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10 things I know about painting fall trees

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

Painting Tips & Tricks for artists

1 - Cadmium Yellow Deep is the number one secret to painting warm yellows. Every cadmium yellow I have tried has a tendency to the green side. This green tendency makes it really hard to keep your colours warm and thus makes your painting pasty. It also makes it hard to get warm dark yellow for the shadow areas. Cadmium Yellow Deep and Burnt Sienna (an orange) mix will give you a great dark yellow that is warm.


2 - Cool green.

There is more green in fall trees than one would think. As the leaves begin to change some take on an almost spring like appearance. This green really helps to add some much needed cool to aid in showing how warm the colours are abound.

3 - Cool the foreground to make the trees pop. Your foreground not only needs to be lighter in value than the trees, it should also be a bit cooler in temperature. This cooling will allow the trees to really stand out.

4 - Don’t forget the purple.Putting a grey purple in your trees helps to add the subtlety you are looking for. Look at all the delicate purple at the base of the trees in this Clyde Aspevig painting. Use a smidgen of Yellow Ochre in your purple to grey it.

5 - Darker sky.Making your sky a little darker in value will help the yellows pop off of your canvas. Normally, the sky is the lightest value in a landscape. Dropping the value a step is a little trick to making things seem brighter and lighter. A great trick for making snow pop on mountains too.

6 - Sky Holes = D.D.C.Paint your “Sky Holes” (video), Darker, Duller and Cooler. The sky painted in between the branches and leaves cannot be the same colour used for the general sky or it will seem too bright and pop forward. Surrounded by a darker colour they appear to be lighter than they are. They need to be a touch darker in value, a touch duller in chroma, and a touch cooler in temperature.

7 - Cool Edges.Keep the brightest marks of your trees to the inside of the tree cool it around the edges. This gives your trees the illusion of depth. 

8 - Airy feeling.Don’t forget; sometimes you can pick up a little sky colour on the tops of the trees. Reflecting a little sky colour in the treetops gives them an airy feeling.

9 - Cadmium Red Light is your new friend.It is the perfect companion for the Cadmium Yellow Deep + Cadmium Orange combo in your fall palette. BUT - BE WARNED! Not just any Cadmium Red Light will do! Some have too much blue in them. Your red should be leaning to the orange side. The best I have found is the Rembrandt Cadmium Red Light. It’s bright, strong and very orange. This colour is also great for skin tones.

10 - Go big or go home. Lastly, keep you tree shapes big by using a big brush. Don’t get bogged down in details too early. Remember - don’t paint the wormhole in the apple until you have painted the apple.

Paint fresh my friends.

Doug :)

P.S. Leave your own painting tips below...

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