How to Paint a Birch Tree in the Snow

Written by alyssa ideboen
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How to Paint a Birch Tree in the Snow
Pictures of birch trees work as a source of inspiration when painting. (birch trees in winter image by Svetlana Tikhonova from

Recreate a winter scene in watercolour by painting a birch tree surrounded in snow. The sharp contrast between the dark branches and the crispness of the white snow and papery bark lends a haunting, achromatic hue to a composition that can be created with multiple colours in the colour wheel. Blend water colour paints together to make a frosty scene with snow and birch trees. Incorporate basic watercolour techniques to create a compelling painting.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Easel
  • Plastic containers
  • Paintbrushes
  • Watercolours
  • Pencil
  • Paper
  • Masking tape

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  1. 1

    Set up your work area. Place paper on an easel or work surface and position the board at a 45-degree angle. Tape a picture of birch tree close by to refer to as you draw and paint. Fill two containers with water and lay out brushes and watercolour paints.

  2. 2

    Draw your scene. Lightly sketch a scene with a birch tree in the foreground with a pencil. Birch trees are long and narrow with thin branches. Draw a horizon line and other trees in the background to create depth and interest to your composition.

  3. 3

    Mask the tree shapes. With masking tape, cover the birch tree trunk areas. Lightly press the tape to the paper to avoid paint bleeding underneath the tape.

  4. 4

    Begin painting the sky. Use blues, violets, deep pinks and black to create a winter sky. Pinks and lighter blues can suggest a morning sky, while darker blues and violets can suggest an evening sky. Mix two or three colours together to create depth. Paint the entire sky area to the horizon line where the ground covered with snow will start. Add water to the paper surface to help the paints mix easily on the paper. Let it dry for several hours.

  5. 5

    Paint in the snow. Use a light wash of watercolour paint to suggest snow covering. Very pale browns or yellows can suggest a snow-covered ground. Use grey and blue paint to fill in the shadows of the birch tree. Let the paint dry.

  6. 6

    Peel the masking tape carefully off of tree areas. Begin filling in the details of the trees with dark brown and black horizontal stripes. Paint the stripes partially across the width of the tree shape. Add interest by painting a light wash over the whole tree shape and scrape it off with a scraper. Make the illusion of papery bark by painting thicker and thinner lines of paint across the surface of the tree. Fill in the bark shapes with brown, black and blue paint.

  7. 7

    Paint the branches of the birch tree. Use a small, thin brush to paint long, thin branches in light grey and brown watercolour paint. Allow the whole painting to dry for 24 hours before moving.

Tips and warnings

  • Blot out mistakes with a damp paper towel.
  • Drip small drops of water over a painted sky area to create the illusion of snow falling.
  • Keep paint and materials out of the reach of children and pets.

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