How to Paint Pine Trees In 5 Easy Steps (Using 5 Different Brushes)

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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

Five paintbrushes (an angle, round, filbert, flat, and fan) on a white-washed wooden background.

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

An angle paintbrush laying on top of a pine tree painting that was painted using this 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.

UPDATE: Don’t get me wrong, I still love using an angle brush to paint pine trees but it’s moved to second place in my personal painting practice. Keep reading to see which one is my fave now!

Round Brush

A round paintbrush laying on top of a painting of a pine tree which was created using this 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.

UPDATE: I never thought, in a million years, I’d be saying this but, the round brush is my absolute favorite brush to use to paint pine trees! Once I loosened up my grip and held it back further on the handle, I found that I could make the most realistic looking trees. This type of brush is especially awesome if you want to add snow to the tree.

A painting of snow covered pine trees against a pink, yellow, and orange sky.
All of the pine trees in this painting were done using round brushes.

Filbert

A pine tree painted on paper to show how to paint pine trees using a filbert paintbrush.

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

A flat brush with a painting of a pine tree in the background showing what kind of look you'll get if you use this brush to paint pine trees.

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.

UPDATE: I guess the flat brush is now in third place. It’s still an excellent choice to use when painting pine trees so don’t despair if it’s all you have. It’s an all-around great brush to have in your tool kit.

Fan Brush

A painted pine tree with the fan brush used to paint it.

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.

If you do want to give the fan brush a go, make sure that the bristles are fairly stiff. A hog hair fan brush will work nicely but, keep in mind, the natural bristles do tend to hold on to water so you’ll want to make sure to wipe it on a piece of paper towel after rinsing and before loading with paint.

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

Directions:

  • 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
Images showing three of the five steps for how to paint pine trees: where to start painting, how to make the brush strokes, and the pattern to follow to complete the pine tree painting.

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

A landscape acrylic painting showing the dark blue ocean, the pink and yellow morning sky, and a forest of impressionist 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

Sara

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2 thoughts on “How to Paint Pine Trees In 5 Easy Steps (Using 5 Different Brushes)”

    1. Hi there. Without more info about the problem, it’s hard to tell you what to try. If the issue is that your dense leaves end up looking like just big blobs of paint, try using a really scruffed up brush and dab the paint on, making sure to leave little bits of the background showing through here and there. When you add highlights, make sure to not cover all of the darker paint of the foliage. Hope this helps and happy painting!

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