How to Paint a Watercolor Landscape Step-by-Step Tutorial

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If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to paint a watercolor landscape step-by-step, then this is for you! We will walk you through the entire process using seven simple steps. Along the way there are three bonus tips on how to create landscapes with a solid design, beautiful color harmony and value hierarchy that makes visual sense.

If you are ready to paint, then grab your paints and brushes, and let’s get started!

The very first step in how to paint a watercolor landscape is planning!

This doesn’t have to be too complicated. The more complex the subject is the more time that needs to be invested. For this easy step-by-step watercolor landscape painting tutorial it’s fairly simple.

Having an idea of where the point of interest will be may help with creating a value strategy, and which hues will be chosen to create the painting. Without a vision it’s too easy to become confused and end up painting in circles.

While this article doesn’t cover everything watercolor artists need to know about design, it does cover some useful tips all beginner and aspiring artists can use.

Before we dive in to design have a look at the watercolor landscape painting below. As vanilla as it may appear there’s some technique and thought behind it.

How to Paint a Watercolor Landscape Step-by-Step
– How to Paint a Watercolor Landscape Step-by-Step

Easy design tips you can use for your next masterpiece

Here are three incredibly simple tips for developing quality landscapes. This is only the tip of the iceberg but it does cover some of the most important design concepts.

  1. Avoid placing horizon line in the middle of the composition. It should favor the top or bottom. Since the sky is the focal point the horizon line favors the bottom which allows for more room in the sky.
  2. Try to plan the darkest and lightest values. They should be near each other. This way there’s contrast! Note how the darkest values are the distant trees, and they are places near the lightest values which are the white clouds in the distance.
  3. Color choices should be a top priority. The main areas are the sky and ground plane. The sky will be the main focal point. So, Cobalt blue is perfect for a sky hue, and a softer warm green for the ground plane. In the end the green will be less saturated than the sky but it will be colorful enough to compliment it.

Poor, or lack of planning will lead to an unbalanced composition. To avoid this make sure to spend time planning before paint hits the paper.


step one, add drawing
– step one, add drawing

Step #1

  • Once we’ve planned the focal point and have all the large shapes in our landscape and how they will be placed on the page, it’s time for a light sketch.
  • Paper used in demo is Fabriano Artistico 140 lb cold press, measures 6″ x 8″
  • This can be as simple or detailed as you like depending on how realistic you want the finished art to look.
  • Since this is a very simple watercolor landscape it was only necessary to drawing in the horizon line.
  • All other elements are painted with imagination all the white keeping the design in mind.

step two, pre-wet paper
– Pre-wet the paper

Step #2

  • Pre-wet paper but careful not to oversaturate.
  • The Silver black velvet jumbo round did the job just fine. Probably one of the most affordable watercolor brush that delivers excellent results.
  • If water puddles up be sure to remove the excess so that the washes don’t dry too weak, or transparent.
  • The initial wash needs to be weak as more saturated hues will be added over them later on.

step three, paint white of sky
– Paint pale washes for the sky

Step #3

  • It’s time to start adding color. Holbein paints are used for this demo.
  • Subtle grays are created with cerulean blue, yellow ochre and a lot of water.
  • The wash needs to be very pale and since it’s applied wet-in-wet it will dry lighter than the hue you are seeing when it’s wet.
  • Pro tip: watercolor dries about 20-30% lighter in value as it dries. Plan for it! If the hue you are applying is what you want then it’s usually wrong. Think about mixing one that’s slightly darker and chances are it will be correct.
  • Avoid over blending, or mixing the hues.
  • Keep brushstrokes minimal as this will create more interest in the sky, as opposed to a flat wash.

step four, paint ground plane
– Paint saturated wash for ground plane

Step #4

  • While the paper is still wet go ahead and add the ground plane.
  • Note: since the board is slightly angled down, so propped up to help the washes flow downwards, the painting was flipped so the green flows into the sky, as opposed to the bottom of the paper.
  • The goal with this hue is a vibrant green that will contrast nicely with the crisp blue sky hue that will be added later on.
  • That’s where planning ahead will help tremendously in keeping the decision making easy as you paint.
  • If you do it right the greens will bleed into the sky area, that’s just fine! Let the colors mingle and avoid trying to control it.
  • For the darker green shades a little neutral tint is added to the green. This will add variation to the ground plane.
  • Again, don’t control it. Allow the paint to move freely.

step five, paint blue of sky; How to Paint a Watercolor Landscape Step-by-Step
– Add crisp blue sky

Step #5

  • Now we get to the fun part! Since a third of the painting is sky it has a major role in the design.
  • It will be painted using negative space and be sure the paper is 100% dry! Instead of wet-in-wet we will opt for wet-in-dry.
  • This allows for more control and crisp edges.
  • For the sky color mix of Cobalt blue with a little water.
  • The sky needs to pop! But not everywhere, just one area.
  • If all the blues in the sky are heavily saturated it will look too heavy, and flat.
  • By making the other sky areas less intense will create more interest.
  • Also, try to keep the shape interesting by creating large, cumulous clouds. Start them extra large at top and smaller as they reach the horizon area.

step six, paint distant trees
– Paint distant trees with darkest values

Step #6

  • Princeton Neptune pointed round #6 used for details
  • For the trees, mix a neutral hue that favors a dark green. This will be the darkest value in the design.
  • Use a smaller pointed round, in the demo a Princeton Neptune #12 is used.
  • Keep the brushstrokes loose and suggestive. You’re not trying to paint trees, just symbolic shapes.
  • Note that the white of the sky is dry so each brushstroke shows texture.
  • Leave a few gaps where no trees exist. Again, this is all about design and keeping it aesthetically pleasing.

step six, paint taller trees, How to Paint a Watercolor Landscape Step-by-Step
– Finishing touches

Step #7

  • Add the taller tree trunks using a rigger, or liner brush. Keep the trunks thin and unique from one another.
  • Make one tree taller than the others. And whatever you do don’t place it smack dab in the center.
  • For foliage use a thin, tea-like mixture of warn greens. You want the leaves to have a transparent, airy look to them.
  • And that’s it. You just created an awesome watercolor landscape scene, congrats!

Now that’s how to paint a watercolor landscape step-by-step!

And there you have it! With just five simple steps, you can create your very own watercolor landscape masterpiece. Be sure to experiment with different colors and techniques to create even more amazing artwork. If this was too much for you, check out this easy watercolor landscape for beginners.

How did your landscape turn out? I’m sure it was awesome!

Here are some other great ideas for easy watercolor paintings. If you enjoyed this how to paint a Watercolor Landscape Step-by-Step tutorial please be sure to let us know in the comments below.

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