How to Paint a Watercolour Landscape

A beginners' guide to painting a watercolour landscape

The art of painting takes skill and precision. And, like any skill, beautiful crafts can be self-taught. Learning how to paint a watercolour landscape needn't be difficult with these basic guidelines to follow.

How to Paint a Watercolour Landscape

1. Getting started

A broad horizon and changeable sky provide a perfect backdrop for a simple impressionistic watercolour landscape.

You will need:

  • A sheet of medium-weight art paper
  • A size 12 round brush, paint in tubes (more convenient than cakes)
  • Two big, clear water jars (one for washing the brush, one for mixing colours)
  • Palette with mixing wells.

2. Building your scene

Keep it simple

Break down the landscape into broad areas of colour, then work with a limited range of paints to create your mixes. Watercolour isn't the medium for fine detail, so simplify any shapes in the scene, such as trees and buildings. Work with dash and spontaneity.

Build up your scene

  1. Start with the sky. Mix two washes to match your scene — one brighter, one darker. A blue-based mix and a gray-based one are often effective.
  2. Lay a band of the brighter wash across the top of the paper. Then lay the darker wash below, working across and down to the horizon. Don't worry about gaps; they can serve as clouds. Vary the angle of the brush to modulate the colour. Lighten the area just above the horizon by laying a wash of clean water.
  3. Prepare three mixes of a colour for the foreground, one light, one medium and one dark. Paint a band of the lightest across the horizon and work in the medium and then the dark mixes as you make your way down the paper. Allow the colours to flood into each other so that you lose the brush marks.
  4. Now add in the details of the scene, using stronger colours and remembering to simplify the shapes. For trees, such as in the scene above, use a darker wash for the base of the foliage and pull the paint down to describe the tree trunks (no need for another colour). For crisply defined edges, leave puddles of stronger colour to dry.

Following these basic guidelines will help you perfect your craft.

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