• Shayda Campbell

How to Paint Watercolor Mushrooms



Grab your paints and brushes because today we are practicing our watercolor skills with a forest and mushroom theme. These mushrooms are fun and simple to paint, so don't worry if you're just getting started with watercolor paints!


Watch the mushroom watercolor video for more details and examples:



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I’ll be working in my little Strathmore watercolor sketchbook - I really like the small size - and using my number 3 pointed round brush. For paints, I am using my 48 pan Mungyo paint set and I have clean water and paper towel ready for blotting my brush. Since the mushrooms are all sort of subtle shades of brown and beige I want to start today with mixing some paints. I start by grabbing some white pigment, scrubbing the pan with a wet brush to transfer it over to the palette lid. I add just a hint of brown to create a nice creamy color. I’m also mixing up a french gray with a hint of brown and a few darker browns mixed with white and purple. Once I have an array of browns and beiges and almost black, I am ready to get started.



The first mushroom I draw out in pencil, just to get the shape right. I begin with a stem, add an oval around that which is the underside of the mushroom and add the cap on top. I’m erasing most of it before I start painting because once you paint over it you will not be able to erase. With the really light creamy beige, I’m going to paint in the stem. At the very bottom, I use the black-brown to add a little bit of color, letting the wet on wet blend the two shades together. I’ve also taken a bit of light brown and am adding a little on the sides of the stem to give it a more three-dimensional look. With another beige, I’m filling in the cap of the mushroom, and while it is still wet I’m grabbing the purple-brown to get another wet into wet effect. Underneath, I create the gills with lines of beige and gray. You can continue shading while the mushroom is wet using brown.



Tip #1 Painting with watercolors, while they are wet on the page, is a great way to get a natural and beautifully organic blend of pigments. It is perfect when you are painting things from nature like flowers or mushrooms. You can see the way the brown blends into the beige and they flow from one shade to another.


For our next mushroom, I am not drawing it out first, I just want to paint and let it take shape on the page. I am starting with three stems - just weird lines of beige paint - they can all be a little different but are clustered together. With the same color I add a little oval to the top of each. Again, we grab a color that is slightly darker to shade the stem along the edges and the bottom to give a look of depth. I add a little to the top, and just keep going back until I get a look that I like. Wet into wet is a great way to get a nice soft shadow.



Tip #2 Mushrooms are weird, you don’t have to worry about the shape or size because they grow so randomly. Don’t overthink it, any shape will do. Just don’t make it too smooth or perfect looking.


The rest of them are very similar, starting with the same color, I just mix up the shape each time. The next is short and wide, with a long and flat cap. I am leaving this one in beige and gray for now and will add red once it is dry. Next, I am starting with quite a long wide stem, but still following the same shading and adding the darkest brown to the bottom. I get a little root look by using the tip of my brush to pull the paint out in little strands. The gray along the sides and the top of the stem helps with the three-dimensional look of the mushroom - keep those shadows weird and random. With the creamy beige, I’m working out the shape of the mushroom cap; it can be long and tall or short and wide, just paint until you’re happy with it and then grab your darker color to add a little shading. For the last one, I start with the brown but follow the same formula, any shape of stem and cap. This one is almost like a sun hat, a circle in the middle with a brim around it.


Once everything has dried we add the last of the detail in. First I mix one more color, a very dark red with a little purple in it. However, I can now add more detail with wet on dry with the original colors. I add more defined gill lines to the first mushroom with long rounded lines. I then add some darker shading to the cap. For the button mushrooms, I add just a little darker gray to the sides of the stems and some detail on the caps. For our red mushroom, I am using the tip of the brush to create the outline and mark out some spots for negative space. With a little pressure, the side of the brush fills in the spaces in between. Little lines underneath indicate the gills to create our quintessential Mario mushroom.


Tip #3 Follow the same formula to create different mushrooms. Draw a stem with an oval on top where the gills are and a cap on top. Each can be any size or shape, since mushrooms grow so randomly. Have fun, they don’t need to look a certain way. Just experiment with the shading along the edges and bottom of the stem. You can get more creative with shading on the cap to create different shapes, adding lines on the edge for texture. They are all a little different and all a little weird.


Before finishing, I decided to add a mossy green fern to give it more of a forest look. It finishes it off nicely and completes the painting. My mushroom and forest-inspired piece is all done! Have fun painting some random and weird mushrooms.



© Shayda Campbell 2020

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