Watercolor Trees I: PreClass

Welcome to class! In this lesson we’ll prepare ourselves for the lessons by looking at the supplies needed – and creating some exercises that will help as we begin.

Note that you do NOT need to have all these exact supplies; be sure to read the notes carefully and make wise decisions that won’t break the bank.

How class works

Given that people learn in different ways, Each lesson will contain photos with closeups and discussion of different sections of the finished painting. I recommend reading those before watching the video, which will be later in the lesson, and hopefully having the end result in mind, you can watch for how that section was created. Note particular areas you want to see, and have pencil and paper handy to note the timestamps when each layer happened so you can go back to review it.

Know that YOUR painting need not be exactly like the demo painting. Each of us is unique, and we each have our own approach, color selection, brush strokes – and add in water and paper and you have a guarantee that we’ll all have paintings that work out differently!

PRACTICE TIP: Demonstrations are each done on quarter sheets – that’s a quarter of a 22″ x 30″ sheet, meaning 11″ x 15″. While you might want to practice on smaller paper, small paintings require very different techniques – and brushes – than do larger pieces. (My apologies to those for whom a 22″ x 30″ is a normal size!) If you want to practice techniques without using an 11″ x 15″ sheet, divide the sheet into thirds using tape (3 vertical skinny paintings), and try a sky in each one, then a portion of a tree in each at the scale they would each be painted on an actual quarter sheet.. That might allow for trying different brushes and colors at scale while preserving paper. I do that on the backs of failed paintings – a great way to learn from every square inch of a sheet of paper!

Before we start…a little housekeeping

I retain the copyright to the content you are learning in class. That means…

  1. Do not sell or give away the concepts from my classes – you may not re-teach my instruction contained or created within these lessons.
  2. Do not post a video tutorial or step by step photo tutorial of your own redraw of class content.
  3. Do not repost any handouts you receive in class.

However…I love to see students making strides and taking this teaching and personalizing it with your own skills.

  1. DO make your own designs and develop your own style! I love that!
  2. DO gift your creations made with these techniques, of course!

At the bottom of each lesson you’ll see some ways to share your homework and ask questions, so that’ll be handy for you.




Good paper is important! There’s not much discussion of paper in the video below, so please do read these notes:

Choosing to work on student grade papers will hamper your results, create funky edges, and cause more blooms than a good high quality cold press or rough watercolor paper. It should be 100% cotton, sometimes called “rag” – if a paper doesn’t list that it’s made with cotton, avoid it. A few brands I’ve found just exclaim what great papers they are but won’t say what’s in it. That doesn’t mean painting on them is always bad – but for this class i encourage choosing Arches or Saunders Waterford.

Paper color is a personal preference; Arches has natural or bright white, and there’s only a tiny difference between them. I just ordered some of the Saunders Waterford High White to compare to the regular white – their regular white is more cream than white, and the High White is about double the price. I’ll repoort back in if I find one better than the other!

Cold press vs rough? Again, personal choice. I get way better drybrush effects and beautiful edges on rough, but it can be challenging for small details. (Thus helping avoid getting lost in unnecessary detail!) Most people use cold press. (I don’t recommend hot press at all for this course.)

  1. Arches
    1. Natural Cold Press 140lb full sheet, 22″ x 30″ BLICK
    2. Bright White Cold Press 140lb full sheet, 22″ x 30″ BLICK
    3. Natural Rough 140lb full sheet, 22″ x 30″ BLICK
    4. Bright White Rough 140lb full sheet, 22″ x 30″ BLICK
  2. Saunders Waterford
    1. High White Cold Press 140lb full sheet, 22″ x 30″ BLICK
    2. White Cold Press 140lb full sheet, 22″ x 30″ BLICK
    3. High White Rough 140lb full sheet, 22″ x 30″ BLICK
    4. White Rough 140lb full sheet, 22″ x 30″ BLICK

Watercolor Paints

Daniel Smith Watercolors are used in this class, but you can certainly use other artist quality paints. Check the photo below and swatch your colors to see if you have something close. I do not recommend phthalos at this point; they are challenging since they take over wherever they are used.

  1. Greens:
    1. Serpentine Genuine (not used much at all in this class) BLICK | AMZ
    2. Sap Green BLICK | AMZ
    3. Green Apatite Genuine BLICK | AMZ
    4. Perylene Green BLICK | AMZ
    5. Paynes Blue Grey BLICK | AMZ
  2. A blue for skies and water (choose one of these or any blue you like)
    1. Cobalt Blue BLICK | AMZ
    2. French Ultramarine Blue BLICK | AMZ
    3. Cobalt Teal Blue BLICK | AMZ
  3. Neutrals
    1. Burnt Sienna (or any warm reddish brown) BLICK | AMZ
    2. Yellow Ochre (or any “dirt” kind of color) BLICK | AMZ
  4. For fun, yellows, if desired (used very little):
    1. Nickel Azo BLICK | AMZ
    2. New Gamboge BLICK | AMZ
    1. Metal palettes:
      1. Whiskey Painter metal palette AMZ 
      2. Holbein metal palettes BLICK
      3. Schmincke palettes and pans BLICK

    General supplies

    1. Graphix Incredible Art Board (or use any hard surface you’d like)
    2. White Artist Tape, 3/4″ 
    3. Water container of some kind – I use a large one, as small ones will get dirty very fast. You may find it helpful to have a few, one for dipping a totally dirty brush, one for medium dirty, and one clean before dipping into a light yellow. Big yogurt containers work great.
    4. Spray bottle – any kind of bottle is great, though I find that a small one that fits in the hand works better than something like a windex bottle.


        The following video will discussion of these brushes, and shows the differences between how natural and synthetic brushes act. I haven’t been imprssed with the release of pigment by “Rotmarder” brushes are, but they are more affordable so I’ve left them on the list.

        You do not need this whole list of brushes! These are the ones tested. The four brushes in bold font below are the ones used in class, but if you have something like it, use that!

        1. Synthetic brushes:
          1. Silver Brush Black Velvet, Round 8Blick | AMZ
          2. Silver Brush Black Velvet, Round 12 – Blick | AMZ
          3. Princeton Aqua Elite 12 Long Blick | AMZ
          4. da Vinci Casaneo 12 round Blick | AMZ
          5. da Vinci Casaneo 14 round AMZ
        2. Natural hair brushes
          1. Winsor & Newton Kolinsky Sable Series 7 Round 8 brush – AMZ
          2. Winsor & Newton Kolinsky Sable Series 7 Round 10 brushBLICK
          3. da Vinci Maestro Kolinsky Sable Round 14 – Blick
          4. da Vinci Series 17 Maestro Long Needle Red Sable, Size 9 AMZ
          5. da Vinci Rotmarder set of 3 (round sizes 8, 10, 12) AMZ

        Video: Natural vs synthetic brushes


        As preparatory exercise before beginning class, I recommend the exercise shown in this video, making sure you write down your results! Choose a few of your colors to swatch with Tea, Milk, Cream, Honey, and Butter mixtures; then try some large areas with a variety of mixes that touch each other or are dropped into each other.

        Tree shape page

        To download this resource page, click here.

        Quick links to share your work wherever you like:

        Artventure Community

        Artventure is an active art community of thousands of artists that I run on Mighty Networks via an app or the web. You’ll be right in my pocket for quick feedback and answers to questions and bonus zoom calls! Free to join.

        Social media & blogs

        Post wherever you like to share, and tag @sandyallnock – I love to see your work!  Posting lets your friends know which class you’re taking. They might enjoy learning as well!