Watercolor Christmas Wreath Tutorial

Today I thought I would share a festive holiday wreath tutorial! I love creating wreaths, because there’s so many different ways you can use them. Painted wreaths are perfect for adding a handwritten quote in the center, on gift tags, or on special envelopes with the address in the center. You can also make them very full in the center like I did, and put them on display by themselves!

This wreath is super easy to create! The trick is to make sure each layer is COMPLETELY dry before moving onto the next step.

Watercolor Christmas Wreath

Materials

  • HB Pencil

  • Winsor & Newton Hooker’s Green

  • W&N Winsor Yellow

  • W&N Cadmium Red or Scarlet Lake

  • W&N Lamp Black

  • W&N Burnt Umber

  • Round Brush #4 (I use the Princeton Heritage 4050R Series)

  • 140lb Cold-Pressed Paper (Arches or Legion Stonehenge)

  • Optional: Sweet Christmas playlist + a cup of Hot Cocoa

Step One

Draw a very light circle in pencil. I traced a roll of masking tape, since I have a hard time drawing perfect circles (#strugglebus - I am better at painting them, it’s weird). 

For the furthest pine needles, mix Hooker’s Green with a tiny touch of Lamp Black, and dilute it with a LOT of water. Typically when you are creating a watercolor painting, you want to work from light to dark. Objects that are in the background will be lightest, while objects in the foreground will be the most vibrant.

Grab your brush, and start painting light sprigs of pine needles around the circle. To do this, you want to use the tip of your brush to lightly paint the line for the stem, then use short quick strokes with the tip of your brush to to paint the needles.

Be sure you do not have too much water on your brush, or the needles will start to blend together. These sprigs should not form a perfect circle, and should curl in towards the center and out towards the sides, to make them look more organic. Leave space, as we will be adding more layers of pine needles, leaves, and berries.

Step Two

Once this layer has COMPLETELY dried you can erase your pencil line. Now, it is time to add your second layer of pine needles. This time, add a little more Hooker’s Green to your mixture to darken it up a bit. Using the same method as before, add more sprigs of pine needles around the circle. Have a few of these overlap part of the first layer, and add more sprigs than you did in step one. Let this layer dry.

Step Three

It is time to add the berries!

Red Berries

For the red berries, I used Cadmium Red diluted with water. I started with a few lighter berries, and then added more pigment to create darker berries and give them some variation. I used wet on wet technique for a couple of these, by painting one very light berry, waiting for the paper to absorb some of the water, then adding a dark berry that just barely touches it while the light berry is still damp. This allows some of the pigment from the dark berry to bleed into the lighter berry. Make sure to leave a little white space in the berries to show the light reflecting off of them.

Create a few bundles of red berries around the circle. I typically stick to odd numbers when adding bright elements to my paintings, as it makes the finished piece look more organic and interesting.

Mistletoe Berries

For the mistletoe berries, you will want to mix a little bit of Hooker’s Green with Winsor Yellow. Mistletoe berries are typically a very light yellow-green (almost white), so you will want to dilute your mixture with a LOT of water. Add a couple bundles of these around the circle.

Let your berries dry completely.

Step Four

For the mistletoe stems and leaves, add Winsor Yellow to Hooker’s Green and a touch of Lamp Black. This should be a bit darker, so you do not want to dilute this mixture with too much water.

Use the tip of your brush to create the stems. Mistletoe leave are rounded at the end, so use your brush to create a loop. With the tip of your brush, start at the stem and press down more as you swoop them outward. You might want to practice these on a separate sheet of paper until you get the hang of it. Repeat this process for all of the bundles of mistletoe.

For the stems of the red berries, mix Burnt Umber with a little Lamp Black and create thin curved lines with the tip of your brush.

Let this layer dry! Yes, I will keep telling you that so you don’t forget.

Step Five

It is time to add your final layer of pine needles! This layer should be the darkest, so you want to mix Hooker’s Green with Lamp Black until you have a nice dark shade of green. Create your sprigs of pine needles using the same process above to fill in the white spaces and overlap some of the other layers.

Now for your favorite part…let it dry. And, voila! You have a beautiful handmade wreath. Doesn’t it feel good to let your creative flag fly? If you followed my process, feel free to tag me on Instagram and use #cassiecreative so I can see your lovely wreaths!

Cassie Carpenito

Gold Copy Co., Raleigh, NC 27615

Cassie is a watercolor artist and illustrator based in Raleigh, NC. She is currently available for projects and commissions.