5 Expert Tips for Painting Beautiful Watercolor Landscapes
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 5 min read


  1. Use the right materials
  2. Paint the sky first
  3. Add depth with layers
  4. Embrace accidents
  5. Practice observation skills

Imagine standing in front of a blank canvas, your paintbrush poised, ready to create a watercolor landscape masterpiece. But where do you begin? Right here, with these five expert watercolor landscape painting tips. We'll start with the basics—using the right materials—and then explore more advanced techniques like painting the sky first and adding depth with layers. Ready? Let's dive in and transform that blank canvas into a beautiful watercolor landscape.

Use the right materials

Okay, let's start at the very beginning. Just like a chef needs the right ingredients to make a mouth-watering meal, a painter needs the right materials to create a stunning watercolor landscape. Here are the key items you'll need:

Quality Watercolor Paints

One of the essential watercolor landscape painting tips is investing in quality watercolor paints. Look for paints with vibrant pigments and good transparency. Brands like Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith are excellent choices. Don't forget, quality paints can make a world of a difference in your artwork!

Durable Watercolor Paper

Next on the list is watercolor paper. This isn't your everyday printer paper—you need something that can withstand water and multiple layers of paint. Opt for a thicker paper, like 140-pound weight. Brands like Arches and Strathmore have fantastic options.

Assorted Brushes

Finally, you'll need a variety of brushes. A large flat brush is perfect for painting broad swaths of sky, while a round brush is ideal for finer details. Look for brushes with soft, absorbent bristles—synthetic brushes often fit the bill.

Using the right materials is the first step in your watercolor landscape painting adventure. With quality paints, durable paper, and a selection of brushes, you're well on your way to creating a masterpiece. Now, let's move on to the next tip: painting the sky first.

Paint the sky first

Now that you have your materials ready, it's time to start painting. One of the most important watercolor landscape painting tips is to begin with the sky. Why? The sky sets the mood for the entire landscape and can have a major impact on the overall composition. Here's how you can do it:

Choose Your Colors Wisely

The colors you choose for the sky will essentially dictate the color scheme for the entire painting. A bright blue sky suggests a sunny day, while a gray sky might indicate an overcast or stormy atmosphere. Choose colors that align with the mood you want to convey in your painting.

Create a Gradient

One common feature of the sky is that it's rarely one solid color; it's usually a gradient of different shades. Start with a darker shade at the top and gradually lighten it as you move towards the horizon. This helps to create a sense of depth and realism in your painting.

Leave White Space for Clouds

Clouds can add an extra dimension to your watercolor landscape. To paint clouds, simply leave some areas of the paper unpainted. The natural white of the paper will contrast beautifully with the colors of your sky, creating fluffy, realistic clouds.

Painting the sky first can feel daunting, but with practice, you'll find it becomes second nature. Remember, the sky is not just a backdrop—it's an integral part of your landscape. So give it the attention it deserves, and your painting will thank you for it. Ready to add more depth to your painting? Let's move on to the next tip.

Add depth with layers

Adding layers is a powerful technique in watercolor landscape painting that can transform your art from flat to three-dimensional. It's all about building up color and texture gradually. So, how do we go about this?

Start with a Wash

Begin with a light wash to set the base tone of your painting. This first layer is usually the lightest and acts as a base for your subsequent layers. Remember, it's easier to build color intensity than to take it away.

Add More Layers

Once your base layer is dry, you can start adding more layers. Use a slightly darker shade for each subsequent layer. This technique, known as 'glazing', will slowly build up depth and complexity in your painting. Patience is key here—wait for each layer to dry before adding the next.

Use Dry Brushing for Texture

For areas that require more texture, such as foliage or rough terrain, use the dry brushing technique. This involves using a brush that's almost dry, but still holds paint, to create a rough, textured effect. It's a great way to add depth and detail to your landscape.

By using these layering techniques, you'll create watercolor landscapes that have a sense of depth and realism. This is what separates good landscape paintings from great ones. Ready to embrace the unexpected? Let's explore our next tip.

Embrace accidents

Watercolor is a medium known for its unpredictability. Sometimes, the paint may not go exactly where you want it to, or the colors may mix in a way you didn't anticipate. Instead of fretting over these 'accidents', let's embrace them. Here's how.

Turn Spills into Features

Did your brush slip and leave a big blotch of color? Instead of trying to fix it, why not incorporate it into your painting? Perhaps that blotch can become a bush or a shadow. This is a fun and creative way to handle those unexpected moments and give your landscape painting a unique touch.

Blend Unintended Mixes

Colors mixed in a way you didn't plan? No problem. Allow the colors to blend naturally and see what unique shades they create. Unplanned color mixes can often result in beautiful, organic effects that add a touch of magic to your landscape.

Love the Blooms

'Blooming' is a common watercolor phenomenon where pools of wet paint push away from each other, creating a flower-like pattern. Instead of trying to prevent them, embrace these blooms. They can add interesting textures and patterns to your painting, especially in areas like skies or bodies of water.

Remember, there are no mistakes in art, just happy accidents. Embracing these accidents can be a game-changer in your watercolor landscape painting journey. Now, let's move on to our next tip, where we'll talk about the importance of observation.

Practice observation skills

Watercolor landscape painting is as much about observing the world around you as it is about the paint and paper. A keen eye for detail can help you capture the essence of a scene and make your paintings come alive. Let's dive into some ways you can enhance your observation skills.

Slow Down and Look Around

When you're painting a landscape, take the time to really look at it. Notice the way light falls on different surfaces, the subtle variations in color, and the intricate patterns of nature. By slowing down and observing, you'll start to see details you might have missed before.

Sketch Regularly

Sketching is a great way to practice observation. It forces you to break down complex scenes into basic shapes and values. Plus, regular sketching can help you improve your drawing skills, a key part of successful watercolor landscape painting.

Use a Viewfinder

A viewfinder is a simple tool that can help you frame your landscape and focus on specific elements. By limiting your field of view, a viewfinder can make it easier to organize your composition and observe details more closely.

Remember, observation is a skill that can be improved with practice. The more you observe, the more you'll see and understand the world around you, and the better your watercolor landscape paintings will be. So, keep your eyes open and your sketchbook handy, and enjoy the journey of discovery that comes with observing the world around you.

If you enjoyed our blog post on expert tips for painting beautiful watercolor landscapes, you'll definitely want to check out the workshop 'How to Paint Water' by Jauni (tofublock). This workshop will help you master the techniques of painting water in your watercolor landscapes, adding depth and realism to your artwork.