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Painting a forest with watercolors and mixed media

Painting a forest with watercolors and mixed media on ARTiful, painting demos by Sandrine Pelissier
Painting technique / Step by step demonstrations

Painting a forest with watercolors and mixed media

Painting a complex scene like a forest scene with watercolor can seem like a daunting task.

With a bit of planning and a lot of patience, you can easily do it too

Here are pictures of the step I took, there is also a video at the end of the post where you can see the whole process in a time lapse video.

Mounting watercolor paper on board

You can see a more detailed post about mounting watercolor paper on board here:  Mounting watercolor paper on board

Some artists will paint their painting on paper before mounting it, I prefer mounting the paper before painting as it will stretch the paper at the same time.

foliage painting palette

Here is the palette I am using on the foliage, various mixes of :Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Green, Russian Blue, Cadmium Orange, Raw Umber (not on the picture).

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.


Da Vinci Artists’ Permanent Watercolors, 292 Yellow Ochre, 15 ml

Da Vinci paints are exciting, intense, and rated among the best in the world for quality. The paints are permanent, with the highest tinting strength and pigment concentration available, and a creamy consistency for smooth, easy dispersion with water.

I then paint all the foliage with the various mixes of green

Start by painting all the foliage with the various mixes of green, letting the colors mix wet into wet and painting around the tree trunks.

palette for painting the trees trunks

When you are done painting the leaves, you can start working on the trunks,  using the same colors with the addition of Permanent Red violet and Burnt Umber.

painting the tree trunks

Let the colors mix on the paper instead of mixing them on your palette, you will get nice variations of color on your painting.

Painting the trees trunks

You can also layer a few colors for nice effects, like I did here on some of the bigger trees.

Painting the tree trunks

I recommend you paint the trunks moving through the picture from left to right, that way you won’t smudge an area you just painted with your arm.

painting a forest in watercolor

Once the paint had time to dry on the tree trunks, you can paint additional layers to add texture, here I added some textures with a darker tone of Burnt umber.

adding white gouache

If you want to add a few highlights here and there, you could use white gouache.

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.

Holbein Acryla Gouache, 152 Chinese White, 20 ml

Acryla Designer Gouache is a fast-drying, opaque acrylic based watercolor paint. It’s water soluble while wet, and water-resistant, matte and opaque, even over dark surfaces. Great for grounds and layering.

splashing water on a finished watercolor painting

If you like a bit of a “messier” look, you can add drips and splatters by adding random drips of water, diluted watercolor paint and diluted gouache paint, over the finished painting

I let the paint move and make some adjustments by taking off some paint with a tissue paper

If you don’t like some of the splatters, you can always take them off with a tissue paper.

finishing a watercolor painting with wax

If you like a more natural look, you can try applying a layer of wax, instead of varnishing the painting.

Read more about this technique here

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.


Dorland’s Wax Medium

Adds translucency to oil paints, making them more brilliant. Also used as a final coat on dry paintings, metal sculpture, wood carvings, and antiques. May buff to gloss finish. Thins with turpentine.

watercolor and mixed media on paper mounted on board

The finished painting:Seeing the Forest through the Trees
Watercolor and Mixed media on paper mounted on board
wax finish, 30 x 30 inches

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Comments (25)

  1. Anita Goodson

    I wanted to ask what kind of wax ru using?
    I love your work trees r fablious. I love nature.

    1. Thanks Anita:) I am using Dorland wax medium, you can find it in Art supplies store as a medium to add to pigments and also to use as a finish.

  2. […] Watercolor and mixed media painting tutorial […]

  3. […] Watercolor and mixed media painting tutorial […]

  4. Hi Sandrine, love love your trees, I too love paintings them. They keep me grounded and humble. I have mounted my papers before and used a medium on canvas that allows watercolors to hang in and flow, ( look at my turtle and Aqua Swans on website) cool effect.
    I notice that your paper is all wrinkled in the photo, is that just it being wet or is there a medium on it? Your video shows you smoothing it out with a roller. This one does not look smooth. Also the cold wax I have used, did not like the brand, your jar is turned around, what brand do you prefer? Keep the video’s and demo’s coming. Very Inspiring. Debra Gow.

    1. Hello Debra,
      Yes, trees are fascinating to me too.
      When mounting the paper on board I am stretching it at the same time, so I wet it before, wait a bit and then fix it and stretch it on the board by using the roller. I try to be careful not to put any medium on the surface of the paper when I am stretching it as it would make he paper waterproof.
      My wax medium brand is Doorland.
      Thanks for your comment:)

  5. […] Painting tutorial: painting a forest with watercolors and gouache […]

  6. […] Watercolor and mixed media painting tutorial […]

  7. […] Watercolor and mixed media painting tutorial […]

  8. Hey Sandrine,Love the video,Music + of course the Painting,well done!-Mike Wakefield.

    1. Thanks Mike, nice to see you on the blog!
      I enjoyed looking at your exhibition at the Lynn valley library 🙂

  9. CheyAnne Sexton

    I love the way you did all this. Never thought of adding it to a board tho. that would help when it is so big. And I love the undercolors in your trunks. I use purples and red there too. this is a stunning piece.
    peace n abundance,

    1. Thanks CheyAnne 🙂

  10. Gaetanne

    Really beautiful, I love watching you work all speeded up! It looks just like an area in Pacific Spirit Park where I used to walk each day, with all the little spruce and cedar trees growing under the standing firs. Sandrine, I’ve never heard of applying wax to watercolour before. Is there a step one has to do before applying the wax? Thank you for sharing this with the world!

    1. Thanks Gaetanne 🙂
      I used cold wax medium and just did spread it on the paper with a soft cloth once the painting was dry. A few days after, the wax is completely dry and you can buff it to make it shiny. I like this method, it is more natural, the wax is adding a bit of contrast and richness to the colors and it smells good 🙂

      1. Gaetanne

        Sandrine, thank you. I think you are a fantastic artist. Would you ever consider doing an intensive workshop in January or February? I’m thinking a 5 day in a row type of thing. I live on Gabriola now but I could stay at my parents’ house in N. Van. I bet others would be interested too. My husband used to teach 5 day intensives in photography and they were well attended workshops. But I’m not even sure if your studio allows for that type of thing. Would you let me know? Thanks, you’ve got my email address.

        1. Hello Gaetanne,
          That is a good idea, I will think about it. I am only allowed two students at a time in my studio because of the district regulations so I might have to look for a different place.
          I will email you if I set up a workshop in the next months, in the meantime you are welcome to come for a cup of tea in my studio if you have a trip planned to the mainland.
          See you soon 🙂

  11. Jaci

    Inspiring. I just took some shots of east Texas colors. This inspires me to try a little section. Thank you for sharing your talents. Your explanations gives me the courage to give it a try.

    1. Thanks Jaci !

  12. Margot Paris

    Sandrine, this is stunning. Your control of the depth of field through colour gradations is masterful. This technique is inspiring. Remarkable piece of art.

    1. Thanks Margo 🙂
      It was nice meeting you Saturday, I really liked looking at your journal, great sketches and watercolours! Thanks for sending the info about the Bali trip as well.

  13. Sandrine, that is amazing (the process and the final result). Beautiful work!

    1. Thanks Krista, I am glad you liked it 🙂

  14. Linda

    Thank you for this lesson! I appreciate it very much. It is inspiring to me as a quilter.

    1. Thanks Linda 🙂

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