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Autumn Walk, acrylic, (26x41cm) by Jane Ward
Autumn Walk, acrylic, (26x41cm) by Jane Ward

How to Paint an Autumn Woodland Scene in Acrylic


Jane Ward - Posted on 12 Oct 2009

Autumn Walk

You will need:

  • Watercolour paper, Arches Rough 140lb 101⁄4x16in. (26x41cm)
Artists’ acrylics
  • Phthalo blue red shade
  • Cadmium red light
  • Burnt sienna
  • Bismuth yellow
  • Titanium white
  • 1in. hake
  • No. 14 round synthetic
  • Nos. 6 and 4 synthetic rigger
  • 2B pencil
  • Small palette knife
Colour Wheel showing complementary colours used
Colour wheel


Put an arrow on the side of your drawing to remind you where the light is coming from

Keep colours clean. This is achieved mainly by regularly changing the water and by mixing only two colours together

Using three brushes to paint a tree helps to make it more realistic: have a large No. 14 round and two riggers, Nos. 6 and 4, ready and you can quickly go between each one

Working from background to foreground is an easy way to build up tonal work. Make it pale and watery in the distance; warmer and less water in the middle ground; and finishing with strong tone and very little water in the foreground


Paint an autumn scene stage 1

Step 1

1 Roughly sketch an outline of the trees and the figure.
2 After completely soaking the stretched paper with water, use the hake and drop in a weak mix of cadmium red light and a little bismuth yellow around the figure and onto the track. This is where the lightest part of the painting will be.
3 Add weak phthalo blue red shade around the trees, making sure you wash the brush in between mixes.
4 Mix a stronger consistency of cadmium red light and bismuth yellow for the autumn leaves, putting some of this mix into the foreground along with a little burnt sienna. The paper should be wet throughout this stage.
5 With the damp hake, take out the colour in the bark to form the foreground trees.

Paint autumn colours

Step 2
1 With the paper still damp, start to depict foreground leaves using a No. 14 round brush and stronger mixes of cadmium red light and bismuth yellow.
2 Paint tree trunks and tree shapes in the distance and middle ground using phthalo blue red shade and cadmium red light.
3 Swap to a No. 6 rigger for the small branches. Softness can be achieved quite easily with acrylics if the paper remains damp

Paint an autumn woodland

Step 3
1 With the paper nearly dry, apply a very weak wash of cadmium red light and bismuth yellow for the tree trunk.
2 While this is still wet, let a stronger mix of phthalo blue red shade and cadmium red light run into the wash.
3 With the same mix, put in the fence, using it as a lead into the picture

Figure and dog in autumn painting

Step 4
1 The paper should be slightly damp for the figure; if it’s dry, spray it lightly with clean water.
2 Use burnt sienna and a touch of phthalo blue red shade for the trousers and dog. Add a stronger mix on the right-hand side.
3 The jacket is a mix of cadmium red light and burnt sienna. Use a darker mix on the right-hand side and for the head.
4 Add a weak wash of phthalo blue red shade with a hint of cadmium red light for the shadow, which will help ground the figure and dog, and stop them from appearing as if they are floating

Paint autumn sunlight
Step 5
1 Dry brush the track with burnt sienna.
2 Use stronger colour on the small tree. Mix cadmium red light with a little bismuth yellow for the leaves. A warmer colour brings the tree forward in the painting.

Paint a tree stage 1       Paint a tree stage 2      Paint an autumn tree stage 3

Step 6
1 Using a No. 14 round, paint a very wet mix of cadmium red light and bismuth yellow.
2 While this is still wet, apply a darker and drier mix of burnt sienna and phthalo blue red shade with the No. 6 rigger. Let the washes diffuse together.
3 Paint the branches and twigs with both riggers.
4 When the washes are dry, dry brush with burnt sienna and phthalo blue red shade to create texture on the bark.
5 When this is dry, add lights on top. Think about how the light catches the tree. Add a little white into the weak orange mix and, using it very dry, apply with the side of the rigger.
6 Add leaves, painting some over the trunk, with mixes of yellow, orange and burnt sienna.
7 The next stage brings the tree to life. With the paper totally dry, mix up very dilute phthalo blue red shade with a hint of cadmium red light and, using No. 14 round brush, paint the shadow on the bark of the tree.

Autumn Walk by Jane Ward
Autumn Walk, acrylic, (26x41cm)

Step 7
1 For the finishing touches, perhaps add more leaves using the No. 14 round. For a more impasto feel, try using a palette knife.
2 Drag shades of orange and burnt sienna across the front of the track. When this is dry, lay a weak shadow of phthalo blue red shade with a little cadmium red light over the track

Each month Leisure Painter features step-by-step articles to help and inspire you to produce beautiful paintings and drawings. To benefit from special discounts on 12 issues CLICK HERE to subscribe.


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