Christmas Topiary Acrylic Painting Tutorial
Here is an adorable Christmas Topiary painting tutorial that I created from start to finish with you all. I had this idea in my head, and the Live lesson was my first time painting it. You will see how each layer of paint I add inspires a new idea. And sometimes, that means a couple fixes and a whole new look!
This lesson is an example of my Learn the Process lessons I teach inside Christie’s Inner Tribe. This VIP painting membership is closed at the moment but will be opening back up to new members in the spring. If you like this Christmas Topiary painting lesson and don’t want to wait, you can sign up for The Painting of the Month Club and get a new complete video tutorial each month! Learn more HERE.
I love painting topiaries and think they can be cute for any season. My goal for this one is to make something festive, a little rustic, full of texture, and of course, with a bit of glitz for my home.
First, I did a little rough sketch of the Christmas Topiary on my canvas to give myself an idea of what I would be painting. This way, when I paint the background, I don’t have to cover the whole canvas, though a little overlap is just fine.
I began sketching with the pot, making it taper in towards the base with two little ball feet. Then I drew the two circles for the plant and connected them with the trunk up the center. The top ball can be a little smaller in size.
Your sketch doesn’t have to be perfect, it is just a guide, and all those lines will be covered with paint.
Once you have your sketch, it’s time to start painting!
Paint a Base Coat
Begin painting by filling in the background around the topiary sketch with black paint. This is just step one. Painting is a process, and to achieve a cool textured background, it will take a few layers.
I love how the black becomes an outline for the objects in my paintings and how it peeks through the layers of background paint for more interest and texture.
While the black is drying, grab your favorite dark green paint and fill in the boxwood greens of your topiary. A thin coat is all that is needed since we will be adding a few layers of texture.
With a little bit of dark brown, paint the stem.
Now, fill in the planter with a little bit of white and a touch of metallic gold paint.
It’s All About The Layers
After the base coat is dry, it’s time for the second layer of paint on the background. I used a tan color and white to cover the black, ensuring a thin black outline around your topiary. We aren’t aiming for opaque coverage all over. The black poking through is just another layer of dimension.
Here is where some trials began. When I first sat down, I knew I wanted a lot of texture in my background, with visible brush strokes and my favorite scribbles in exposing the color underneath. After getting further along in my painting, I ultimately decided this first background was too busy for my Christmas topiary painting.
So, what did I do about that?
I took a palette knife to it! Yep, I took a similar blend of tan and white paint and scraped it all around the topiary. This made the paint even more opaque, but you can still see some of the darkness from underneath.
I always recommend that you watch my videos before painting to see all the decisions I make along the way and learn why I make those choices. Then, you will be able to paint yours just the way YOU like it.
Painting is a process you will learn to trust the more you practice.
Paint the Topiary
To paint the greenery of the topiary, I swap to a filbert brush. Use the slight curve of the bristle, along with a dabbing technique, to create the texture of all those boxwood leaves.
You don’t need a ton of paint for this on your brush. Just make sure not to blend the colors together by lifting the brush off the surface between each dab to not overwork it.
Then, with a lighter green color, and dab that in on top while the hunter green is still wet so the colors mix into each other in some areas.
Pull a little bit of white into the light green and add a few more bounces.
Make sure to rotate your brush sometimes to avoid it looking too much like a pattern. With each layer of color, it starts to look like mottled leaves.
While that is drying, use a small round brush and a lighter brown layer to the stem.
This was when I realized I forgot to sketch out my bow in the first step and had already filled in my whole background with paint, but no worries. With a bit of white, I paint the shape of my bow. This will be an excellent foundation for the cherry red to pop off the painting.
Paint the Planter
With a small round brush and black paint, I paint the black stripes on my planting pot. Don’t worry about these being perfect. I just freehanded them, and they are not perfectly straight. My style is a little wonky. Not realistic. Just fun painting. I don’t go out of my way to make sure everything is spaced out evenly. Plus, you can always go back once the paint is dry to make any touch-ups.
To paint lines with the most ease, make sure to have plenty of paint on your brush to smoothly roll onto the surface. Using the right tool is also essential. I suggest using a fine liner brush for narrow lines like I am creating. You can also hold your wrist to steady your hand.
If you are afraid of having a heavy hand, I recommend practicing your pressure with your brushes in a mixed media pad. It’s all about trying things out, and seeing what you learn works for you.
Touch up any of those black outlines surrounding the topiary you may have painted into too. I like how this separates the objects in my paintings from the background.
The fun part comes when we start adding all of the details.
Make it Festive
Next, it’s time to make this painting ready for the holidays!
Fill in the bow with your favorite red paint. I used the fine liner brush and started with a basic cherry red. Then, add some metallic reds for a little extra sheen.
I love how a simple red bow instantly makes this painting scream Christmas!
If your greenery is dry, paint in a few small red berries. Don’t overthink the placement. If you do, you run the risk of it looking like a pattern.
Once all of your paint is dry, you can layer on a little bit of glitz and glam!
You know I can’t resist gold! I used my favorite DecoColor gold paint pen and made shiny gold feet on the planter, streaked in a few lines in the white stripes, and even added a few highlights into the greenery.
Then I used my black Posca paint pen to fine-tune my black outlines and add a few extra sketchy accent marks all around the Christmas Topiary too. I feel like they just give the painting a little bit of energy.
I even go in with white paint on my fine liner brush to highlight the bow and topiary even more. This could quickly be done with a white paint pen if you like.
And for that extra touch of glimmer, I apply my favorite glitter paint all over the greenery.
In the end, I felt like there was a lot of negative space around the topiary, so I decided to scrape a little bit of black around the sides with my palette knife. This is a fun little technique you can use in any of your heavily textured backgrounds.
I just catch the edge of the canvas with the palette knife, and then you can decide how far you pull that back into your canvas. I love the rustic edge, and I think this final detail just pulls everything together.
Watch Christie’s Full Christmas Topiary Painting Tutorial!
The great thing about art and painting is that you can always change your mind. All these layers of texture just make it that much more interesting.
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