Snowy Sunrise for Unique Watercolor Christmas Card

Snowy sunrise Christmas card was a surprise favorite of students during our card workshop. Many were not enthusiastic when we began but this little beauty finishes with a glow that touches your heart. Simple shapes and just a few colors for a warm and glowing landscape.

Downloads for Snowy Sunrise Watercolor Card

Suggested Colors for this unique watercolor Christmas card

For a simple color mix, use transparent orange + light or dark blue for browns and blacks. Add yellow or gold for more color.

  • Blues – Cobalt blue and/or Ultramarine Blue
  • Yellow – any bright yellow or even gold
  • Orange – Transparent Orange or mix red + yellow
  • Brown – mix blue + orange or use tube brown
  • Black – mix dark blue + orange or brown, or tube black
  • White – opaque white for touch up and/or falling snow

Painting Steps for Watercolor Christmas Card

Snowy Sunrise Watercolor Card for painting tutorial by Deb Watson

Step 1 – Draw or trace your outline onto your watercolor paper.

Step 2 – Paint the sky for your glowing sunrise.

  • Wet the sky down to the snowline.
  • Mix your sky color – yellow + a little gold, orange or brown.
  • Paint a flat wash of color over the sky.
  • The sky should be very light in value. If it’s too intense or dark, dab most of it up with a towel.
  • While the sky is still damp, add the first background tree mix.

Step 3 – Paint the background tree masses for your Christmas card.

Mix a puddle of distant tree color – orange + blue or brown + yellow.

Right Side – Start on the still damp paper, on the right side. Let the brush run out of paint, so the right side mass gets much lighter as it nears the middle.

Left Side – Paint the left side mass all the same color.

Texture? While still damp, you can spatter the tree masses with water or sprinkle with table salt for more texture.

Step 4 – Paint the first wash of color on the water.

  • Do a flat wash of light distant tree color on the water.
  • Dry.

Step 5 – Shading on the snow.

  • Wet the snow area with clean water.
  • Mix a wash of light blue or light blue gray (adding a tiny bit of orange or brown.)
  • Paint the light wash on the top layer of the snow.
  • Paint the front two snow islands blue.
  • Paint the line (strip) of light blue along the top of the water. Dry.

Step 6 – Second layer of color on background trees and water.

  • If you like your trees, stop there and just give the water a second coat.
  • Mix orange and blue (or your choice) for the background tree color and paint a few back ground tree shapes a little darker than the original ones, once again adding variety.
  • Paint the water orange.

Step 7 – Paint the bare trees.

  • Mix a light orange, medium brown (orange + blue) and a black (orange or brown + dark blue).
  • Paint the background trees, adding variety as you go. The top of the trees on the right side can be orange, going to darker brown at the bottom and black at the very bottom. Dry.

Step 8 – Add tree wells.

  • Paint a light blue half oval at the bottom of the trees.

Step 9 – Last wash on water.

  • Add a dark line between the water and the snow at the top and under the bottom of the two snow islands.
  • Wet the area slightly.
  • Paint darker brown coming in from the right side, the left side and bottom, leaving the bottom orange. Dry.
  • Add the reflection of the trees with very dark brown or black.

Step 10 – Finishing touches

  • Add brown or gold grasses anywhere you think will look good.
  • Add distant birds in the sky.
  • Add more tiny, light, distant trees or branches.
  • Spatter on falling snow.


A simple landscape is a great way to try out colors or learn about composition. Try making a bunch of cards using different golds, yellows, oranges, browns and blues. Or add more or less trees, or a small sun or moon. Experimenting is what art is all about!

A good artist has less time than ideas - Martin Kippenberger