Watercolor Mushroom Tutorial

by Andrea Mahoney

We’ve had so many rainy days in late summer here in Maine, and we’ve noticed so many mushrooms popping up around our yard. I love to stop and look at them; the simple yet complex creation grabs my attention, even while running past with our pup, Padme. I grabbed some quick photos and came inside to sketch before pulling out my watercolors. 


Watercolor Paint
For this project, I used pans in the following colors.
Raw umber
Burnt Umber
Sap green

 *As always, please choose the colors that bring you joy, as you are the artist of your work!* 

Watercolor Paper *or* Mixed Media Paper Please be sure to have one of these before starting your project. I like to use coupons at the local art supply store when purchasing my supplies. As I teach my students online, I explain that these types of paper have millions of tiny little buckets waiting to hold all of our paint and paper. If you take watercolor paint to just printer paper or sketch paper, the paper is not constructed to hold the weight of the paint and the water and it will tear.

Watercolor Brushes I like to use round brushes, as they lend themselves to being used for both straight and curvy lines. I used a size 5 and 3 for this project,  but it can easily be done with a medium and small brush. 

Two Glasses of Water Be sure to use short and solid glasses to help with stability.  

Paint Pallet or Plastic Plate/Tray Get ready to mix colors!

Paper Towel A paper towel to a watercolorist is similar to an eraser to a sketch artist. I use it to help lift color, absorb extra water pooling on my paper, and to practice detail lines to make sure I don’t have a ton of water on my brush.

Mushroom Outline  Linked here for you. Feel free to use this outline, and adjust the size to fit your chosen size of paper. You can also sketch your own and add your own details. I like to keep my outlines simple, so that it opens opportunities for others to have space to add their own unique style! I like to print my outline, then hold my outline up to a bright window with watercolor paper on top of it to lightly trace the outline. If you happen to be heavy handed (like yours truly) take an eraser to make your lines light. You want your watercolor paint to be the star of the show, and pencil lines might take away the focus with this subject. 


Our first step is to put a bit of raw umber on our palette, then put some water in the well next to it. Take a tiny bit of the raw umber into the water, and mix so that you have an off-white shade. Then, use your larger brush to paint a nice wash of color over the mushroom head and stem. Let dry.

Next, add a bit more of your raw umber to the lighter mixture to make it a touch darker. Use this color to then add some spots on the stem, as well as thin lines along the bottom of the mushroom cap. 

Part of the magic of watercolor is in layering your paint. Add a bit more raw umber to your mixture, then use the same brush to create quick and thin brushstrokes, starting at the edge of the mushroom and pulling upward to create thin lines overlapping the earlier lines. Add a few more spots on the mushroom cap with this color. 

Next take a bit of burnt umber, mixing it with water and a tiny drop of black. Then, shade the upper right of the stem, and the lower left of the mushroom cap. 

Add a bit more paint to the color you just used for shading and add some texture spots to your mushroom. If you notice pooling with your water, take your paper towel and gently press to lift up the access water. This also lifts a little bit of the color, so do it gently. 

You can then add a bit more paint and continue to layer on top of your spots you just made to give it other values. Let dry.

Next, we’ll add the grass surrounding the mushroom. When using watercolor, it works well to start with the lighter colors. Mix sap green with burnt umber, and add a bit of water to lighten it up. Use the bigger brush to create long, thin blades of grass. 

Then, using your smaller brush, add in some of the burnt umber and water mixture to create those thin brown grass blades. You can also add another layer of color by just using the sap green with a thin brush. Have fun with it! 

Then, using your larger brush and the burnt umber and water, paint quick horizontal strokes back and forth to create a gentle ground. Then, while it’s still wet, use the same brush to do some quick strokes with the sap green and burnt umber color, which will blend into the already wet paint in the dirt area. 

You can add any other details you feel inspired to add! Be sure to sign your initials and date your work so that you can look back and know when you painted your piece.