest. Okay, so dropping in some shadows along the ground area, using purple and then blending out the edges. You can keep a paper towel on hand and just dab away any areas that have really harsh lines . If you want to keep it really soft to just grab away some of that water and paint with the paper towel as a final touch, just go in and fix any of the edges or branches and that's it. You have a little lovely misty tree forest. 3. Simple Snowflakes: Okay. Still using a light blue in the end of your brush will start putting in these lines for the center of the snowflake Snowflakes Air. Really fun. You can create any design you like. Just keep it symmetrical and you really can't go wrong. Think of it as spokes on a wheel. So whatever you do on one branch, poor spoke, you will do to the others. We'll put another snowflake here. Snowflakes always look best when they're in clusters, and there's a group of them together, and you can vary up the designs on each of them. It's also fun to vary up the color saturation. So going from light blue to dark blues and even dropping in some purples and areas, so you have a nice blend of colors happening. So every time you started snow flight, just make sure you have your center point. You could make an axe like that and then work out from the middle. If you're worried about it being super symmetrical, you can always use a pencil and sketch out a design first. I prefer doing my drawing as I go, so I'm using the brush kind of like a pencil and just making my sketches and marks as I go , Okay. In the last one here, using a light, purplish blue, making the center and then building the design out. And you can keep these really simple. The simple ones can also be really beautiful. There you go. A little collection of snowflakes. 4. Holly (2 Ways): okay, we'll start with some red paint and start making little circles, some with more pain and some more watered down. So you get that translucent effect and then with green paint and using the end of your brush sketch in a couple holly leaves at this stage during the base layers. Keeping all your colors light is a good idea. You can always add more color and saturation and build up those layers as you go. And then, for this style of paintings, an illustrative style. I'm choosing to create contrast between the two sides of the leaves so filling in one side and keeping the other half a little bit lighter and not filled. Okay, and then building up your shadows on your holly Berries. You can use a darker reddish paint and then blend out any of the edges so that they're soft . While that's drying, we'll add some details into the holly leaves. You can use a detail brush for this if it's easier in, um, using a darker green and then just going in and adding some definition into some of the edges. Another option is to fill in the other side with a fun color, that kind of coordinates. You may want to do a couple versions and then try different color palettes and see what you like. Great. So now I'm going in with the highlight layer. This is white acrylic paint. You can use any opaque paint wash will be fine, too, and just drop in the little areas where you wanna but the highlights. And I lost some of the definition, some going back in with that darker green and just hitting some of the edges with the dark green pain. All right. The second version will start the same way, and this one will be just watercolors and no white opaque paint. Keeping your leaves different sizes and different angles will add interest. So they're not so old symmetrical. And with this version, I am just dropping in a bluish right side and then keeping the left side more of a lighter green for the shadows. I'm adding purple onto the Berries and because it's still wet, the colors will blend really nicely together as they dry. So I recommend having a few practice ones and then finding which style you prefer. This Holly is really quick and easy to paint have so much fun with this one 5. Snowmen: we will start with light blue paint, keep it really lightened, translucent. At this stage, we're just putting in the base layers, so three circles and a little ground for the snowman to sit on. Keep your paper towel on hand so that if you get too much paint and you want to lighten it up, you can just dab with the clean paper towel and pick up all that extra color. Also keeping in mind my light source so you'll see that the shadow areas will be on the left side of the snowman. We're putting a 2nd 1 in here, and then the right side of these snowmen are gonna be the lighter side where the light is hitting it. And then just with the rinsed brush and just clean water, softening out some of these edges and then dabbing with a paper towel so that it's a soft gradation. Okay, after it's dried, a little will go back in and start adding more shadows and building up the layers always easier to co like the dark. You want to be sure that your snowmen have dried pretty well at this stage. Otherwise you'll get a lot of the color just bleeding and blending when you don't want it to. And I'm softening at the edges just with clean water and then using the brush to lighten up those butts. A paper towel can also help you pick up any of the extra paint. Okay, so while the snowmen dry will go in and put some shadows on the ground. Remember the light sources on the right so the shadows will lean to the left again, just often out the edges with the clean water and brush and your paper towel. Graham using a purple for the arms. Thes air twig like branches so they won't be symmetrical and, uh, keep each one a little different, just like in nature. Be careful if you're snowman is still wet. Not to touch the edge like I just did. But it's no problem. Just pick that right up with your paper towel in a little water changes dab away. Okay, Once they're fully dry, you can go in and do the face some using a little bit of a darker blue for the eyes and also for the smile and then grabbing a little orange for the carrot nose. Okay, and then adding some buttons on to their bellies. And let's accessorize them. This one is gonna have a hat. So I'm using a darker paint, ah, blue paint and then just making a little rectangle shape, then blending it out. If you want to lighten it up while it's still wet, you can use a clean brush and just pick up some of that paint. It's like erasing it, all right? And then the bigger snowman who's going to get a little scarf? This is a greenish teal color, so wrapping it around his neck and then pulling out a few pieces in the front and going in with just cleaned brush and blending out some of those edges to. I'm also going to go in and make the top hat a little bit taller. Okay, after it's dried, go in with your white opaque paint. This is acrylics, and I'm adding some of the details and highlights, also highlighting on the eyes in the nose, and I decided to add a little holly into this top hat. So I'm putting in the white paint here so that I can put the green and red on top. Otherwise, it wouldn't show up over the blue without that white layer. And while that dries, I'll go in with some more highlights onto their bodies. Okay, now that the hat area has dried, I'll put in the holly leaves and the red Berries. This is a tiny detail, but I'm also trying to keep the light source in mind. So the bottom of the Berries that will darker and then also adding some shadows and definition into the leaves. And if you want, you can also go in with a little bit of that white paint and just add a few highlights. And there you go. You're fun little snowmen. 6. Candy Cane & Peppermint: Let's start the candy cane. We're gonna is a very light gray paint. Very chance Lucent, and just put in the base layer first. It's an upside down J shape. Keep your paper towel on hands. You can dab away any areas that get too dark, and then the shadows will use a blue. And just remember, if the lights coming from the right, we're gonna put it on the left side and blend out any edges. Okay, while that dries will put in the little peppermint candy next to it. It's just a circle in the same light gray and in the shadow and blue on the left. And then we'll pull little lines out for the candy wrapper sides and keep it really translucent because kind of see through, drop in a little bit of that blue just in a few areas to indicate the shadows. Okay, after that layer has dried, we'll start putting in some of the stripes. Using a light red. We'll put in the 1st 1 and then space them out along the length of the candy cane. Your lines are going to be slightly rounded because the candy cane is a rounded shape it's not flat, so the stripes will have a curve to each of the lines just slightly. Also, keep in mind your shadows will be darker red on the left side, while that dries will add in the red stripes onto the peppermint candy, so curving the lines out from the center like a little pinwheel design. These lines are also curved, and when you have four or five saurel sections, you can fill them in and go in and just pick up some paint on the lighter areas where you want the highlights. Okay, after it's all dried, will go in with the bluish purple and at in the shadow areas. You can always start with the lighter shadow and then build up the intensity and then the same thing to the peppermint candy on the left side. I'm putting in the shadow. You can use a detail brush and add a few lines and add some shadows into the rapper. Okay, after that old ride will go on with the white acrylic paint, they'll pick paint that you have is fine and put the highlights in. There you go. Sweet little candy cane and peppermint 7. Cute Red Bow: pay for the red bow will start with some red paint, the end of your brush and a very quick sketch. So we're just going to use the brush like a pencil and then just sketched out a rough shape as our first step. Of course, if you're more comfortable using actual pencil and make a light sketch, and you can always paint over that, just remember to keep your pencil marks really light. One thing with watercolor is it's very hard to remove pencil marks once you painted over them. Okay, so when you have your basic shape, you can start filling in your first layer, which is going to be light, and there will build up our shadows on this. Also, keep in mind your light source, so if your light is coming from the top or the right, you'll know that you're shadows will be on the left or the bottom. I'm using a darker reddish purple paint to put in some of the shadows and then blending out just the areas that I want to soften. So this Bo is skewed a little more purple. I'm gonna go back in with a brighter, true red and make it more of ah ah, holiday bow. Okay, Once that layer has kind of dried a bit, you can start adding in some more details and into the shadows and into the parts where the bow is tied. There are a few lines in there. Okay, after it's fully dried, going with your white opaque paint and add in the highlights. This step always brings the whole thing together. And then I'm going in with a darker, purplish red and just adding a few more defining lines into the shadow areas in the ego, a sweet and simple little bow. 8. Gingerbread Man: start with some light brown paint and keep it translucent. We're gonna put the head in and just a rough shape for the body. So arms, a little torso and legs. I'm just eyeballing it and making adjustments as I go. You can, of course, use a pencil, if you like. First. Okay, once I layer has dried, we'll go back in and with some dark brown paint, start putting in the shadow areas, my shadows. We're gonna be on the left and then I'll just blend out some of those edges. As long as your paint is still damp, you can make adjustments like blending the edges and picking up extra paint. Once it dries, it's harder to pick up pain. Okay, once our base layer is dried, we're gonna go in and add some of the details like the buttons. This is a red paint in a making little see shapes and then blending out the middle so they're a little lighter in the center. I'm dropping more pain down the left side, so that will be where the shadow is. Okay. And then with the white opaque paint. This is acrylic. I'm using that to add the eyes and he smile. This is where the icing would be if this was a real gingerbread cookie. Have been making some swirly patterns on the arms and the legs to indicate the icing. Have fun. With this step, you can decorate your gingerbread guy any way you like and then go in and put some highlights on the buttons. Okay, wait for that layered awfully dry and then, with a detailed brush, start adding in some shadows into, ah, the different areas. So underneath some of the icing pieces and also underneath the eyes in the mouth and then the buttons. The color I'm using is a light purplish gray and just be consistent with your shadows. So if your light is on the right, you're gonna put the shadows on the left of those pieces. And there you go. All done a little gingerbread guy. 9. Floppy Green Bow: Okay, So for the green floppy bow, we're gonna start with some light green paint and put in a rough sketch with the end of the brush. Just dio a rough outline. You can, of course, use a pencil if you prefer. Once you have your sketch completed, you can put in the base layer, which is just a light green to fill it in keeper paper towel on hand. You may need to dab away some extra paint or water. After that layer has dried, you can start putting in the shadows. Keep in mind your light source, and wherever your light is hitting, that will be the highlight area, and the other side will be your shadow area. Remember, this is a building up process, so don't worry about your first layer is being really light. You can always add to it. It's a lot harder to remove it later. Okay, after that's dried a little bit, I'm going back in now with some more green and building up some more of that mid range color. What's great about watercolors is how translucent they are, so you'll see that even though putting the green in some of that blue is still peeking through, and that makes for a nicer, richer color. So now going in with a line green. So there's more yellow in this green and putting that in the highlight areas and then let that layer dry. And then when it's dried, we'll go back in and add some more shadows and detail. I'm using a darker blue for the shadow areas. Okay, time for the white Paige highlights. This is acrylic, and I'm just hitting the tops of the ribbon and just the areas where the light would hit it . It's really easy to get carried away on this step, so always do a little bit and then take a look, step back and then go back. And if you want more Okay. So for a fun touch matting ah blew into some of the ribbon areas. This just adds more interest so that not everything is just kind of a flat green. There's some yellow green, blue greens, some blues, and they're all related, all next to each other on the color wheel. So they work really well together. There you go. Ah, fun, floppy greenbow 10. Elf Shoes: Okay, so we'll start with some green triangles. This will be the base layer for the little L shoes and then before it fully dries at on the tops of the legs like little rectangle areas. And the end of the shoes will make curved. Keep the tops of the legs pretty lightened. Trends. Listen, we'll be adding on some red paint over there, so you want to keep it pretty light. So while that dries will add the legs in a light gray, this will be the base layer. You can dab away with the paper towel some of that extra paint to keep it pretty light and stopped, then with red paint. Pretty light at first, where it will start putting in the little red triangle pieces at the top of the shoes to get them evenly spaced out. I like to do the end ones first and then the middle triangle and then fill in the other triangles. It's a little trip to get them evenly spaced out. We'll do the same thing on the other leg on the top of the issue with the little triangle pieces. Okay, why all that dries will add the stripes onto the leggings for the little health. I like the red and white stripes. You can choose to do a different color if you like. And just like we did on the candy cane, the lines will be curved slightly. Okay, The shoe should be pretty dry. So add in the shadows. You can use a darker, bluish green color and then, with your damp brush, just soften out those edges. And I'm adding some more green into the shoe in just building up some of that saturation and also dropping some blue along the bottom in the shadow areas. Okay, well, the bottom dries. Wad the shadow on the left side of the legs, make the most of grayish purplish color, and then go back into those triangle pieces on the top of the shoe and put in the shadows there. Keep in mind this is a process about building layers. You can always go light to dark, but not the other way. So just move slowly and keep adding the shadows as and where you like. So now I'm gonna go in and add the saturation into the red parts so more of a true red and then blending out the hard edges. Okay, time for the acrylic details. This is white and just with the detail brush. I'm adding the little dots on the ends of the triangle and the ends of the curl of the shoes come and also some highlights on the right side of the legs. That's where the light source is coming from. And then the tops of the Red Triangle, parts of the shoes and then the tops and highlight areas on the green part of issues. While all that dries, we'll start putting in a little floor for the elf to stand on, says there's a light purple paint, and then I'll just blend out the edges with a clean brush and just plain water. And then you would also dabble away with a paper towel to soften those edges. Once you're white, paint has dried. You can drop in the little yellow dots. These air the little bells on the shoes, and I'm also going back into the shoe with a little bit more blue and then layering up my saturation on the color and then adding some green and in blending those edges as well. There you go, some fun elf shoes 11. Three Presents: starting with some light purple paint. Make your first present. It's going to be a rectangle shape next to it. A light blue rectangle shape is just a box, and then feel that in. And remember, these layers will be light to start, and we'll build up darker as we go for the third box will do a green color and have it go behind the purple one. So rotate your paper if you need to get the right angle and try not to let the boxes touch each other. Everything still pretty wet. So if they do touch, your colors will start bleeding together. Okay, after it's dried, go in with your white opaque paint. I'm using acrylic and I'll start putting in the ribbon and the details. I'm also adding the bow on top with the white paint, and then I'll go in with a lighter watercolor to define those shapes. You can vary up the way the ribbon on your packages looks. You can do small Bo's big bows, anything you like. There are so many options. Okay, so let's put on some designs on the presence when I use a polka dot designed for the green box. This is just a light blue paint. And then for the purple box, I'll do a striped design. So this is a light purple paint. I'm also adding some shadows right under the ribbon. All right, so for the last one, I'll do a Chevron pattern. This is just angle lines, so it's really simple and go in and add little shadows and lines wherever you need to. This is the stage where we'll add the layers of color, so build up your saturation and at in the shadows, under the ribbons and along the bottom of the boxes. All right, so while everything else is drying will put in the ground. I'm using a light purple paint and then blending the edges out with just clean water and using my paper towel to dab away any excess color or water with some red paint in a detailed brush, you can start putting in the BoE's. I'm gonna make all of mine red so they stay in that holiday theme. You'll find that painting watercolors over acrylics is kind of interesting. It has a smoother texture, so it might be easier to blind in some ways. Just keep that in mind and then had on the shadows underneath the ribbon pieces for the third box. I did not put a white acrylic bo. I'm just using I really skinny style of Bo, so going straight with watercolors and making it slightly different from the others. All right, going in with a darker red with a little purple in it had in the shadow areas. Okay, now I'm going back into the boxes and building up that saturation on those lines and some of that color and just defining some more details can keep building up your layers and making them a bit stronger and more defined. And you may want to stop also, if you like that softer look totally up to you. All right, so let's bring up that saturation on the floor on the ground, matting some more layers of purples and blues and adding a little bit more shadow underneath the boxes, right, With everything fully dry, you can go in with the highlight layer. I'm using my white acrylic paint and then on the bows and on some parts of the boxes. While I didn't the highlights, okay, and when you like it, you can stop and let it all dry and you are done. It's a fun holiday presence 12. Ornaments: starting with really light blue paint will make a simple line. This is where the ornaments will hang from, and then with a really light color. We'll put in the base layer, which is just a teardrop shape, has an upside down to your drop shape for the first ornament and then with light purple will make a circle ornament right next to it, and the third ornament will be a light green oval shape. Okay, so while the base layers dry will put the tops of the ornaments on. This is a light gray paint. You can also use a blue, like I've changed it up here. If any of that color bleeds into your ornament, that's still what you can. Use a paper towel and then just dab away that extra color. Do not put a green top gray screen top for the left ornament. Okay, once you're layers have dried, you can go in with some details. Have fun with this one and make the designs whatever you would like to get this cross hatching, affect you ago in one direction and then flip the angle and then go in the other direction , have been putting a red top and read details on the left ornament and then some diamond shapes on the green ornament. One of the best things about ornament design is its endless. You can come up with so many different possibilities. So now I'm just going back in and adding more color and darkening up some of the areas that got lost a little bit. Remember to add the little loops so you ornaments have something to hang from. So I'm adding some yellow onto that third ornament and then defining more of the details on some of those little or pieces like we've been doing with the other holiday elements. You can take this as far as you like and keep building up your layers until you find your happy. Once everything is dry, you can use your white opaque paint to go in and do some highlights. And if you like, you can go in and add some sparkle to each of these ornaments, just making little X marks on a couple areas. And also I'm going in with some dark purple to put somewhere defining shadows in, and I'm adding a little more green line green. On top of that yellow just to tone it down slightly. Okay, so now that the girl like, has dried he and going with that darker color and make the sparkle a little bit more defined, you can always go in and adds more white. If he lost a little bit, just like I did. And that's it. Some sweet, happy, sparkly little ornaments have fun. 13. Bonus: Hand Letter "JOY": Okay, so this lesson comes with a brush lettering practice guide have included a printable pdf Feel free to print and use it as much as you like. I've set it up so that the 1st 2 lines aren't to show you the individual letters and how they work with maybe just a pencil and included our arrows to show you the direction your strokes will go in. So once you practice the individual letters, you can practice with connecting them so that you get a nice flow. Might want to try different pencils and pens and different lettering tools that you have. The bottom two lines will show you the weight thickness that you'll put on the down stroke . So wherever the arrows are pointing down, you'll make a thicker mark. And that's all there is to your letter structure, just thin lines and thick lines. So after you practice, you can try with your detailed brush and start creating your word. I first did Ah, really thin line and very light paint to make the structure of the word, So I wanted to know where the J and the and the why would sit once that was in place that was happy. I started with the down strokes just building up in layers, so always going light to dark and just remembering. The thick areas are on all the down strokes. Also choose any color palette like I went with a blue and purple blend of colors so it would go with the winter holiday theme. You can put this word joy on your greeting cards or your gift tags, and we'll look really fun for the holidays have so much fun painting it. 14. Wrap Up & Post Your Work: I hope you had so much fun in this class and please post your work. I can't wait to see what you create. Don't forget to follow on Skill share That way you can keep up to date with every new class and content that I create. And you can also post your work in your progress on instagram. Just tag. Meet with paper want and I can't wait to see it have so much fun Happy holidays.