Creating Watercolor Painting of a Landscape

Creating a watercolor painting of a landscape can seem challenging. It often takes time and practice to learn, but once you do so it can be one of the most beautiful ways to create artwork. Painting in this manner can be exciting. Freestyling is an option, but it often pays to have some tips to help you to create a beautiful image you’ll cherish for years.

What You’ll Need

Depending on the image and overall look you plan to create, you will likely need some of the following materials to create your watercolor landscape.

  • Tubes of paint in the colors you plan to use
  • Brushes, look for those that are goathair or similar materials that you like to use. Practice using anything new before you actually begin your piece
  • Your painting gear
  • Pencils, rulers, containers for water, and other items you need to set up your canvas to paint on and to use

Purchasing painting materials that are suitable for your skill and experience is important. If you are using new materials, practice using them, especially new brushes, so you can familiarize yourself with the feel and results they produce.


Creating the Horizon

When painting a landscape, one of the very first things you need to do is to create the horizon. You can do this using the ruler and pencil. Determine where you would like it to lie, making it easy for you to gauge distance, angles, and image depth throughout your piece from this point. As for where you should place it, there is no limit. This is not a hard line to follow either. However, it gives you a starting point for your design.

Wet the Board

One of the most important steps you can take as a beginner creating a landscape using watercolors is to follow the skills and steps others teach you. One thing many beginners do not know, for example, is that you need to wet down the board as an initial step. In short, you will want to use your goathair brush and dip it into a container with nothing but water in it. You do not want to saturate the board at all, but you will want to wet it. Start at the top and make broad strokes. Do this in the same way that you paint, with even lines. Do this to about one inch of the horizon line you’ve created.

Paint the Sky

Now that you have the board’s top wet, you can begin to paint the sky into the landscape. Select the color of your choice. Dip the brush into the paint. Allow it to mix with the water slightly. You do not want the paint and water mixture to be thick or too strong. Then, start at the top of the canvas and paint in a downward motion. Come down to a few inches prior to the horizon line. Do this again until you’ve covered the very top of the board. You’ll want to allow the darker colors at the top to be the sky. This means you may want to choose a darker mixture of water and paint to paint the sky. Do this, and continue doing it until you are about half way down the top portion.

Allow it to dry. You should not move on with your landscape design until after this portion dries. It will give you the best overall results if you hold off and allow it to dry. You can use a hairdryer to help, but do not position it so close to the canvas that it causes the paint to move.

Paint the Background

Next, focus on the images that will be in the background, such as a set of mountains or a rolling hill. You will want to use a stronger mixture of color than you do for the actual sky. It should stand out from the sky. For mountains, paint a letter M that is very wide and subtle. Once you create an initial line that will represent the top of the mountains, the next step is to fill them in.

Fill in the Middle Ground

Next, just above the horizon line, you’ll want to fill in the middle ground. Take the brush and create short lines across this area. You do not want to use a lot of paint or big brush strokes. Keep them small and create lines with a visual break.

Painting the Foreground

The next step is to create the foreground, which in the picture is the portion of the landscape closest to the vantage point. It is a good idea to have an idea of what you would like to create in this portion.

Paint the background first. Use fluid strokes from one side of the canvas to the other. Allowing some of the background white to come through can help to create a realistic looking image. Use the brush strokes with light amounts of paint on it to capture the look of the foreground.

You can then go back and add in other elements, such as trees. To do so, use a contrasting color that is just on the edge of the brush. Create vertical lines along the areas where you want to position the trees. To paint a lake in this area, use a light color (do this before you paint the foreground itself.) Make the edges of the lake a darker color so it creates the edge. Allow white from the background to show through, creating the image of the sun.

To finish your watercolor, add in details. You can add in grass along the edge of the lake or small dots to represent the pockets of trees on the mountain’s edge. Outline the horizon line a darker color as well, to help it to stand out.

Creating a watercolor of a landscape takes practice and plenty of patience. However, once you learn these basic concepts, you can then modify it to create your own image.

The Grand Canal Venice by J.M.W. Turner


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