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Snowman painting with Cardinal

A fun snowman painting with cardinal bird. This snowman painting acrylic tutorial is easy for beginners and so fun. There is added texture and sparkle for some extra pop.

This snowman with cardinal painting tutorial is just so fun. The added textural element along with the bit of glittery zing is optional but I do encourage you to try it. It just adds that extra oomph.

The photo at the end of this post shows I did two paintings of this design. The first (on the left) was my test piece and the one on the right is the one in the video and this lesson. You are welcome to use what color background you desire and leave off the snow.

Snowman with a cardinal painted in acrylics with a fir tree

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  • MAKE LARGER – Paint this on a larger canvas, 16 x 20, and add another tree to the left side of the snowman.
  • NO HAT– Change the bucket hat to earmuffs as in this tutorial. Have the cardinal sit on his head.
  • ADD ARMS – Add stick arms to your painting, have another cardinal sit in his hand.

Underpainting the Snowman with Cardinal canvas

Using a 10 x 20 gallery-wrapped canvas start by underpainting to make the next steps go faster and easier. I explain why I do this or I gesso these type of canvas when painting in the lesson linked here.

To begin we are going to paint on an underpainting of Blue. I used Brilliant Blue but you can use whatever blue you have or even a grey would look good with this.

Blue underpainting for Snowman with Cardinal painting

Using a large brush just apply a good coat of the paint you have chosen.


Remember this is your painting and you can make it whatever color matches your decor.

Place your colors on your palette, Steel Gray (you can use Medium Gray), White and Ink Spot on your palette. Load a dry craft sponge by pouncing into a little of the paints. First, start with the Ink Spot and White. Keep the paint darker on the edges of the canvas and lighten as you come to the center.

Sponge paint in background for a mottled effect

Add the gray in areas to tone it down, mainly around the edges. Let dry or use a hairdryer to speed it up.


Once the background has dried well it is time for some fun adding texture!

With a palette knife dip into the modeling paste and create texture on the canvas. I like to follow the shapes like the tree has branches made with the paste.

Follow the shape of the snowman and bucket hat etc.

Add texture with a palette knife and modeling paste

I did not add texture to the bird. Just play with it and get the feel of using the paste and palette knife.

Painting tip: Prepare Ahead!

Modeling paste requires 24 hours to dry. Plan ahead so you can let it dry before proceeding to the next steps. Or you can skip using modeling paste at all if you wish.

Paint Fir Tree

Paint a trunk on your tree using Burnt Umber. Just draw a line straight down with your 3/4″ flat paintbrush loaded with Burnt Umber.

Use the Sap Green, Classic Green and Classic Green mixed with Wicker White for the 3 shades of green on the Fir Tree.

Paint Green on the Fir tree

Start with the darkest color to the back then layer the lighter greens on top. You do want to cover the modeling paste lines.

On the first painting, I did on this design I had fewer branches so you choose how thickly branched you want your tree to be.

Paint Snowman

Using Wicker White and the 3/4″ flat brush paint over the texture. Just give him a good coat of white paint.

Paint a coat of white on the snowman

You can’t really see it but trust me it’s there.

Paint Ground Beneath Snowman

Using a touch of gray mixed with the white paint in the ground beneath him. A touch of the green mixed in when I went over a wet part of the tree but I like it so I leave it be.

Paint ground beneath Snowman with white and gray

Paint Bucket Hat on Snowman

With the 3/4″ flat brush and the Gray base coat the bucket-shaped hat on the snowman.

Add a touch of Licorice Black to your brush and bring in some darker edges to define and sweep some color from the sides to shade. Give the strokes a touch of a curve to give the eye illusion that this is a rounded object and not flat.

Paint bucket hat on snowman with gray, white and black

The top part should have rounded strokes as well.

Paint the Cardinal Bird on Snowman

Start with an outline of the cardinal. I chalked mine in but you can use transfer paper to transfer the design.

Using the 3/4″ inch pouncer or the #12 flat brush, fill in the body and head of the cardinal with Engine Red.

As you have heard me say before, reds are not opaque so we will need to go over him again later with more paint.

To paint his wings add a touch of Burnt Umber or Black to one corner of the brush to add some shading. Note the top of the wings is a touch darker.

Paint cardinal on snowman with engine red

Use the tail end of the paintbrush and Burnt Umber to dot in his eye, and create a small triangle shape for his beak.

Painting snow on the Fir Tree

I started to use a sponge for the snow on the tree but it was too much so I switched to the small scruffy brush that comes in the set I have listed.

I wanted just a dusting of snow not a bunch of blobs. When you see the first painting I did I think I like less snow than I even put on this one. You can choose how little or much snow you put on your tree.

Add snow to tree for snowman and cardinal

Paint Heart Buttons on Snowman

Using the Engine Red and the #12 flat brush paint in the heart buttons. I begin with making a triangle with dots then connecting them. (you can get a better idea in the video)

Paint red heart buttons on snowman

Don’t worry about getting them symmetrical, just paint them on. As with the bird, we will need to go over these again to create opacity after they dry.

Paint the Snowman Eyes and Nose

This step can be done before the buttons if you prefer. In fact, I advise it, that way you won’t accidentally smear the red heart buttons while they are still wet.

Using a watercolor pencil sketch on the placement of the eyes and nose.

Using Yellow ocher base paint in the carrot nose. We will come back later to add the orange.

Using Licorice black paint an oval for the one eye and a half oval for the other.

paint snowman eyes and nose

Add Highlights and Shading to Bucket hat

Using the #12 flat brush and a mix of Medium Gray and Wicker white bring in some highlights to the center of the bucket hat. Note how the strokes follow the curve of the bucket.

Drag some shading in along the edges with just a touch of Licorice black added to a corner of the brush. Be careful, black is powerful and a tiny touch goes a long way.

highlight bucket hat and recoat snowman buttons

Recoat the cardinal with Apple Red and the heart buttons with Engine red.

Dot the Snowman Eyes, more on his Nose

Using the tail end of a brush and Wicker White add dots to his eyes. Note where the dots are placed so it looks as if he is looking up towards the tree.

Paint orange on snowman nose and dot eyes

Using the #12 flat and Pure Orange paint on his nose, remember to use a slight c stroke to add the illusion of roundness to the carrot.

Adding Highlights to the Cardinal

Using the #12 flat brush, coat the cardinal with another layer of Apple Red. Sideload a touch of Pure Orange on one corner and pull short choppy strokes on the under part of his wings.

adding highlights to Cardinal bird wings

Paint Details on Cardinal Bird

Using the liner brush add black to the eye in a circle. Paint the beak with yellow ocher and the rest of his face mask with black.

Add black to Cardinal face and eye

Shade and highlight buttons

On the Snowman’s buttons use a touch of black or Burnt Umber on the corner of the flat brush to shade the left side.

Wipe out brush and use Pure Orange on a corner of the brush to highlight the right side of the snowman buttons.

shade and highlight heart buttons on snowman

Add another layer of Pure orange to his nose and highlight the top with a touch of Yellow Ocher. Paint his smile with black and the liner brush.

paint snowman smile and add highlights to nose

Paint the bucket handle with medium gray and the chisel edge of the #12 flat brush. It is a simple arcing shape. (if you prefer you can use a liner brush)

snowman bucket hat handle and add glitter

Optional: add some shimmer to the bucket with Dragonfly glaze or a metallic paint.

Paint the Snowman Scarf

Using Look at Me Blue and Inkspot, double load on the 3/4 brush, paint his scarf with the Inkspot along the outside edge.

Paint snowman scarf

Place a dot of white over the black on the Cardinal eye, make sure to leave a rim of black. Add some apple red to highlight areas of the Cardinal belly and head behind the eye.

Shade above his wings and his bottom edge to add dimension. Use a tiny touch of Black mixed into the red to create the shading color. Dry brush a touch of white in the center of his tummy and the area of his head above his eye to highlight.

Add a touch of Pure Orange inside his beak.


Using a sponge or scruffy brush add a touch of snow to the tree, on top of the snowman nose and the little bird. This is optional.

Add Dragonfly glaze to the tree for that extra sparkle. Be sure to varnish your painting when it is completely dry.

The video shares so much more so be sure to watch it.

Snowman Painting with Cardinal video

video icon for Snowman with Cardinal painting tutorial
want the traceable pattern

Downloadable PDF Pattern

Get the printable PDF pattern to download and print. A reference photo is also included.

Yield: 1 10" x 20" painting

Paint a Snowman with Cardinal

Snowman with a cardinal painted in acrylics with a fir tree

Snowman with a Cardinal painting in acrylics. An easy painting tutorial for everyone including beginners.

Prep Time 1 day
Active Time 2 hours
Total Time 1 day 2 hours
Difficulty Easy


  • Plaid FolkArt Acrylic Paints:
  • Licorice Black
  • Wicker White or Titanium White
  • Steel Gray (you can use the Medium Gray)
  • Burnt Umber
  • Sap Green
  • Classic Green
  • Engine Red
  • Apple Red
  • Medium Gray
  • Pure Orange
  • Yellow Ocher
  • Ink Spot
  • Background: Any blue you have or other color of choice
  • Used on this painting: Brilliant Blue
  • Modeling Paste
  • Plaid Folk Art Dragonfly glaze


  • Palette knife
  • Donna Dewberry One stroke multi pack paint brushes
  • Craft sponges


  1. See blog post for step by step instructions or use the printable e-book
  2. Video can be found link in blog post also

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Snowman with cardinal paintings,

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