How to Paint an Easy Pine Cone in Watercolor

Pine cones are easy to paint in watercolor when you use an outline and washes of color. Add a wet on wet background and the realistic pine cone looks even sharper! Beginners – give this a try!

Downloads for Watercolor Pine Cone

Suggested Colors for Easy Watercolor Pine Cone

Feel free to use any colors – this tutorial turns out well with even the most basic student grade paints.

  • Brown – Burnt Sienna or any brown
  • Blue – Cobalt or Cerulean or Ultramarine Blue
  • Greens – any greens
  • Dark Brown or Black – any or mix brown + dark blue
  • Yellow or Gold – any bright yellow and/or gold
  • Opaque white – optional, used for snow at the end.
  • Color Pigments used in this tutorial – Cobalt blue, Perylene Green, Burnt Sienna and Green Gold (Daniel Smith brand), and Pro White by Daler Rowney

Painting Steps

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

pinecone with dark background

Be sure your lines on the pinecone are dark enough to see after the first wash. Marking where the darker color goes on the pinecone can be helpful, too.

Masking is Optional

You can paint liquid masking on to save the edges of the pine cone, branch and a few light pine needles, but this tutorial works just as well without masking, also.

Step 2 – Wet the Paper

Wet the back of your paper well with a sponge or big soft brush. Then lay it on a backboard a little larger than your paper. If it starts to buckle up at any point, lift the side of the paper and rewet the area on the back that is drying and causing it to buckle.

Wet the front of the paper – the background around the pinecone and branch. Hold your paper up until it quits dripping. Having evenly damp paper that lays flat is a big help for a nice background wash.

Step 3 – Paint the Background

Mix puddles of the colors for your background – blue, yellow, and green or your favorites.

Student Pinecone watercolor painting

Test your colors on scrap paper first.

Working wet on wet takes practice, so try this on scrap paper to be sure the colors you picked work well together.

Paint the Colors on Wet Paper

Apply large areas of color, not spots. Use a big brush for best results.

Start light and add darker values once you’re happy with it.

Spatter here and there, if you like more texture. Or, you can add salt to your drying wash!

watercolor pine cone painting finished
How to Fix Wet Watercolor Washes

If you’re not happy with the background, dab up parts with a paper towel while it is still wet and reapply, or rinse the whole thing off under the sink and start again.

Add wet on wet pine needles?

pine cone photo

When the background is good and just starting to dry, you can add a few wet on wet pine needles that will look far away. Use a small brush and thicker paint, not watery or you may get blooms.

You can also add wet on wet pine needles at the end, by rewetting the area and then painting.


Step 4 – Paint the watercolor pine needles.

Paint a few pine needles – the ones in the outline are well placed and you can copy those if you like.

If you’re unsure where to place the pine needles, draw them on with a pencil first, to see if you like them. If you do like them, paint those. If you don’t like them, you can erase the pencil lines easily.

Paint a variety of colors in your pine needles. Paint some light, some dark, and they can be green, brown or gold.

Remove the Masking – if you used it.

How to remove liquid masking for watercolor

Just rub the masking with your finger to remove or rub with a masking pick-up.

Step 5 – Paint the Pine Cone First Wash of Color

pine cone photo

Are your lines dark enough? If not, reinforce them with a pencil. They will be hard to see through the first wash, so you want them dark.

Mix a puddle of brown.

Paint the pine cone in one wash of color – using mainly brown, and adding some of your other colors. (You can wet the pine cone first, or paint on dry paper.)

Step 6 – Paint the branch.

Use the same colors to paint the branch.

Leave a line of unpainted color at the top for a highlight.

Add darker color to the bottom or a few areas for variety.

Step 7 – Paint the dark areas of the pine cone.

Use darker brown or black to paint the dark shadows in the pinecone. You can add darker lines to outline the shapes.

Step 8 – Add snow?

Use opaque white to some areas on top the branch and some of the bottom edges of the pine cone bits.

The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel - Piet Mondrian