Tutorial: How to paint watercolour holly

Want to get into the Christmas spirit? Paint these pretty holly leaves and berries with me! They’re perfect for Christmas cards, gift tags or even wrapping paper if you’re feeling ambitious. Pop on some holiday tunes and grab your paintbrush!

how to paint holly leaves in watercolor

What supplies you will need

  • Watercolour paper sheets (or cards)
  • Watercolour paints
  • Brushes (I like round ones)
  • Water jars
  • Paper towels or cloth to dry your brushes
  • Light pencil and eraser

Paint colours 

You need the richest greens and reds you have in your palette. I’m mixing two of my favourite greens for this:

  • Sap Green
  • Hooker’s Green
  • Winsor Red Deep

Painting Christmas holly and berries – step by step

  1. Start by sketching the shape. You’ll need a pencil and eraser for this – try and keep your lines light so they don’t show through the paint. Start with a curved centre line coming down, and then outline the leaf shape. You’re creating curves that arc away from the centre and connect to outer points. Mirror this on the other side and connect both to a tip at the bottom end. Erase your lines a little if they’re too dark.
  2. Mix up a rich, dark green tone and water down a little. Outline the shape with the fine tip of your watercolour brush in the green tone. 
  3. Before it has time to dry, fill in the shape with a light wash. Try and leave a gap down the centre for a while highlight.
  4. While the paint is still wet, load up your brush with a darker tone and run it around the edge of the holly leaf. Focus on dropping the darker colour onto the tips of the leaf, as well as on the ends and centre line. Allow to blend out naturally and avoid messing with it too much.
  5. You can use a fine brush to make the points sharper and darker if needed.
  6. Repeat the process with a second leaf. To make it look natural, have the second leaf finish shorter than the first so they don’t look too symmetrical. Keep your paint a tad lighter too so they look slightly different.
  7. Wash off your brush really well to avoid mixing your colours, then paint your berries. Use a rich red colour and load up your brush.
  8. Paint a circle with a small white gap at the top as a highlight, to create the shine of the berries. Wash off your brush to lighten the value and add two more berries, letting them all touch. It helps to create them in threes.
  9. Give the finished painting one last review to ensure it’s blending well and smooth over any hard edges that form.¬†

This holly and berries motif is ideal for hand-painted Christmas cards – you can add more leaves or make it into a pattern. It also works on a smaller scale for holiday gift tags.

Want to paint a full Christmas wreath?

Take my class on Skillshare to paint festive botanicals and put into a wreath! Including fir branches, ivy and poinsettia, this glorious green wreath looks gorgeous on Christmas cards. Take the class for free below!

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