Watercolor landscapes can be some of the most beautiful pieces of art that you can create; however, many artists struggle with watercolors because the medium is so unforgiving.
In this blog post, we will discuss 15 tips for creating beautiful watercolor landscapes. We will cover everything from how to create better designs, improving your techniques and how to eliminate common watercolor issues. We will also talk about color harmony and how to use color to your advantage in landscape painting. Are you ready to learn how to create amazing watercolor landscapes? Let’s get started!
Tips & tricks for how to plan and paint landscapes
Landscapes present a challenge for most watercolorists because of their complex nature. Well, that and many artists simply find an image that’s pretty and start hacking away at it. Been there, done that!
My work improved profoundly once I changed my approach. I hope these tips help you in the same way.
Always do small thumbnail sketches before you start painting. This is an excellent way to break the ice and become more familiar with the subject.
I use common print paper, or old recycled sketchbooks for most of my quick studies. This isn’t about details, it’s only to get more familiar with my subject and what’s involved.
Use the rule of thirds! This is a traditional composition technique that can be used in watercolor painting. Simply divide your paper into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and place your subject at one of the intersections.
A better alternative is to use small, medium, and large spaces instead of the traditional method. This creates more asymmetry in the design, which I find more interesting.
Correct any common design flaws that appear at this stage. Look for too many same-sized shapes, trees that are the same height, barns that are the same size, and a horizon line that cuts the page in half. These things can ruin your art before you start painting.
Do a quick value study! This will help you to see the lights and darks in your composition. Squint your eyes so that everything blurs together. You should be able to see a range of values. If everything looks the same, then you will need to add more contrast.
Now that you have worked out the design & composition, created a value study, fixed common issues, you can focus on the final painting. Start with a simple contour drawing that only includes the main shapes.
There’s no need to draw out every window and tree branch! This will only clutter the paper and invite what I consider the ‘coloring book’ artist. By adding every detail, your work will become VERY rigid. And that’s just not conducive to good watercolor art!
Allow the first wash to mingle! The colors can fuse and blend. Keep in mind that since this is the very first wash, the colors will fade about 30%. By allowing the colors to mingle, you will invite that fresh, happy watercolor look that the medium will give you if you allow it!
Make the ground plane darker than you think is needed. It’s VERY common for landscape artists to use a value that is way too light. By doing this, it will become too weak and won’t anchor the painting very well.
Think in layers. Watercolors work best when layered starting with light values and ending with darker ones. This will give the watercolor painting more depth and make it appear more realistic.
Connect similar values, even if it’s a different hue. Allowing values to connect will create a looser, more harmonious painting. Watercolors will look stiff if every area and the edge is treated individually. Not a great look for this medium.
Add linear interest using a dagger or liner brush. Many artists think that, by holding a brush, they can only block-in shapes. But a brush can be used like a pencil to add line work and certain details. There are usually several opportunities in every painting if you take the time to explore it.
Continue making valuable connections. As you work with darker hues, don’t treat each object as its own entity. Look for ways to join objects through shadows and values. It’s a great way to make objects join, rather than separate. You want the painting to flow, and not break apart.
Use more saturated colors near the point of interest to add excitement and attract viewers’ attention. By using a variety of colors, you can create a more harmonious painting.
Avoid adding too many intense colors all over the artwork. This will confuse the viewer and detract from the point of interest.
Don’t be afraid to rub out or remove unwanted areas. If you are using quality watercolor paper along with clean brushes and clean water, you won’t have any issues doing this. I will say to avoid too much removing, but once or twice is fine.
Use negative space painting techniques. This is when you paint the area around the subject to make it stand out more. It’s a great way to focus attention on a particular area and make it ‘pop.’ Of course this is a complex technique and can be used in many ways.
Use white gouache for highlights! This is a great way to accentuate the focal point and add that extra layer of finished quality to the landscape painting. Avoid adding too many highlights; this will clutter the painting and look amateurish.
And that’s it! 15 fantastic watercolor landscape tips that you can easily use in your next masterpiece.
Want to learn more?
Here are some courses that may interest you. All are in-depth classes loaded with detailed videos and quality instructions for creating awesome watercolor art.
- How to plan awesome watercolor art
- No fear watercolor landscapes
- The ultimate watercolor learning guide
I hope you found these watercolor landscape tips helpful! If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below. And be sure to check out our YouTube channel to learn more.