The Triad Tree

When teaching watercolor classes, I often see students struggle with what I consider one of the joys of watercolor. I’m referring to the joys of color mixing.

The Triad Tree is a simple demo using a primary triad and letting the colors mix on the paper.

Above is the painting set-up. I’m using American Journey Joe’s Blue, Sour Lemon and Pomegranate.

Mist the paper first and then tap in yellow.

Next, tap in red.

Next, blue.

All three colors have been tapped in. Ready for the fun to begin?

Bring out the mister and pull the trigger!

Now, wait.  No hair dryers and no brushes allowed until the tapped in primaries are dry. When dry, use a brush to add trunk and base of tree. A palette knife works well for adding branches.

But, It’s autumn! Be adventurous! Experiment with color. The discoveries of created colors while color mixing on paper are endless.

Knowing trees,

 I understand the meaning of patience.

–Hal Borland

 Knowing watercolor

helps with that too 🙂


98 thoughts on “The Triad Tree

  1. Hi Del, I’m using a damp brush loaded with pigment that has been mixed to consistency of heavy creme. I plan on demonstrating the triad tree in an upcoming Watercolor DVD. I will post on my blog when available. Experiment and have fun!

  2. Thank you so much for posting this tutorial! I am teaching an art class, and am always looking out for simple projects that have amazing effects. The kids will love making these. Perfect little project to go with their color mixing lessons next week. =)

  3. Thanks for commenting, Arwen! The Triad Tree demo will also be included in my next DVD, “Have Fun With Watercolor.” Projected for Spring 2015. Know you and your kids will be having fun next week!

  4. This is just so cool! I am intimidated by painting but this looks like something i could do!! Thank you for the inspiration!

  5. I teach a craft class at a local senior center and they are always asking to try painting…I think this is something we could do with great results.. I am going to try this….

  6. Hello, this looks beautiful, but unfortunately my comment is a plea for help. I love this idea, but all of my attempts have been miserable failures. My paper just ends up speckled with random dots all over the place. Also, do I wet the brush before tapping the paints? Sorry, I’m a complete beginner with these things. Please Help! thanks

  7. Hello, I saw your tutorial on Pinterst and I had to try it! The only difference is I used my just received Bister powder 😉 (a kind of pigment powder) It worked very well! Now i’m hooked…

  8. It would be helpful to beginners to have much more detail in your posts. There is substantial differences in the last two images that isn’t explained in the narrative. The final image is beautiful.

  9. I just bought my first set of watercolor equipment last week. I’ve never been formally taught fine art so I’ve been all over the internet soaking up ideas, tips and techniques. Everything I’ve seen so far always uses a brush to wet the paper, but the spray mister seems like a great idea. I always end up with my paper way too wet thus far with the brush. I’m sure part of that is just being a beginner. I can’t wait to try this technique next time I sit down! =) Thanks!

  10. Thanks for commenting Pink Glass Productions. Yes, there are many approaches in watercolor. You’re doing what it takes by researching and trying different methods. With experimental play, you will find or discover what works best for you. I’m working on my watercolor DVD now, available this Spring. It will offer tips/encouragement for the beginning/discouraged watercolorist.

  11. Thank you, Lynn. The Triad Tree Post has received more comments than any other post on my bog. I’ve recently produced 2 Watercolor DVDs, Introduction To Watercolor and Have Fun With Watercolor. Have Fun includes a demo of the Triad Tree. See both: DVD Previews

  12. Hi There!! I love this idea and cannot wait to do one for myself! One question, do you have to use paper, or can I use a canvas as well? Thanks!!

  13. I’m assuming that you are using water color paper. I never know though because different people do so many different things. Please clarify for me.
    Thank you, Lisa

  14. Hello 😀
    I don’t know, need I special paper (for example aquarelle paper) for this technic or can I use normal paper, too?
    By the way, this is a very cool art 😉

  15. Gosh, who knew how simple this would be? I would struggle with free hand trunk/branches but really adore techniques here. Pinterest is a wonderful place to find inspiration like this. Posted so long ago & yet still accessible! Ty,

  16. Thank you for this. I am just starting watercolor and find myself very stiff and controlling which is not my desire for painting. I am finding this very helpful.

    So kind of you for sharing and I can’t wait to start. I am embracing my hobby after many years

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