Acrylic Fall Trees Tutorial

I am a firm believer that each of us can paint; especially children, who possess an innate ability to create art. The hardest lesson is this: you cannot paint exactly like someone else. Embrace the freedom to please yourself!!

This painting is one my students and I so enjoyed! The trees here in Georgia are about at their peak of beauty, and we could not pass up the opportunity to get a likeness of Mother Nature’s art down on canvas. This lesson is called “Trees at Kennesaw Mountain” art (with a twist!) and the painting pictured above is one I painted in my art class.


  • We did use Canson’s multi-purpose painting canvas; it is sold as a pad of paper and is available from Michael’s Art Store.
  • We tried to pare down the paint colors with our acrylics to a basic palette: Red, green, bright yellow, blue and white.

  • Kitchen paper towels
  • Assortment of paintbrushes
  • Cup of water

Prep Your Paper/Canvas

To start the painting, we “toned” our canvas with a mixture of yellow and a touch of red to make a good orange color and covered the entire canvas with this vibrant orange. Then working quickly before the paint dried, we moistened a kitchen paper towel, wadded up just slightly, and dabbed away an area in the middle of the toned canvas for the two or three trees.

We just readjusted the paper towel to a cleaner side (still slightly wadded up, and moist with water) dipped the paper towel into the bright yellow acrylic and dabbed or pounced on the yellow paint. The idea is to create texture and to experience painting without a brush!

Create Fall Trees with Paper Towels

Next is a paper towel (moistened) dipped into the red acrylic paint and dabbed around the yellow on your tree; do not cover up all the yellow, the idea is to show the light yellow is sunshine on the top of the trees. Next, try some green (very lightly on the bottom of the tree mass) this will show some shadow under the trees. Now it is on to the sky…you can create a sky all the way across the top of the painting using your paper towel wadded up, dipped in a combination of blue and white.

Be a bit light-handed with this color, you only want a bit of sky showing, the trees are the “stars” of your painting! *Create brilliant, light yellow leaves for your trees by mixing in white with your yellow. This makes it look just like the sunshine highlighting your fall tree.

Paint Brush for Tree Trunks

Then take your smallest and narrowest brush and dip it into a combination of green and red to make a brownish red color. This will be your trunk color for your trees. Decide how tall you want your trunks to be…and then…put your loaded brush (with the brownish-red paint on it) down on the canvas and paint UP to the tree leaves. This will make a nice, narrow trunk, and if you use enough water you can then make light and skinny limbs also.

You have to “ground” or put your trees on to something, so dip a towel into the green and dab a nice green lawn under the trees, right up to where the tree leaves start. A pile of leaves at the bottom of the trees can be achieved with your wadded towel and some of your red, green and yellow paint.

The light is coming from the right side of the painting…so you can take some of the reddish-green and put a shadow behind and to the left of the trees. This is your painting! Please add what you would like to see in the finished picture…you can add a wandering path behind the trees, go back and add some more yellow or red leaves…whatever YOU like.

We thought that paper towels made wonderful brushes!

Spatter Falling Leaves

Next we took our paintings outside. We choose several of our colors to spatter onto our painting. The spattering looks falling leaves! Nana showed us how to hold two paint brushes like rhythm sticks. A smaller one on bottom (with your left hand) and a larger one on top (with your right hand). Then, just tap, tap, tap, gently (tapping too hard will create big splotches! We want gentle, falling leaves).

Spattering was such fun! Our completed acrylic fall trees.


  • A note on acrylics: Just like pastels, acrylics will wash off your hands easily. But if the paint gets on any fabric – it is permanent! We wear a smock and cover our painting surface.
  • Supplies needed: All details on paint, brushes, canvases and palettes are listed in Acrylics Plus Links to Tutorials.
  • Print this lesson: Just click the green, ‘print-friendly’ button at the top, left of this post. You can choose to print the lesson with or without photos. By clicking the ‘remove photos’ box, you may print the text directions only.

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Would you have thought that fall leaves could be made so beautifully with wadded up paper towels? Click to comment


  1. 3


    Your six year old has some impressive skill there. These are all very beautiful. I used to paint a lot using the same types of paints when I was in high school but drawing and painting became mundane and a chore. Oil Pastels were always my favorite, but now that I have two small children I actually don’t want my hands dirty (isn’t that terrible)? I should really start showing them how to do things like this though and appreciate your post to hopefully motivate me. I loved seeing each piece of art by your family members! Nice!
    Victoria / Justice Pirate recently posted..P-P-Pumpin’ up the Kin!My Profile

  2. 8



    Thank you for the tutorial. It looks like lots of fun! FYI–The printer friendly version is not working. It is just one page–kind of like a cover page.

    Thank you for sharing!

  3. 10

    Amanda says

    I just found your amazing site yesterday and we did this today. WONDERFUL! !!!!! No impossible supply list! Teaching art is always laborious for me because I don’t think I’m good at it. Crafts? Bring it. Art that turns out as anything I’d want to keep….rarely! I and my three boys (ages 9, 6 and 3) used your fabulous tutorial after lunch as recommended and all of us made something lovely and THAT WE WERE HAPPY WITH! Using the paper towels was so freeing and it dovetailed perfectly with fall and our studies of Monet’s Impressionism. I can’t thank you enough for your sharing your gifts with others and am looking forward to enjoying many more of your tutorials.

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      Oh this had made my day Amanda – I love how you describe this tutorial as freeing and shared what fun you had! It is exactly what we hope all will find with our tutorials. ‘Doing’ art is fun and the more you do it, the more the doors open. Glad you will be enjoying more and thanks again for sharing.

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