Beautiful Cardinals in Snow – Watercolor Christmas Card

Use your imagination to add your favorite Christmas themes to this basic and easy watercolor holiday card with cardinals in snow. Learn quick and easy tips on mixing color, doing a smooth wash, painting great trees with blooms and how to paint cardinals!

Downloads for Watercolor Cardinal Card

Suggested Colors for Cardinals in Snow

  • Reds – Pyrrole red or Cadmium red
  • Blues – Ultramarine, Cobalt, Indanthron, or Cerulean Blue
  • Browns – Burnt Sienna or other brown
  • Black – Lamp black or mix your own
  • Green – Hookers or mix dark blue with gold or yellow
  • Other – gold, yellow or raw sienna

Painting Steps for Holiday Card with Cardinals

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

Masking? – You can paint the edges of the cardinals with liquid masking if desired to help keep the cardinals distinct.

Fun add-ons to try – green pine tree needles with or without pine cones, red berries, more snow

Step 2 – Paint the watercolor background behind the cardinals.

  • Light blue gray – mix mostly blue with a little brown or black
  • Dark blue gray – same mix, more paint and less water
  • Dark green – Hookers or mix the dark blue with gold or yellow

Wet first? Wetting the area behind the birds will give you a smoother background, but it’s up to you.

Start at the top left with light blue gray and paint around the birds. Dip into the dark mix as you move down the paper.

Paint dark blue gray at the bottom.

Dark green – While still wet, paint the dark green and let it bleed into distant trees. If the green is too bright, charge some dark blue gray into it.

Step 3 – Paint the branch.

branch with watercolor blooms for texture

Color – mix a light and dark brownish gray – blue + brown but this time, use more brown.

Paint a variety of values – try for some light and some dark.

Watercolor Blooms – before it dries, dot in some clean water, for intentional blooms. This is a great look.

Dark at the bottom – Paint the bottom of the branch as dark as the tree color behind it. That will keep your viewer’s eye on the birds.

Step 4 – Paint the female Cardinal with Watercolor.

cardinal female reference photo for holiday card

Colors – raw sienna (or brown + yellow), brown, red, black, red/orange for beak

Brown – mix your brown with gold or black to match the head and wing top area.

Head – paint the head with brown and add red to the top knot.

Body and tail – paint the body golden brown, lighter on the left and darker on the wing side. Add red to the bottom of the wing and tail.

Eye/Black – paint the black eye and black around around the beak. You can try to leave a thin line between them, or add a thin line with white pen when dry. A white dot in the eye is always good.

Step 5 – Paint the Male Cardinal – the feature of this watercolor holiday card

shading on male cardinal for holiday watercolor card tutorial

Shading first – Use black/gray to add some lines and shading for the male cardinal. Dry well.

Red – Paint red on top of the shading. You can add some of the raw sienna or gold to tone down some areas and help him match his mate.

Black and beak – same as other.

Step 6 – Falling Snow for Christmas/Holiday Charm

Use opaque white (Pro White by Daler Rowney or Bleed Proof White by Dr. Martin) to spatter falling snow. The easiest way is to load a watercolor brush with white and tap it on your finger over the area you want the snow. Try this on scrap paper first!

Watercolor painting of cardinals in snow by Deb Watson for tutorial

I would rather die of passion than boredom -Vincent van Gogh