‘It was the night before Christmas..’ A digitally painted Christmas card tutorial based on a scene set in our village.

This was the brief I gave myself – to produce a digitally painted Christmas card.. I decided to base the painting on the view down to the church and chateau. I wanted to try and capture that early evening atmosphere with a mix of natural and artificial light.

After taking some reference photos, I quickly realised some use of Artistic License was needed in order to include both chateau towers, the church spire and the facades of the buildings. I printed some photos out and then set about tracing them into the composition below. Yes, I confess, I worked up the drawing using an A3 sized light box – a vital piece of equipment for a commercial artist. Simply put your reference photos under your paper and trace off the image. It was at this point I’d decided to scan the drawing in to my computer do the colour work digitally using a Wacom tablet and stylus. This is more useful equipment for the commercially minded artist.  More of this later in my digitally painted Christmas card tutorial.


Step 2. Digitally painted Christmas card tutorial: Once I’d scanned in the drawing, I set about adding colour in exactly the same way I would traditionally – but this time, digitally. Here you can see that I started with a gradation of evening sky blue from above and warm street light yellow from below. Then, as if using oils, I started blocking in the main areas of colour to give the scene some drama.


Step 3 – Digitally painted Christmas card tutorial: In the sequences above, you can see the development – slowly building up the colours. At this point I nearly gave up as it seemed as if I’d bitten off more than I could chew.. What helped was constantly referring back to those reference photos. So you can see that I added some cool blue to the top of the facades and warmer pinks down below. No detail though at this stage, just trying to capture the atmosphere.

This is a picture of the painting coming together on my computer screen. You can see how I’m trying to bring in some of those extra colours on the walls of the buildings. What I like about painting digitally is that you work on ‘layers’. This means you can try things out (like the different colours on the facades) and undo them until you’re happy without affecting the layer below. Impossible with watercolour!

If you’ve never tried working with a stylus and pad, I recommend taking a look at the many Online tutorials. Here’s a link to some examples of digital landscape painting.  



The sequences above show the final stages of my digitally painted Christmas card tutorial. Once I was happy with the ‘lighting’ I started adding the windows, frames and shutters. Then some wrought iron balcony rails and railings.  It rarely snows here but I thought a frosty mood would work well. A light snow falling and a touch of icy mist over the background and footsteps on the road. Must admit that I was really pleased with the result and confess that the flexibility of working digitally is addictive.

Fear not though, I’ll be back to more traditional mediums next time. Merry Christmas and a Happy and Peaceful New Year..