How to Paint Aspen Trees


Aspen trees make a strong vertical composition and have an interesting texture to attempt capturing with watercolors. Using liquid mask, you can establish the basic tree shapes and work the background into the negative spaces that are thus formed. Paint from real life or photographs, and remember that each person creates his own expression so do not edit your work too harshly. Keep your confidence up as you create a painting to pay homage to the aspen trees.

Things You'll Need

  • 140-pound watercolor paper
  • Graphite pencil
  • Masking solution
  • Brushes
  • Watercolors-cadmium red light, cadmium yellow, gamboge and french ultramarine blue.
  • Ceramic plate
  • Plastic container for water
  • Sketch the composition of aspen trees with a graphite pencil; work on the arrangement of shapes until you are pleased with the outcome.

  • Use liquid mask to paint the tree trunk shapes and any other areas where you want the white of the paper to show through the painting. Mask is a rubber substance that repels paint and, when peeled off, allows the white to remain. This substance enables you to paint the negative shapes without losing the white, lighter areas.

  • Put small amounts of watercolor paints around the edge of a ceramic plate. Use warm primary colors; some of these are cadmium red light, cadmium yellow, gamboge and french ultramarine blue.

  • Place any sky color behind the tree shapes onto a wet background; allow this color to dry.

  • Paint warm primary colors over the masked tree shapes; keep your strokes vertical to simulate more trees in a forest behind the aspen trees in the foreground. At this point, you are painting the general shapes and not focusing on any fine details. Allow some of your vertical lines to extend into any sky coloring.

  • Build up the tree shapes in many layers; incorporate the leaves into this process. Use darker values to suggest depth behind the aspens.

  • Peel the mask off of the painting; use a gentle rubbing motion with your fingers. Liquid mask is time sensitive and after two days, it may remove the top surface of the paper. Plan accordingly, so you can work within this time frame.

  • Create shadows at the base of the trees; add the same to the distant tree shapes. Paint darkest colors, and add details to the aspen bark. Keep working in layers; allow paint to dry before making final details.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not use your best brush for the mask painting, as some of the rubber may stay embedded in the brush hair.
  • You may expedite drying of paint by using an electric hair dryer.
  • Be certain to clean your brushes and water often to keep colors fresh.

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  • Photo Credit paint image by Ivonne Wierink from
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