How to paint trees without a fan brush

How to Paint Pine Trees In 5 Easy Steps (Using 5 Different Brushes) [2022 Update]

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Table of Contents

  • Easily Paint A Whole Pine Forest When You Find The Perfect Paintbrush
  • Quick Guide To Painting A Pine Tree
    • To paint a pine tree:
    • Extra Tips:
  • Five Brushes You Can Use To Paint Amazing Pine Trees
    • Angle Brush
    • Round Brush
    • Filbert
    • Flat Brush
    • Fan Brush
  • How To Paint Pine Trees Step-by-Step!
    • Painting Materials:
    • Directions:
  • How To Paint Pine Tree Branches
  • How To Paint Pine Trees In The Distance
  • Painting Pine Trees Is Super Easy When You Use The Most Comfortable Brush For You (Final Thoughts)
  • Which Brush Is Your Favorite To Paint Pines?
    • More Articles To Help With Painting Pine Trees

Easily Paint A Whole Pine Forest When You Find The Perfect Paintbrush

In just 5 easy steps, you’ll learn how to paint pine trees like a pro! Not only that, but you’ll also know exactly which type of paintbrush is going to give you the kind of pine tree you’re looking for.

In fact, more often than not, you’ll be told to use a fan brush and, for some, that works out just fine. If you aren’t one of those people, don’t despair, my friend! I’m here to tell you that there is more than one brush you can use to paint pine trees.

From wooded landscapes to handmade holiday cards, knowing how to easily paint amazing pine trees is a very versatile skill to learn. So let’s get down to it!

Quick Guide To Painting A Pine Tree

We’ll go more in-depth about how to paint pine trees in just a minute but, first, let’s take a quick look at the steps.

To paint a pine tree:

  1. Paint the trunk
  2. Load your brush with green paint
  3. Lightly tap your chosen paintbrush just above the top of the pine tree trunk
  4. Tap your way down the trunk in a zig-zag pattern, moving further out from the trunk as you paint downward
  5. Go back in and add more taps, here and there, to break things up so your pine tree doesn’t look too structured (messy and misshapen is your bestie!)

Extra Tips:

  • Don’t get too fussy about making your pine trees look perfectly symmetrical. Mother Nature knows what she’s doing and perfectly imperfect is so in!
  • In nature, trees are rarely tightly structured
  • Trunks can have lots of knots, broken branches, curves, and bends
  • Branches can be full on one side and sparse on the other and they can also be really short in places and long in others (some may even have branches that hang in a more up and down position than others)
  • Add a bit of your green paint to yellow and mix with a bit of white to create a highlight color
  • To add highlights, follow the same steps as above but use less paint so you don’t cover up all of the darker parts of the pine tree
  • If you’re painting a landscape with a forest of pines, make sure to use a lighter color for your background trees and continue to use darker/more vibrant green paint as you work toward the foreground of the painting (this will help to create depth)

Five Brushes You Can Use To Paint Amazing Pine Trees

If you happen to be painting along with a YouTube tutorial where the instructor is using a fan brush to paint a forest of pine trees but you don’t have one (or don’t like using them), no worries!

Let’s look at some of the paintbrushes you can use to paint pines and see the different effects you can make depending on the brush you choose to paint with.

Angle Brush

This is my favorite brush to use to paint pine trees because I’m really comfortable with an angle brush and I love the slightly structured look of the branches. We’re talkin’ just a tiny bit structured.

Having some structure is absolutely fine but you don’t want it so symmetrical that you can see an obvious pattern. When learning how to paint pine trees, it’s important to walk that fine line between “wow, that looks like one of those fake trees from the dollar store” to “uhhhhh, that’s a lovely blob of paint with spikey bits”.

Living in a place where I see pine trees all of the time, the shape I get when using an angle brush is what I’m used to seeing in nature.

Round Brush

I find the round brush to be a bit more challenging for me but way easier than using a fan brush, in my opinion. I think if you’re used to using round brushes, you’ll probably find this to be the easiest for you. I do like the lacy quality of this pine tree, though.


This is such a fun and quirky looking tree! Because the Filbert has a rounded head, you can really play with it and experiment to get different shapes. I like how this pine tree is like a mix of the angle brush and the round brush pine trees.

Flat Brush

This is my second favorite brush to paint pine trees, which makes sense since this is basically an angle brush before the bristles were cut.

Pine trees, in nature, have defined edges and lots of pokey bits which makes the flat brush perfect for painting pine trees.

Fan Brush

Oy vey… As you can see, I really struggled to make the fan brush do what I wanted it to and, full disclosure, I’ve been doing this for years!

For this reason, this is my least favorite brush to use to paint pine trees. I find the branches are too wispy for my liking and I had a hard time figuring out how to load the paint on the brush without having the bristles clump together. I, also, couldn’t get the hang of holding the brush so that the branches were more natural looking.

If you are an expert at the fan brush, kudos to you, friend! I have much to learn when it comes to using this particular brush.

How To Paint Pine Trees Step-by-Step!

Now, let’s get to practicing using the five step quick guide, from above, and all five of the different brushes!

If you don’t have all five of the brushes, just work with what you have.

Painting Materials:

  • Canvas, paper, etc.
  • Paint (I used Burnt Umber (dark brown) and Hooker’s Green (dark green) but you can use any color of paint you want. Go wild!)
  • Paintbrushes (you can do this with just one of the brushes listed or all of them):
    • Angle brush
    • Round brush
    • Filbert
    • Flat brush
    • Fan brush
  • Jar of clean water
  • A rag or paper towel
  • A paint palette (or paper plate)
  • Highlight Paint Colors (optional):
    • Cad Yellow Medium (sunny yellow)
    • Titanium White


  • Go ahead and paint as many vertical lines as you want. Don’t bother trying to paint them in a straight line. It’s really not necessary since most tree trunks in nature aren’t completely straight
  • Load your paintbrush with a bit of dark green paint. Don’t pick up a big glob of it! It’ll be too much and you’ll be fighting for control
  • Starting just a bit above your vertical line, lightly tap your paintbrush. For every brush, but the round, use the side of your brush and just the tip of the bristles on the top corner of the brush
  • Tap your way down the vertical line/tree trunk, at a diagonal, and tap further out from your trunk as you make your way to the bottom
  • When you reach the point where you think you’d like to stop, take a look at your pine tree and see if there is anything that needs fixing. You may have to go back in and tap a bit more here and there to make the diagonal tapping line less obvious
  • Next mix up your highlight color and follow the same instructions as above but use less paint and don’t use too much! You want to still be able to see the dark green of the pine tree here and there
  • Repeat the above steps with each brush and as many times as you like. With practice, you’ll quickly figure out which paintbrush is the easiest to use for you
The “toe” of your brush is what you’ll use to tap the paint to create a pine tree shape

How To Paint Pine Tree Branches

Learning how to paint pine trees up close and detailed isn’t as difficult as you might think. It all comes down to seven steps.

The five steps to painting a pine tree branch are:

  1. Paint the branch – You can be as detailed or painterly as you want but most of the branch will be covered up so keep that in mind.
  2. Paint the needles – Use a small round brush and dark green paint to make the pine needles with a light flicking motion in slightly different directions (don’t go too crazy with this part or your pine branch will look….frazzled)
  3. Make it look natural – This is just a matter of letting some of the needles cross over one another (Mother Nature doesn’t do symmetry!)
  4. Mix a highlight color – Mix your dark green with a bit of yellow and white to create a highlight color
  5. Add highlights – Use the same method as above but don’t cover up all of the dark green or you’ll lose the depth

That’s really all there is to it! If you want to dive deeper, make sure to check out my pine branch and ornament holiday card article. There, you’ll find the different steps with photos to guide you.

Extra Tip: The more layers of paint you add, and the more shades and tints you add to each layer, the more detailed your branch will look.

How To Paint Pine Trees In The Distance

Painting distant pine trees couldn’t be easier! They’re basically just impressionist pine trees made with dabs of paint along the horizon line of your landscape.

However, if you want to paint pine trees that are a bit more detailed but still look like they’re in the distance, you’ll want to make them smaller/thinner and use a paint color that is the same as the color you use for the foreground trees but lightened up and dulled down.

You want your distant trees to look like they’re slightly out of focus so they won’t have as much detail as the pine trees in the foreground. They’ll, also, have softer edges.

Extra Tip: Look at something with squinted eyes and that will give you an idea of the look you’re going for.

For a bit of practice, take a look at my painting raindrops article where you’ll find a rainy forest landscape YouTube tutorial that’s both quick and easy. It will also teach you how to paint fog and a rainy sky.

Painting Pine Trees Is Super Easy When You Use The Most Comfortable Brush For You (Final Thoughts)

Learning how to paint pine trees may seem like a recipe for disaster, especially if you’ve tried to paint them in the past using a fan brush. But, now you know, there is more than one brush to get the job done.

To get you started, here’s a link to a whole bunch of free pine tree images you can use to help you to learn how to paint pine trees. The goal is to try different brushes over and over so you can figure out which brush is going to get you the results you’re looking for.

Patience, young grasshopper, and practice, practice, practice!

Which Brush Is Your Favorite To Paint Pines?

More Articles To Help With Painting Pine Trees

  • Make the perfect shade of green paint
  • Practice by painting Christmas trees
  • More websites where you can find free images of pine trees

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Tree Painting 101 (Learn to Paint Trees with Acrylics)

How To Paint Trees


I could write a whole book about painting trees in acrylic. As a matter of fact, there are already several books on the market about painting trees. However, in this article, I am just going to give you the basics of tree painting to get you started.


Style of Painting

First you have to decide which style of painting you are doing. Do you want to paint a hyper realistic group of trees, a more painterly style, an abstract tree, a comic book type of tree or something completely your own style. Whatever you decide to paint it’s best to start with a few tips on color mixing your greens.

**This page may contain affiliate links to products I have used or recommend. If you purchase something from this page, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. For more information click here.**


Color Mixing for Trees

Your palette for painting trees doesn’t necessarily need to include a tube of green. Most beginner painters have bought a set of paints for beginners such as this one.

The green included in this is not ideal for trees on its own. It needs to be toned down, lightened up a bit to give the necessary highlights and shadows to make your tree more dimensional.

You can mix several shades of green with a palette of blues and yellows to give your scene more interest and give you more flexibility over with colors in your painting.

A good palette to start with would be ultramarine blue or Phthalo blue, cadmium yellow, burnt umber, white and alizeran crimson and a tiny touch of black for painting leaves and trunk.

If you don’t have these exact colors, spend some time playing around with mixing what you have to get the colors you are happy with. Use more than one shade of green for your trees and any foliage around the trees.



Here are some basic mixes with Cadmium Yellow mixed with Ultramarine Blue and Phthalo Blue. There are many, many more combinations you can mix to get almost any color you want. Add more yellow to make them lighter or more blue to make them darker.  

Be aware too that the colors may be slightly different on your computer. Also, there may be a difference among the brands of paint. It’s best to make a chart for yourself before you begin painting to see what colors you have and what mixes you can make.

You can also use a bottled green such as sap green or phthalo green and mix it with either a blue or yellow to lighten or darken it.


Color Chart for Trees


Not All Trees Are Green

Not all trees have green foliage. Some, like Japanese maples, have dark red or reddish brown leaves.

If you are bored with painting green leaves or just want a pop of color in your landscape you might think about painting a flowering tree or maybe doing a fall picture with all of its colorful yellows and oranges.

Winter scenes can also be interesting and beautiful with ice and snow glistening on bare branches or little bits of evergreen peeping through on branches heavily laden with snow.

You can also do a whimsical painting using one or two of your favorite colors that are not traditionally used in tree. Use various shades of purples and blues for example to render a unique look. It would be a fun exercise in how to understand tones and values in painting.

Acrylic on Canvas Paper by MarilynO @TrembelingArt


Atmospheric Influence on the Colors of Trees

Don’t forget the atmospheric influence on the color of the leaves and trunk. Bright sunshine, setting or rising sun, dusk or moonlight night. All of these will add shadows, highlights and reflections to your trunk and leaves.

Think about how the red/orange glow from a setting sun can deepen the red of a maple or make the yellows of an aspen seem to glow.

Take time to study the perspective of your painting. Trees in the foreground will be larger and more detailed than the background trees.

The colors and textures in the foreground trees will also be more vibrant. Trees in the background tend to be less defined and take on a more neutral bluish grey color the further back they go. See my post on Perspective.



Observe the shape of the trees you are going to paint and how they fit in to your overall piece. Are they tall and slim? Short and round? Large and majestic?

Do the branches stick out randomly like a bad case of bed head? Are they mostly in shadow or in direct light. Are the trees all of the same species or are there different types of leaves and colors on some of the trees.

Having a good idea of what exactly you are painting will help with your composition. You can add a few leaves or whole trees to fill in gaps you don’t like or add a dead tree to make it more interesting.

The great thing about art is that you can take a reference photo and make it your own by adding or subtracting a few artistic touches.

Painting trees is more about recreating the patterns and shapes you see than placing each individual leaf and branch in the right place.

If you want to see some really hyper-realistic tree painting, check out this Michael James Smiths YouTube channel. He is an oil painter who does some of the most realistic landscapes that I have seen.


Brushes for Tree Painting

You can use just about any brush to paint trees. A lot of artists like to use a fan brush for pine trees.

Load the paint on the corner of the brush and make branches gradually getting smaller as they go up. Add a second and third layer of different shades to give dimension and shading to the tree.

The same technique can be used with a flat brush. Load the brush with paint on the corner and dab on your branches.

You may get slightly thicker branches with the flat brush so this is good for very dense trees.

Use a liner or small round brush for details and highlights on your tree.


Tree Trunks

Tree trunks are not always brown. There are many different colors found in the trunks and branches of trees including grays, blacks and whites. I

t depends on the type of tree, the season you are painting and the play of light on the trees and branches.

Trunks are wider at the base and may have large, prominent roots and knotholes or peeling bark.  Even tall slender, trees are slightly wider at the base. 


Tree Painting

1.Begin by making a line with a flat or round brush and your desired color. You can add a large limb or two to bigger trees.

You can add as little or as much detail as you want. Everything can be adjusted later, for now just get the basic shapes down.



2. Add some foliage to your tree. Start with the darkest of your greens. Use a fan brush or the edge of a flat brush to “dab” foliage onto the tree trunk and branches. Don’t cover it completely but just enough to give it some background. The dark color will act as shading for your tree.

3. Next, add some of your midtones in the same manner, filling in a few more gaps and adding some depth. Don’t go overboard. Most trees have some sky showing through and you want to leave enough dark color showing through to add some shading.


4. Now you can add some light tones and highlights to make your tree pop. Do this lightly with your fan brush or your flat brush just here and there to mimic the sun hitting the leaves.


From here you can continue to add highlights and shading where you see necessary. You can add in a few thin branches and cover them with a little foliage.

Go back and add in some sky holes through the branches. Paint in layers rather than big blocks of color. 

You can also add more highlights and shading to the trunk using a little white or black mixed with your burnt umber. 

These are just basic trees to get you started and more comfortable with mixing the greens and finding the shapes in the trees. As I said, whole books have been written on the subject. 


Color Chart

Here is a chart you can use as a guide when mixing some of the blues and yellows to mix green. It may not look exactly like yours due to the differences in computer screens but it will give you a general idea of the hues you will get.

Ultramarine tends to give you a more earthy green, while phthalo gives a brighter green. 




There are several ways you can make charts to help you decide which colors to use:

Make a chart of green mixes = yellow/green    Blue/greens.

Make a chart of mixing other colors with a base green.

Mix blues, greens, yellows, red, whites and blacks into the browns for tree trunks.




Practice is probably one of the most important things in painting. Get some painting paper or any heavy paper or cheap canvases and practice painting trees to build up the muscle memory and technique.

Practice a variety of shapes, sizes and types.

Practice painting leaves too. Most of your landscapes won’t require you to paint many individual leaves, but there will be some compositions where you will want to paint a closer view of a leaf.

Practicing beforehand will make the painting go faster.

I hope this all helps to get you started with landscapes. I a planning on making a few more in depth tutorials later on and maybe include a short video if I can figure out a Parkinson’s friendly way to do it. 😉   

If you have any questions or suggestions I would love to hear from you in the comments below. Happy Painting!!




Related Posts
    • What is Perspective in Art
    • Color Theory for Beginners
    • Beginners Guide to Highlighting and Shading


1001 ways to draw a tree. Master class from Veronika Kalacheva


1001 ways to draw a tree. Master class from Veronika Kalacheva

October 17, 2020 33 725 views

Olesya Akhmedzhanova

Veronika Kalacheva is a watercolor artist, illustrator, experienced teacher and founder of the famous Kalacheva School. She is also the author of the new book "Watercolor", which we were looking forward to at MYTH.

Using the example of different trees, Veronika shows how differently one and the same task can be approached. Watch, learn and choose what you like.

Choosing a method

Before starting a new drawing, I usually first carefully look at the features of nature and then think about what materials I can use as easily as possible (ideally in one sitting!) To depict the texture I need. A variety of brushes and techniques are used.


1. The fan brush isn't just for splashing! The main thing is to choose the right comfortable size. Here I “string” branches on a thin trunk with this brush.

2. The saber-shaped (flat beveled) brush, in addition to thin long strokes, gives very elegant lines with different thicknesses when pressed. Here I draw with a slight pause at the beginning of the stroke and swiftly and quickly reduce the line to nothing. Dryish strokes are obtained on rough paper.

3. I came up with this technique when I first picked up a calligraphic brush. Her hair, so lively and incredible, always gives shaggy strokes. The main thing in dealing with her is bold pressure.

4. Here I draw paint from the crown for trunks and branches with a pencil. So they look very contrasting in shape.

5. Sometimes I use really wonderful brushes of my own making. The one you see in the picture is cut raffia twisted at the base of an old kolinsky brush. Her prints are very similar to the rustling leaves of trees.

6. Spray is always a great idea! Even when drawing trees. First, I splatter in the right place (don't forget to put your finger in for a directed light movement of the brush, so the splatter won't fly all over the place).

7. It remains to add the branches and trunk.

8. Using a raffia brush, I do not only prints, but also strokes. They turn out to be very different in thickness and unusual, as if created by the wind. I remove a thin trunk and branches using a homemade cola-pen tool.

9. A few prints of a wide flat brush, plus a barrel with the help of a plastic card - and voila, we have a cypress!

There is no right or wrong approach. Only indifference is wrong. Use the whole sheet; before you start, equip your place so that nothing fetters you, so that you are not afraid to stain or hurt something. You can even draw on the floor, make prints, splash, and generally do whatever you want.

I want you to look at familiar objects with different eyes and try to show the character of even the most ordinary tree.

Feel free to experiment and sign the resulting effects: what technique and what brush did you manage to convey what you saw. When you have thoroughly learned all your techniques and feel freer, move on.

Magic challenge

There is one magic challenge in my online watercolor course. I love watching
what the students are drawing. I hope you will also feel all the magic that affects me. We will draw a tree again, but now I propose to look at this work from a different angle.

  • Choose a large size (bigger is better; A2 minimum). Take any photo of a tree you like. It is important that it evokes emotions in you.
  • The first step is to discuss with yourself: what is your tree like? Think about its size, texture, movements of its trunk and branches, whether there is vegetation on it, whether you can hear branches creaking in the wind or leaves rustling. It can be anything: fragile, old, powerful, scary, viscous, trembling, rustling. Use any epithets that seem appropriate to you. Having characterized the tree, it will be easier to choose a tool for work.
  • Draw even with your fingers, even with branches, whip a leaf with a broom, spray from a spray bottle! Be creative and sensitive like children. The only condition is to draw with everything except brushes.

Based on the book "Watercolor"

8 basic tools for painting according to the technique of Bob Ross - Sei-Hai

"Anyone can draw."

Bob Ross believed in these words and lived them. He inspired a lot of people to pick up a brush and give it a try. People who had never painted before and didn't believe they could do it. The ones who were told by their teachers that you have no talent. Bob Ross believed in them, and he was right!

Almost everyone who tried to draw from the lessons of Bob Ross was surprised by their first painting. How easy it was and how beautiful she looked.

If you have never painted in this style before, we invite you to watch a special edition of the Joy of Painting program called The Greatness of Summer. In this one-hour video, Bob walks you through all the tools you need and also shows you how to prepare a canvas for painting with this technique. This video will be a great introductory lesson because it really goes into great detail about the various techniques that even a beginner can repeat.

Below you can find a brief description of everything needed for this technique. For example, Bob Ross branded tools are given. But, of course, it is not at all necessary to look for them. Any other brand will work. The shape is important, not whose logo is emblazoned on the brush.

Basic Tools

These are the tools you need to paint Bob wet on wet. In addition to these, you will need a small bucket, paper towels, and clothes that you don't mind getting dirty.

If you are just starting to paint, there is no need to buy an easel right away. You can simply lean the canvas against the wall. But do not forget to put cardboard or paper between the future picture and the wall.

Large brush

Bob uses a 5cm wide brush for literally everything from clear skies, storm clouds, to big old trees and cute little bushes.

It is recommended to use natural brushes, as they give the paint more gently to the canvas. Be careful to only use art brushes, not wall paint brushes. Later, a brush 2.5 centimeters wide may come in handy, but at first you can do without it.

Fan brush #6

Bob uses this brush to add highlights to small trees, bushes and large fluffy clouds. Also, with its help, you can draw a whole forest with just a few hand movements.

It is very important that the brush is very hard and elastic, otherwise you will not achieve the desired effect.

Palette Knife #106

Used to create majestic mountains and beautiful river banks. Bob always says to just let the palette knife do its thing.

You can also use a plastic palette knife, but it is still better to get a wooden one with a metal blade, as it is more convenient to use due to its weight.

Natural Fine Round Brush #2

This brush is used to add small sticks and twigs, foam and highlights to the waves of seascapes. And also for signing finished paintings.


Of course, you need a canvas to create a painting. Bob Ross usually used a standard 45x60 cm canvas. This is a very good size for beginners. Also note that Bob's "wet on wet" technique will not work on a paper canvas.

Paint Thinner

Thinner is used for more than thinning paint before applying highlights or signing finished paintings. It also comes in handy for cleaning brushes. Don't forget to "knock the devil out of the brush" as Bob used to say before continuing to paint your masterpieces.

If you are working indoors, it is very important to use an odorless solvent.


We advise you to use only a large palette, because on the standard one all colors will mix, and you will get a swamp.


In The Joy of Painting, Bob Ross uses fairly thick oil paints. Please be careful not to buy acrylic paints as they are not suitable for Bob's technique.

Oil Paints

Bob always used very thick paint, which really helped him create amazing effects when working with mountains, bushes or clouds. Because such paint is less likely to completely blend in the painting.

These eight colors allow you to paint many Bob Ross paintings. For this technique, lighter colors should have a different oil to pigment ratio than darker ones. This is important, because if, for example, you buy transparent green paint (instead of opaque), then greens, grass, and trees will not be the desired green. The transparent green paint will mix with the paint that you applied earlier and you will get a completely different shade.

  • Alizarin red (translucent)
  • Cadmium yellow (translucent)
  • Light red (translucent)
  • Carbon black (opaque)
  • FC Blue (clear)
  • Grass green (opaque)
  • Titanium white (opaque)
  • Van Dyck brown (opaque)

Liquid White and Black

Liquid White and less commonly Liquid Black are used as a base coat in Bob's "wet on wet" technique. This way you make it easier to mix colors to create sky or rivers.

You can buy ready-made paints of the right consistency or make your own. To do this, mix white or black oil paint with an odorless paint thinner.

To summarize

Drawing is a wonderful activity! There are probably many reasons why you would like to start drawing. You may have seen how Bob Ross created majestic mountains and emerald lakes with a few strokes of the brush, and wanted to follow in his footsteps. Or you're looking for a new hobby that's not only incredibly fun, but also good for your mental health.

Learn more