Watercolor Christmas Tree Card: Paint a Snowy Winter Scene | Katrina Pete | Skillshare

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Watercolor Christmas Tree Card: Paint a Snowy Winter Scene

teacher avatar Katrina Pete, Watercolor Artist

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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

    • 1.

      Class Project Winter Tree skillshare


    • 2.

      Snowy Tree Supplies


    • 3.

      Drawing the Tree and Masking Fluid


    • 4.

      Background Snowy Tree


    • 5.

      Masking Fluid Removal Snowy Tree


    • 6.

      Painting the White Snow on The Tree


    • 7.

      White Gouache Snow Flakes


    • 8.

      Painting the Star Ending


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About This Class

Paint a watercolor landscape snowy tree that will make the perfect Holiday gift. This snowy winter scene makes a great Christmas card also! We will use a variety of fun watercolor techniques including salt, masking fluid, glitter and unique tools (like a toothbrush) in order to spray on some snow flakes using white paint.

The class is geared toward watercolor artists of all skill levels, but I've included concepts that are beginner friendly also and simple to follow along. I designed the class to experiment with texture and to introduce you to some exciting watercolor techniques.


  • Cold pressed watercolor paper 140lb
  • watercolor paint in a variety of blues and greens or any color of your choice.
  • masking fluid or drawing gum. (I'm using Pebeo drawing gum, but there are other brands out there that are also great!)
  • white gouache or white acrylic paint for snow at the end
  • medium to large round watercolor brush size 8-12 
  • artist tape or painters tape
  • glue and glitter (optional for the star on top!)
  • salt (optional)
  • toothbrush or an old brush to apply the masking fluid.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Katrina Pete

Watercolor Artist


All of my paintings and illustrations are dreamed up in my happy little home studio in Minnesota. My painting career began with my Etsy Shop, and soon turned into commissioned work and illustration for a large card company. I love teaching, and I love helping other artists improve their skills and techniques. Please contact me if you have any questions. I hope you enjoy my video tutorials!

I love the way the colors blend into one another, hard and soft lines on textured paper, the luminosity of the pigment and the meditative state that happens with good coffee, sunshine and a paint brush.

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1. Class Project Winter Tree skillshare: Hi and welcome to my Christmas tree watercolor class. I'm Katrina Pete. So today we are going to be using some really neat tools in order to paint this awesome Christmas tree. The class project involves painting a snowy winter tree by using a variety of really neat watercolor techniques. One of the fun tools we use in the class is called drawing gum, and it's also called masking fluid. And if you've never used it before, I will show you how to apply it and all the tools I use. It's a really great way to get some pretty awesome effects in watercolor. We will also be using some salt, and we will be using some white guash for those tiny little snowflakes. And we will be using some glitter and glue. So lots of fun things in this watercolor project today. So let's begin. 2. Snowy Tree Supplies: Let's talk about all of the supplies I used for this painting. To get started, the type of paper I used was a cold pressed watercolor paper by arches. 140 pound watercolor paper. It's 100% cotton. It's got a nice texture on the paper. I use this paper all the time. It's very durable. When I'm using masking fluid, when I remove it, it doesn't tear up my paper. It's important to use a good durable watercolor paper. Arches is one of them. Windsor and Newton makes a good one. Daler Brownie. And there are lots of other great quality watercolor papers out there too. This is just one that I use. The next thing I use is some masking tape. This is a special type of tape made for artists because unlike the traditional masking tape, this is neutral. The adhesive is a neutral ph. It will not discolor your paper over time, it doesn't leave a residue. It's fairly sticky too. So I tend to take my paper onto a board. In this case, I use some paper that had the sides that were all bound by this black waxy stuff. I don't always buy paper like this. I typically buy the large sheets, like the 22 x 30 inch sheets, and then I cut them down to size. But I just had this laying around. I use it for travel and I wanted to use it up. I used that. I just sectioned off half of the page with my tape to create a maybe this is like a six by 85 by seven. You can measure it to be exactly what you need for a frame, but this will fit into a five by seven frame with a nice mat. That's what I plan on doing. The first step was to draw the tree. I drew it in the shape of a triangle. My goal was to create little white areas of snow. In order to do that, I used masking fluid. I'll show you how I applied this. The key is to use an old brush that you don't care about because it will ruin your brush. This one, it's become all rubbery over time, but I use it to apply my masking fluid. If you want something more precise, you can use like a sharpened stick or something like that. But I had these blobby type of shapes. I didn't really care how precise I needed to be. This worked for that. As for the masking fluid, you can get something called PBO drawing gum or Windsor and Newton makes a good masking fluid. There are lots of great brands out there. I just like this one in particular because it has, it's a little bit thinner inconsistency. So when I'm working on detailed paintings, I can get pretty precise lines with it. It's just my personal preference as for paints and brushes, I don't stick with any particular brand. I tend to use Windsor and Newton Hole. Bine Bliks creates their own line of artist grade paint. The key is to use paint that is artist grade instead of student grade. The difference is that the artist grade paints has a higher pigmentation in it. Your colors are bolder and richer. You will notice a difference if you switch from student paint over to the artist or the professional grade for brushes. For my watercolor brushes, I used a number 12 round. You can use a medium brush. Anything between an eight or 12 will work For this piece, I used a slightly smaller brush, number eight. This one's by silver, black velvet. You don't have to get these brands. These are just the brushes I had on hand and I tend to use them the most often. They are really great brushes. I like the larger ones because you can get larger areas of color. They hold a lot more paint and pigment. So when you're working with the wet into wet technique, you can really get your paint to spread farther. And I also used some white gash. This is white guash. I used it for these tiny little spattery snowflakes. In order to get that fine little mist of snow, I used an old toothbrush and I just flicked it on for the gold star at the top. I just used a bit of glue and some glitter. Actually, instead of glitter because I didn't have any on hand that I liked, I found this stuff hidden away in my craft room. It's for gilding picture frames, but it works the same as glitter. You just apply it slightly differently. Instead of sprinkling it on like glitter, you just brush it on with your brush and it'll stick to wherever your glue is. That's what I did for that. Let's get started. 3. Drawing the Tree and Masking Fluid: I'm using a number two pencil and I'm just lightly drawing my tree. Just putting in some areas where I think the snow will be catching on the branches. And I'm using a very light hand because I won't be erasing before I paint. I'm just going to paint over my pencil lines. You won't really be able to see them. If you'd like to work with a traceable reference photo, I'll provide one for the class as well. My overall tree shape will get wider at the bottom. Then we will start by applying our masking fluid. Next, this is called PBO drawing gum. I like to use it to create areas of snow. You want to mix it up? You don't want too many bubbles. Unfortunately I do. But just mix it a little bit. There's other brands out there. Windsor and Newton makes one. I like this one because it's more watery. I'm able to get finer lines and details. The key is you want to use an old brush to apply it, because what will happen if you don't clean your brush right away is it will turn all the bristles to rubber, like this one. But I still use it because I'm just going to apply some little bits of snow. Then when I let it dry and paint over it in water color, the paint will not go where the drawing gum is. When the paints all dry, I remove the drawing gum and it reveals white paper below. Let's open this up. It's best to pour it off into a separate container, but I don't have one on me right now, so I'm just going to use this. Okay. Don't do what I did see how I have a lot of bubbles in my masking fluid. When you apply it and you have bubbles, they will dry like that. So you'll have little bits of paper that isn't completely covered. Make sure that you pour it off into a separate container to avoid all of those pesky bubbles. I happened to get lucky even though I was in a hurry, and I said, you know what, I'm just going to apply it anyway, screw it did apply. It worked out okay in my favor. I didn't really have any issues with it. But if you're struggling with this masking fluid stuff, just do it right the first time and don't shake it up the way I did. It'll drive you nuts if you do. But anyway, for this particular piece, it ended up being just fine. The bubbles popped, and I was able to still get the outcome that I was hoping for. So there we go. I'm using this brush to just apply the masking fluid. I'm imagining snow just covering some of the branches. That's why you see me put little spaces of paper between each application. Just have a look at some photos on line of trees covered in snow. And that will help you as I move down the tree. My globs of snow are getting larger and wider. And that's what I'm trying to do with this masking fluid. I'm trying to make it look different in some areas, so it's not all matchy, matchy. It doesn't have to be perfect because snow isn't perfect. As you get to the lower branches, you're going to have bigger areas of drawing gum. It's also called masking fluid, but they call it drawing gum because when it dries, it's gummy in texture. It's rubbery. You can literally just peel it off with your fingers. But I'll show you what I do to remove it. It's pretty easy to remove. It doesn't wreck your paper, but you have to use good water color paper. Otherwise it will wreck your paper. Use something that is maybe like 100% cotton durable watercolor paper. That's the key. All right, then you just let it dry. If you want to have a snow effect, you just take your brush and you can just tap, tap, get some little spots on your paper. It'll kind of look like snow. Just some spatter. All right. Then rinse off your brush really good in water so you don't have it all gummy. 4. Background Snowy Tree: Okay, now that our masking fluid has dried, once again, I used this stuff called PBO drawing gum and it's completely dry. It's really rubbery. Now what I can do is I can paint right over it. And my paint will go on the paper. But this masking fluid, it'll protect my paper. Everything underneath here will just stay white. Let's get started. All we have to do now is just pre wet the background with water and then you just drop in any color you want. It can be blue, green, pink, you can go wild. So this is the really fun part about using drawing gum. I'm going to use a spray bottle, but you can use a brush. It doesn't really matter, just spray the background. I just want to break away for a second. If you are new to water color or if the wet into wet technique is something that you're not as familiar with. I want to show you a little bit more in depth of how to start. This is a different painting, but it's the same thing. Instead of using a spray bottle, I'm using just a large brush, a soft brush, to apply some clear water over the whole thing. Except for the birds, this is for a different class, but I'm essentially pre wetting the entire background. Once it's evenly coated, then I can drop in my color and it will spread and create these soft hazy effects. There won't really be any hard edges after you apply your coat of water. A way to check to see if it's evenly coated to hold your paper up to a light source. And just have a look at it and see if there's any water pooling in areas. And if there is, you can just spread it around a bit more with your brush. You can even take a paper towel and just dab off any excess water that's pooling on your paper. Now, we will get back to our tree in just a second here, but I want to show you just an example look at this magical technique because it truly is one of the unique properties of water color that gives it that atmospheric glowy effect. After I've got that water evenly coated, I'm going to just hold my paper up to the light source, move it around, see if it's even looks good. Now, it's damp, it's ready to start dropping in color. I'm using this larger brush, it's a number 12 round, and I'm just going to take some of my blue and just loosely put it in. This is the same thing that we will be doing on the background of our snowy winter trees. See how it just softly fades into that wet background. And you'll notice that I also lift my paper, move it around. It really gets that paint moving and flowing. You can get some really cool effects this way. Now let's go back to our watercolor snowy tree and we will do the same thing to the background. Everything's evenly wet. Then I'm going to use some green and blue. I've got this really lovely green color, a turquoise color called Thalo green, and I've got a cobalt blue. And I love those two together. I'm just going to go all over. Drop it in. You can even move. This is what I like to do. Take my paper and I let it flow. I let it go. Add some more of this Windsor blue. It's a nice bright blue. Tilt your paper. Now, I'm adding some green. I do like to keep some areas lighter because I like that cloudy look where it's light in some areas and dark in others. It's really fun. I add some of that blue over here, add some green. Then I'm going to tilt my paper this way and just fade it out like that. You can really go wild with this. You can do any color. If you think some of your paint is pooling, you just take a thirsty brush. A brush is simply a brush that's slightly damp. So you remove the excess water and then you can just soak up some of that paint. You don't have to do this, but you can if you want. All right. I'm liking that. I think it looks really cool. What I want to do next is sprinkle in some salt just for some extra oop. Let's see, I've got my salt here. I like to do it with my fingers and I have more control. You don't have to put it everywhere but there. Then just let it dry and that's it. Then when everything is dry, we will remove all of this masking fluid, and you'll see the little white snow on top of the tree, and we'll work on it from there. 5. Masking Fluid Removal Snowy Tree: Now that our paint has completely dried in the background, let's remove this masking fluid. I'm using this thing called a rubber nib. It's just like a hunk of rubber. That's all it is if you don't have one because they're hard to find. I got this at Bliks, they are at some arts and crafts stores, but not everyone. You can also use an eraser and just pick it up. But once you get a little bit of it up like this, you can grab it with your fingers and just peel it off and then just throw it away. This rubber nib just does it faster so you can go across like this and it doesn't even wreck your paper. The key is your paper has to be completely dry. That's the nice thing about arches paper. It doesn't even get wrecked. It's very durable. Okay. So there we go. We've got a Christmas tree, but I want to jazz it up a bit. So I think what we'll do is we'll play around with the tree, with the branches, and then we'll flick on some snow, and then we'll add a pretty gold star at the very end. So this is going to be so cool, I can't wait to get started. 6. Painting the White Snow on The Tree: I'm going to show you a couple of little tricks I like to do so that my tree isn't just stark white with a background. What I'm going to do is add a bit of shadowing under some of these snowy pieces here. Then it will look like white snow on top and a little bit of shadowing underneath the mound of snow. What I'm going to do is take some water. This is mostly clear water. It's got a whitish color, but that's okay. Let's start at the bottom here and work our way up. I'm going to start with this section. I'll do maybe three at a time. And I'm just loosely putting in some clear water. I'm not super precise. What I want to do is add just a touch of my cobalt blue just to the bottom and let it fade up. Grab some more blue there. The reason why I pre wet that little section is because I didn't want to create a harsh blue line. I'll show you what happens if I did that. If I just took some blue like this and I went in like this. See how there's like a hard edge there? You can do it that way then if you want, you just take a thirsty brush, which is a brush with a bit of water removed so it becomes damp. Then you take your brush and you just soften that very top of the blue all the way across. And you can fade it up. You can do that too. There's two ways of doing this. I'm just trying to create a little bit of darker shadowing at the bottom and lighter as we go up. You can do the same thing to this next little line of snowy branches and this one above it. I don't really care if my brush gets into the background. That's fine. I'm not too picky because it's it's just going to look like a tiny bit of shadowing, just dropping it in. Let's do the same thing. Pre wet the snow. Grab your blue, or it can be green. Doesn't have to be blue, Just drop it in, along the base, the bottom of those snowy branches. Let's do this top part. Take that little blue dot now there's some areas that I think I want to darken up. Like maybe right here while it's still wet, you can drop in some of this darker color and it'll fade. Notice how I'm dropping it in at the bottom so that it softly fades up into that white area there. I think it looks a little bit more realistic. Although I'm not going for realism here, I just want to give it more dimension. Yeah, everything is still wet. Just drop in some of that color. Look what's happening. It's pretty cool. Just keep going around that contrast between the light snow. If you have some areas that are starting to get hard edges that you don't really like, just take your thirsty brush and then just soften it, just feather it out and then you can go back in and drop in your color again if you want. I think at the bottom here it could use a little bit of help. Let's cover that up. Just darkening it up. Then I'm going to take a thirsty brush, remove the excess water, and fade out that hard edge. All it is, is fading and feathering. I also see some areas here I want to soften. I'm taking my thirsty brush and I'm just going to feather that out a bit. That's the thing. When you use masking fluid, you end up with these really hard edges of snow. In order to soften them, you got to use that thirsty brush. I do like adding color on top of the white paper where I removed that masking fluid. I think it looks really, really nice. I'm just to keep at it, I think I'm going to remove a bit of paint here. Lighten it up a bit, soften this there. That's looking really nice. I might want to balance out this side. I think I'll add a bit of cobalt blue. See, I really like covering up some of those white areas because water color is transparent. You get this nice subtle shift between colors and you can see the color underneath. Yeah, a bit of blue down in here. Yeah, I'm liking that. It's not really an exact science. I'm leaving some areas more white and I've painted over, but you can still tell that it's snow. It's the illusion of a snowy day. Now, let's let this dry, then we will add a pretty gold star at the top and maybe some gold ornaments. I think it'll look really cool. 7. White Gouache Snow Flakes: Okay. Now that we've had our paint dry completely, we're going to add some bit of snow detail all over our tree. I'm using some white guash, which is just from Windsor and Newton. And the reason why I use for this instead of white watercolor paint is because guash is a lot more opaque. It's not as transparent. However, if you add too much water to it, it becomes more and more transparent like water color. If you don't have guash, you can use acrylic. That's fine too. For this, I'm using an old toothbrush and I'm just going to work into my guash. I have a tiny bit of water on there, then I'm just going to flick it on like this, it creates a super fine snowy look. I really like that combination of the salt in the background that we use. It creates these little halo effects. Then I've got some of that masking fluid that we spattered on there. We got a big drop there, that's okay. You can just dab it out with a paper towel. Lift it there. Yeah. A toothbrush gives a really fun a very fine mist of snow. Like one of those days where the snow is falling so peacefully and you step outside and everything is, all of the sounds are muted by that gentle falling snow. Then you have to get in your super cold car and drive on an icy road. Now, this is the day where you want to sit inside and have some coffee or tea. Read the newspaper. I still love reading the newspaper or a book or a magazine. Oh my gosh. I love, I love reading real things. Like I'm on my phone a ton. And for me to relax, I love to open up a book and just smell it. I love the way newspapers smell. I love going into a bookstore and smelling all the pages. I don't know what it is. They all have their own unique smell. Maybe it's the glue or the ink or whatever it is, it's just very comforting. Anyway, let's let this dry and then we are going to paint a little star at the very top. Okay. 8. Painting the Star Ending: I'm going to paint a little star at the top using some glitter. Because I don't have gold glitter. I dug through everything that I have, all of my craft supplies, I don't have any, but I found this stuff called gilded metal flakes. And it's for picture frames. If you want to make things look vintage with that gilded look, I'm just going to experiment with it and see how it works. I'm not sure what will happen, but I'm going to try it. I'm just going to take a brush and paint in a cute little star because I'm going to put it on my cardboard here. This is just cardboard that I don't care about. Its place to experiment, I'm just going to paint in my little star. I drew it out before I have somewhat of an outline, but I'm going to make it bigger, paint it in. I'm not really worried about it looking perfect. I want to add cute little star at the top. Now if you have glitter, go ahead and sprinkle it on. Right now, while your glue is wet, you can use that Elmer's school glue. That will work just fine, but because I didn't have any glitter on hand, I'm using this other stuff. And the directions were just slightly different. Okay, here's my stuff, my gilded gold. And the directions for the glue said to let it dry a little bit before you use it. I did you want it to be tacky but not wet? I'm just going to cut off a tiny little corner. And then it said it's slightly dry. You take a soft brush, so I'm going to use one that I don't really care too much about. And then you just get some of those gold flakes on there. Some of them are bigger. I was hoping to get smaller ones, and then you just tap it on there. Now, if I had glitter, I could just pour it on, and then it would, it would stick and I wouldn't have to do this. But like I said, I can't find my glitter. This will have to work. Let's just cover all the glue I put down. After I get all of the points, I think I just need to push it in there because I'm noticing that it breaks down. As I continue to use my brush to maneuver it around, it becomes smaller and finer and that's what I was hoping for first time using it. But so far it's cute. I got a little star at the top. It's not sticking to my watercolor paper, so that's good, but it's sticking to the glue. That's what I wanted. I like that. It's cute. I could even add like some little gold flex, little ornaments on the tree. Now is the fun part, removing the tape and now you can see your painting with beautiful, crisp edges. Thank you for joining me in this class. I love to see your work. Please share social media or however you like. If you have any questions or comments about the class, please let me know. I'm always happy to hear feedback. Please share your project with everyone. We would all love to see your work, so share it in the project section of the class and happy painting.