Easy Watercolour Landscape

An Easy Watercolour Landscape Painted Step By Step.

Follow the step-by-step guide below  for an Easy Watercolour Landscape to produce a satisfying watercolour painting with a minimum of technique.

The First Four Steps

First – a pencil outline

Pencil Outline

First put some pencil guidelines onto your watercolour paper. Put the horizon line about one-third of the way up the paper. Block in the trees being careful to vary the height. Put in some features in the foreground. Leave a gap below the horizon line for water to be added later. Mark out a curved path and areas of grassland.

Next – a first wash – with warm sky highlights

Warm Sky Area

Next, go over the white canvas with clear water with a large brush but so that it is not completely covered. Leave some white  patches which will be very useful later. Next paint in some warm colour for the sky. Try mixing a yellow and a red. Paint this on lightly (as above).

Next – a blue wash for the sky

Blue Sky Wash

After adding some warm patches for the sky, you will next want to put in the main blue wash for the sky. Try a test patch on a separate piece of paper to see what blue you like lest. Ultramarine is nearly always a good choice.

Next – the first wash – some green foreground

Foreground With Blue And Green

You will next want to put in a similar tone of wash for some foreground but this time with green instead of blue. However, while you still have the blue wash from the previous step you should strengthen it to make it slightly darker than the sky-wash and use it in the foreground to paint in the path (don’t be too detailed – see the demo above). Once this is done you can add yellow (e.g. cadmium yellow) to this wash to change it to a light green colour which you can then use to paint in some foreground green for the grassy areas.

This gives you a nicely coloured backdrop onto which you can start putting some details.

The Next Five Steps

Next a first wash for the trees – the picture is beginning to take shape

Trees At The Horizon

In this step you will begin to develop the detail. You will start from the furthest distant at the horizon and work your way to the nearest foreground. First you want to put in some detail for the trees on the horizon – be sure to leave plenty of white gaps, not only de they help with the realism, you will also use them to put in some branches and trunks later. The wash you will use is a darker green than before and you can make this by adding more blue to the green wash that you used in the previous step. You will want to block in the trees with this wash, remembering that one tree is higher (for visual variety) and dominates the others. You will also want to go across horizontally in one or more bold full strokes with a loaded brush to suggest bushes and undergrowth in the distance. Again, for visual variety, be sure to vary the green colour as you apply it using different strokes.

Next – strengthening the shadow areas under the trees

More Detail In The Tree Area

While the paper is still damp from the previous stage you will want to strengthen the shadow areas under the trees. Darken the green considerably and apply it to the lower areas of the undergrowth. As is usual with this “wet-in-wet” technique, the colour runs and blends in with the colour from the previous wash. Use various shades of dark greens to give more form to the trees in higher areas. You can darken the mix with a touch of brown and try this as well. Before the dark greens and the first wash are dry you should add a fair amount of brown to the mix you are using and use this to paint in tree trunks and branches. Make good use of the white areas you saved earlier and don’t be afraid to overpaint some of the green especially in areas where the paint is drier.

Next – strengthening the middle ground and foreground

Strengthening The Middleground And Foreground

Having finished some detail around the horizon you will next work on the middle ground and foreground. Mix up a dark green mixing blue, yellow and brown to your taste. When the demo picture was created, the colours used were ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow and burnt umber but this is not a unique recipe and you should learn to experiment with the colours you have in your pallet. Strengthen the foreground by applying some of this green with some large horizontal strokes using a well-loaded brush. The strokes should diminish in width into the viewer’s distance. i.e. as you paint upwards towards the horizon.. A good technique to practice also is to pick out the grassy details with small flicks of the end of the brush, as in the demo painting above. You will want the greens to appear warmer as they come towards the viewer i.e. towards the bottom of the paper. You can do this by adding some brown to the mix.

Next – adding blue for the water

Putting In The Water Area

Next, add some blue for the water area close to the horizon line. A common mistake is to block in the area you left (going back to the pencil sketch stage) completely with blue paint. It will look much more naturalistic if you leave part of the central water area white, meaning that the original canvas is untouched by paint. However, keep the white for the central areas and paint in blue the edges of the water area.

Finally – adding people as an eye-catching detail

Final Details Make A Finished Painting

You are almost finished. However most watercolour pictures benefit from adding in some details to catch the eye. The trick is to use a small brush and also to paint them in using a contrasting colour so that they stand out. Here our contrasting colour is red but it is toned down considerably so that, tonally, it blends in with what has been painted previously. Firstly, two figures in red are added to the right of the picture and then other figures – more muted by making the colours less bold (a good suggestion is to add some grey to the mix, but you can experiment with your own colours). When adding the other figures it is important to make them smaller in relation to the first figures to give a sense of scale. Notice how in the demonstration painting above the heads are all horizontally level. This is deliberate and also helps the viewer to work out the scales in the picture. As final nice touches add shadows to the figures (again a dark grey is ideal) and also a small dog walking freely not to far from the first couple.

How Did You Do?

So, you should have you very own realistic watercolour landscape painting by following the steps given above. Hopefully you will be fairly satisfied with the result. But practice makes perfect.