How to Create a Festive Dot Tree Watercolor Painting
Christmas is just around the corner. To help everyone get into the holiday spirit, we'd like to share this fun and easy Christmas tree painting tutorial by Melissa Doty of IG: @meldoty.art!
Read on to learn more about this talented artist and her work! Take it away, Melissa!
Hello! My name is Melissa Doty, and you can find me on Instagram at @meldoty.art. I live in Charleston, West Virginia, and picked up a paintbrush two years ago after decades of just dreaming about it. My first infatuation was with watercolor – I love their unpredictable and ethereal nature! These fun and modern “dot trees” are perfect for the holidays, and look great on a handmade card or popped into a festive frame. Choose your favorite tree shape and color, and give this tutorial a go! If you post your tree on Instagram, please tag me so I can see your work!
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO BELOW:
Watercolor paper – I use Fabriano bright white, 140lb cold press paper, but you may use any watercolor paper you like. You will get best results using at least 140 lb. paper.
Watercolor paint – I use many watercolor brands (Daniel Smith, Winsor Newton, etc.) but I also like to play with more affordable brands like Prima Watercolor. Here, I've chosen two of my favorite Prima Watercolor Confections sets – Decadent Pies and The Classics. If you are new to watercolor, these sets are perfect for getting started.
Winsor Newton designer gouache – Gold (optional)
Watercolor brushes – I use a small round Craft Smart brush here, size 5 (available at Michael’s). Other watercolor brushes I use for these types of pieces include Craftamo detail brushes, Silver Black Velvet round brushes, and Grumbacher round brushes.
Tree image, cardstock or copy paper, and scissors
Pencil and eraser
Water and paper towels
Hair dryer or heat gun (if you’re like me and get impatient for paint to dry)
HOW TO CREATE A FESTIVE DOT TREE WATERCOLOR PAINTING:
If you are new to watercolors, you might want to spend some time practicing circles of various shapes on scrap paper. I use a fairly watery wash in this type of piece (i.e., more water, less pigment) especially in the beginning stages where I’m building up layers and want more translucence. Another important thing is to let each painted area dry completely before painting on top of it. Also, use a light touch of the brush when you paint overtop dry watercolor to avoid reactivating the color underneath. Sometimes we want our watercolors to bleed together, but in this project, we want the colors crisp and distinct!
(Also, don’t fret if you find it difficult to make “perfect” circles. In my opinion, imperfection is what makes a painting interesting … embrace those quirky circles!)
Find a tree image or silhouette online and print it onto cardstock or other paper to cut out and use as a template. You can make your painting any size, but I’m working with a piece of paper that can be matted to fit a 5x7 inch frame. You can also draw a tree outline freehand if you’re feeling adventurous!
Lightly trace or draw your outline onto the center of the paper.
Next, erase enough of your pencil marks so that they won’t be noticeable in the final painting, but are still usable as guidelines. You won’t be able to erase these marks once watercolor paint dries overtop of them, so for this reason, I try to keep my circles “inside” the guidelines.
Wet your brush and dip into your first color (I use a yellow-gold) and paint a series of small circles all over your tree. Treat it as if you are decorating an actual tree – you want those colors spread evenly throughout! I like to start with lighter colors, such as golds, greens, and soft blues, and build up to brighter colors. You can follow the color order in my video, or choose your own colors!
Continue adding circles in various colors (one color at a time), being careful not to let the circles touch each other. Like I said earlier, wet colors will bleed together when they touch – a wonderful quality of watercolor - but for this painting, we want to keep our colors separate!
Once you can no longer comfortably add more circles without overlap, it’s time to sit back and let the painting thoroughly dry. Grab a hair dryer to speed up the process!
Once your first layer of circles is completely dry, start adding more. At this point, I like to still keep the colors light, but switch to brighter pinks, greens and purples. Whenever you cannot add any more circles without running into wet paint, stop and let it dry or use your hair dryer.
Continue to build up circles, adding colors that speak to you and letting it dry when necessary. I like to get brighter with sunny yellows, deeper blues and red-pinks at this point in the painting.
Once I feel like I have a good balance of color, I typically fill in some of the more sparse areas with a lighter color, such as blush or pale blue. You can also stop at this point if you want your circles to have more breathing room.
At this point, I usually give the tree a bit of sparkle with some metallic circles using gold gouache. If you don’t have any gouache, the Prima Watercolors Decadent Pies set includes two golds and one silver color that have a subtle shimmer!
Make sure the paint is totally dry, then use your eraser to clean up any stray marks. You can see that lovely sparkle of the gouache in this photo!
Your tree is now complete! You can affix it to a blank greeting card for holiday gifting, or frame it for festive decor!
CHECK OUT THE FINISHED PIECE BELOW:
I hope you enjoyed this watercolor tutorial and that it inspires you to try other color combinations and shapes. Your options are infinite – go forth and have fun!
Have a question about this process? Comment below and we'll do our best to answer you!
To see more of Melissa's work, visit or contact her on the following channels: