The Colours of the Gum Tree Theatre

Published: 24 Jun, 2022

The lights of the Gum Leaf Theatre are turned now and my fairy dolls are ready to perform!

Last week I finally completed my first miniature paper mache theatre. I share some vignettes of my creative process in my latest vlog. When I started the project, I had a very general picture of what I wanted the building to look like in my mind, but didn’t choose a colour palette straight away. In the end, the giant gum trees that reside in my neighbourhood inspired the theatre’s colour scheme. In this blog, I share the colour scheme and some tips for painting paper mache miniatures.

Painting Paper Mache Miniatures

After the final layer of paper is dry, it is time to decorate your miniature. In the past, I have used a range of art techniques to decorate my creations, including collage. More recently, I have been enjoying painting miniatures with acrylic. Before painting your miniature, I highly recommend you prepare the surface first by applying a layer or two of gesso. Gesso can reduce the amount of paint needed to cover a surface, while it can be applied to create texture.

While I have used a range of brands, including Monte Marte’s White Texture Gesso, I tend to us Liquitex’s white gesso these days, as I have found it spreads fairly consistently and I like the texture it creates. The product is widely available, including from US Amazon and Amazon Australia

Once the gesso is completely dry, you can paint with acrylic. Usually I apply at least  two layers of acrylic and I often blend colours while painting. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your brush strokes too. When painting my mini theatre, I used both a size 12 rectangular-head acrylic brush as well as a sponge.

Choosing a colour scheme

To gain inspiration for my colour scheme, I first spent time looking at reference photos of mini theatres on Pinterest. And I found some incredible examples! I pinned them to a board, which I invite you to look at. Many of the theatres have a bright colour scheme. Inspired by these colourful examples, I originally chose a red and gold palette. However, as I painted the outer walls of the building, I found I didn’t like the scheme at all.  At the same time, I realised that the paper mache layers had created an interesting uneven texture and this was something I could accentuate with the right palette. Searching through my collage papers, I found gum leaf squares and decided that these would become the backdrop of the stage. At this point, I had decided to dedicate my stage to the gum tree.

A kookaburra perched in a gum tree

So, now with a clear vision in mind, I visited my favourite tree giants. I am particularly fond of red and snow gums. Inspecting their bark, I could see reds, dark and lighter browns, grey, black and white.  

I matched these colours to the best of my ability with the acrylic paints I had at home.  All the paints I used for this project are acrylic by Liquitex.

Gum Tree Theatre’s colour scheme: payne’s grey, burnt umber, red oxide, raw sienna, titanium white (Liquitex colours, left to right).

I applied the paints in layers, from darkest to light, starting with burnt umber and red oxide with my large brush. I blended payne’s grey with a little bit of titanium white and applied the colour mainly to wall edges to create a smoky colour. Finally, as I painted the theatre with lighter colours, raw sienna and white, with a sponge. I used a sponge in order to create a varied or stressed texture.  Meanwhile, I added a small amount of clean water to these colours to make them flow more easily. After the paint dried, I varnished the theatre’s walls. 

Gum bark texture of my miniature theatre


So, in the end, I have two main tips when painting miniatures. Choose a scheme that will compliment the texture and theme of your creation. Also, explore the living world around you for additional magical inspiration.

What is your favourite colour palette? I’d love you to share in the comments below.

If you would like to stay connected with me, I cordially invite you to join my email list.




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