Welcome to August’s tutorial! This month I’ll be showing you how to paint background trees using water-mixable (or regular if you prefer) oil paints.
You will need:
- Oil paints in various shades of brown (I used burnt sienna, raw umber, and burnt umber) white, yellow ochre, crimson, and sap green
- Liquin original
- paint brushes (including one flat)
- paper or canvas suitable for oil paints
- paint brush cleaner
- paint palette
Mix burnt sienna, some burnt umber, and a small amount of Liquin to get a medium brown.
Paint a general tree shape – straight and flaring slightly at the bottom. Don’t be afraid to apply the paint thickly, this will add to the texture we’re looking for (see picture below). This is also why it’s important not to over-do the liquin – you need only enough to slightly lubricate the paint but retain the thickness.
Tidy up the edges of your tree using a smaller brush, but don’t be too worried about lumps and bumps. Real trees are never perfectly straight! Again, don’t be afraid to add quite a lot to your brush (see below) this will help with texture.
Now we’ll be using the flat brush to add white (zinc white is less intense than titanium white, which is preferable right now as we want the white to blend a bit with the brown). Use a dry brush (no thinners etc from now on) and lightly dab on the left of the tree and drag across. Do this all the way down your tree.
With a small, clean brush loaded with white, now’s the time to add the real highlights. Dab white (avoiding merging with the brown) over the marks you’ve already made.
Using your darkest brown (raw umber) and using a clean, dry brush, dab this colour near the roots, up the left, and between the gaps all the way up your tree. Don’t worry too much about colours merging.
Now’s the time to use the more interesting colours. It may seem a little unusual, but if you truly observe nature you’ll notice the unexpected variety of colours! Using the same brush as in step 6, take a small amount of ochre and dab lightly up the right side of the tree, towards the centre (see below). Unlike with the browns, a more light-handed approach is needed with these more vibrant colours. The aim is to make them blend in naturally, rather than to stand out.
Dab the crimson around the root area and up the left hand side of the tree, partly covering some of the darker areas. You just want to give a hint of red.
As with the crimson, the green should be subtle. Think of where you would find moss growing on a tree and lightly dab these areas.
And there you have it – how to paint background trees using oils!
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