Essential Watercolor Landscape Painting Tips
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 11 min read


1. Choose Your Palette Wisely

2. Plan Your Composition

3. Master Different Brush Strokes

4. Practice Layering

5. Embrace Mistakes

6. Paint Outdoors

7. Manage Your Time Effectively

8. Observe and Learn

9. Experiment with Techniques

10. Share Your Work

Creating a stunning watercolor landscape is both a joy and a challenge. It's an art form that requires a delicate balance of technique, creativity, and passion. To help you on your painting journey, here are some tips that can help make your landscapes come alive.

1. Choose Your Palette Wisely

Choosing the right palette for your watercolor landscape is akin to setting the stage for a grand performance. It's the foundation on which your masterpiece will be built. Let's dive into how you can select the perfect palette.

Color Theory

Understanding color theory is a basic yet powerful tool for every artist. The color wheel, for instance, can guide you in choosing harmonious color combinations. Complementary colors (those opposite each other on the color wheel) can create a vibrant contrast, while analogous colors (those next to each other) can provide a harmonious blend. A deep sunset watercolor landscape might call for warm reds, oranges, and yellows - all analogous colors. The choice of colors can set the mood of your landscape.

Picking the Right Brand

Not all watercolor brands are created equal. Some brands are known for their vibrancy, while others for their subtlety. Brands like Winsor & Newton or Daniel Smith offer a wide range of high-quality paints suitable for watercolor landscape painting. Experiment with different brands to find one that matches your style and preferences.

Considering the Landscape

When it comes to painting a watercolor landscape, the landscape itself can guide your palette choices. Think about the natural colors present in different types of landscapes. For example, a forest scene might require various shades of green, brown, and perhaps some blues for a river or sky. On the other hand, a desert landscape might call for a palette of warm earthy tones. Always consider the landscape you're depicting when choosing your colors.

2. Plan Your Composition

Once your palette is set, it's time to plan your composition. This is when you decide where the elements of your watercolor landscape will be placed on your canvas. It's like arranging the pieces of a puzzle to create a harmonious image.

Rule of Thirds

One of the most popular composition techniques in art and photography is the Rule of Thirds. Imagine dividing your canvas into nine equal squares. The points of interest in your landscape should ideally be placed at the intersections or along these lines. This technique can help guide the viewer's eye through your painting and create a more engaging watercolor landscape.

Incorporating Depth

Creating a sense of depth can make your watercolor landscape feel more realistic. You can achieve depth by using size, overlap, and color. Objects closer to the viewer should be larger, while distant objects should be smaller. Overlapping elements can also create a sense of depth. Additionally, using lighter colors for distant elements and darker colors for closer ones can enhance the sense of depth. Remember, the goal is to make your landscape feel like a window into another world, not just a flat image.

Balance in Composition

Balance doesn't necessarily mean symmetry. It's about arranging elements in such a way that no single feature overpowers the others. Think about how the elements of your watercolor landscape can work together to create a harmonious composition. A large mountain, for instance, might need to be countered by a group of trees or a body of water to maintain balance. Consider the visual weight of each element and how it contributes to the overall balance of your landscape.

3. Master Different Brush Strokes

Now that you have planned your composition, let's add some colors to your watercolor landscape. And the key to creating a vibrant landscape lies in mastering different brush strokes. Like the strokes of a poet's pen, your brush strokes can create an ensemble of visual effects, each adding a unique dimension to your painting.

Dry Brush Technique

As the name suggests, the dry brush technique involves using a brush that is relatively dry but still holds paint. This technique is great for creating textured effects like the rough bark of a tree or the uneven surface of a rock. It's a versatile technique that can add a lot of character to your watercolor landscape. Remember, it's all about control—too much pressure, and you might end up with a blot; too little, and your stroke might not make an impact.

Wet-in-Wet Technique

For a softer, blurrier effect, you might want to try the wet-in-wet technique. This involves applying wet paint onto a wet surface. It's perfect for creating smooth transitions between colors, like a sunset sky or a calm, reflective body of water in your watercolor landscape. A word of caution though—this technique requires a bit of patience. Applying more color before the first layer dries could lead to unwanted mixtures.

Blotting Method

Ever made a mistake and wished you could undo it? With watercolors, you can! The blotting method involves using a dry cloth or sponge to soak up wet paint. It's an effective way to correct mistakes, lighten colors, or create interesting textures like fluffy clouds or the froth of waves on your watercolor landscape. The trick here is to act fast before the paint dries.

4. Practice Layering

Good job on mastering those brush strokes! Now, let's move on to another vital aspect of watercolor landscape painting—layering. Think of your painting as a stage play, and each layer as a scene that adds more depth and complexity to the story.

Creating Depth with Layering

Layering is like magic! It can turn a flat image into a three-dimensional one. By applying several layers of paint, you can create a sense of depth and distance in your watercolor landscape. Try painting the objects that are farthest away first and then slowly work your way towards the objects that are closer. Remember, each layer should be lighter than the one before to create an illusion of depth.

Avoiding Muddy Colors

While layering is fun, it can also lead to a common problem—muddy colors. This happens when too many layers or colors mix, resulting in a dull and undefined hue. The key to avoiding this is to let each layer dry before applying the next one. Also, try to limit your palette to avoid overcomplicating your watercolor landscape.

Using Light and Dark Values

Playing with light and dark values can add a dramatic effect to your painting. Light values can be used to represent the source of light or objects that are bathed in light, while dark values can be used to represent shadows or objects that are away from the light. This interplay of light and dark can give your watercolor landscape a realistic and lively appearance. Isn't it amazing how a simple contrast can bring a whole painting to life?

5. Embrace Mistakes

Painting a watercolor landscape is like going on an adventure. It's not always about reaching the destination, but enjoying the journey - and yes, that includes making mistakes. Sometimes, it's these "mistakes" that lead to the most stunning pieces of art. Here's how to make the most of them:

Learning from Errors

Every watercolor artist, beginner or experienced, has had their share of "oops" moments. When these occur, don't be too hard on yourself. Instead, try to figure out why it happened and how you can avoid it next time. Did your colors turn muddy? Maybe you didn't wait for the previous layer to dry. Is your painting looking flat? Perhaps you didn't consider your light and dark values. Each mistake is a lesson in disguise, nudging you closer to the masterpiece you're destined to create.

Experimentation is Key

Now, this is where the real fun begins—experimentation. Toss out the rulebook and let your creativity run wild. Blend unconventional colors, apply an unusual brush stroke, or even paint with your fingers. Who knows? You might discover a unique style that sets your watercolor landscape apart. As the famous painter, Bob Ross once said, "We don't make mistakes, just happy little accidents."

Practice Makes Perfect

Last but not least, keep practicing. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your painting skills. The more you paint, the better you'll become at understanding how colors interact, how water affects paint, and how light changes the mood of a landscape. So, grab your paintbrush, and let's make some happy little accidents!

6. Paint Outdoors

Painting a watercolor landscape is an immersive experience that becomes even more enriching when you step outside the four walls of your studio. Painting outdoors, or plein air painting, as the French call it, offers a unique perspective that is hard to capture from a photo. Let's explore why:

Benefits of Plein Air Painting

Plein air painting allows you to experience your landscape in real-time, in 3D, with all the sensory inputs— the wind rustling through the leaves, the chirping of the birds, the aroma of the flowers. It helps you connect with the landscape on a deeper level. Plus, it trains your eye to catch details that you might miss otherwise, like how the light changes with the time of day, or how shadows add depth to your subject. It's these little subtleties that take your watercolor landscape from good to great.

Painting in Different Weather

Don't limit your painting sessions to sunny days alone. Each weather brings its own mood and character to the landscape. A rainy day adds a touch of melancholy, snow lends an air of tranquility, and a stormy sky brings drama. Try painting in different weather conditions to add variety to your portfolio. Just remember to protect your art supplies (and yourself) from the elements.

Finding Inspiration in Nature

Lastly, there's no better source of inspiration than Mother Nature herself. From the colors of a sunset to the pattern of tree bark, nature is a treasure trove of ideas. So whenever you feel stuck or uninspired, just step outside, take a deep breath, and let nature guide your brush.

7. Manage Your Time Effectively

Painting a watercolor landscape is not a race against the clock. It's a process that requires patience, focus, and a good sense of time management. Here's how you can make the most of your painting sessions:

Avoid Rushing Your Painting

It's easy to get carried away and want to finish your painting in one sitting. But remember, each layer of watercolor needs time to dry before the next one is applied. Rushing through your painting can lead to muddy colors and lack of depth. So, take your time, enjoy the process, and let your painting evolve at its own pace.

Taking Breaks

Spending long hours on a painting can be tiresome, both physically and mentally. It's important to take regular breaks to rest your eyes and stretch your limbs. This not only prevents fatigue but also gives you a fresh perspective when you return to your painting. As the saying goes, "Sometimes, you can't see the forest for the trees." A short break can help you see the bigger picture — literally!

Setting Realistic Goals

While it's great to challenge yourself, it's also important to set realistic goals. If you're just starting with watercolor landscapes, don't expect to paint like Monet in a week. Instead, focus on mastering one technique at a time, like creating a smooth wash or painting clouds. Remember, every great artist was once a beginner. The key is to keep learning, keep practicing, and most importantly, keep painting.

8. Observe and Learn

Artists are lifelong learners, and the world around us is our best teacher. There's so much to learn from observing nature, studying other artists, and engaging with the art community. Let's explore these ideas:

Studying Other Artists

Every artist has a unique style and approach to painting watercolor landscapes. By studying their work, you can gain insights into their techniques, color choices, and composition. You can find inspiration in the works of famous watercolor artists like J.M.W. Turner or contemporary artists like Steve Hanks. Don't just admire their art, try to understand how they've captured light, color, mood, and movement in their landscapes.

Taking Art Classes

Art classes, workshops, and tutorials can be an excellent way to learn new techniques and get feedback on your work. You can find local art classes in your city or state, or you can learn online. Websites like Skillshare and Udemy offer excellent watercolor landscape tutorials for all skill levels. Remember, learning is an ongoing process. The more you know, the better your watercolor landscapes will become.

Visiting Art Galleries and Museums

Seeing artwork in person can be a completely different experience than seeing it on a screen. The textures, the scale, and the colors can be much more vivid and impactful. Visiting art galleries and museums can expose you to a wide variety of art styles and mediums. It can also help you understand how artists communicate their ideas and emotions through their work. So, next time you visit a gallery or a museum, pay attention to the landscapes. What colors did the artist use? How did they depict light and shadow? What kind of mood does the landscape evoke? These observations can be a rich source of inspiration for your next watercolor landscape.

9. Experiment with Techniques

Art, much like life, is an experiment. Trying new techniques not only keeps your work fresh and interesting but also helps you grow as an artist. Let's dive into a few areas where you can mix things up a bit:

Playing with Textures

Who said watercolor landscapes have to be smooth and fluid all the time? You can create some amazing effects by playing with textures. For instance, you can use salt to create a granulated effect for snow or sand. Or, you can use a sponge to dab on foliage in a forest scene. Experimentation is the key to discovering new and exciting watercolor landscape techniques.

Trying Different Color Schemes

Color is a powerful tool in any artist's arsenal. You can dramatically change the mood of your watercolor landscape by simply altering the color scheme. Have you ever tried painting a sunset in cool tones, or a snowy scene with warm colors? Why not? Step out of your comfort zone and experiment with different color schemes. You might be surprised by the results.

Applying Mixed Media

Watercolor is a versatile medium that plays well with others. You can combine it with pen and ink to add details, or with pastels to create soft, blended effects. You can even use masking fluid to preserve white areas of your watercolor landscape. Experimenting with mixed media can open up a whole new world of possibilities for your art.

10. Share Your Work

Creating a watercolor landscape is such a fulfilling journey. But, the journey doesn't need to end in your studio. Sharing your work with others can be equally rewarding. Here are some platforms where you can showcase your skills:

Joining Art Communities

Local art communities and clubs are a great place to start. Collaborating with other like-minded artists can inspire you and help you grow. You can participate in art shows, attend workshops, or simply enjoy the camaraderie that comes from being part of a creative community.

Exhibiting Your Art

If you're ready to take the next step, consider exhibiting your watercolor landscapes in a local gallery or coffee shop. Seeing your work displayed on a wall for everyone to appreciate can be a truly empowering experience. And who knows? You might even make a sale!

Sharing Online

In the digital age, you don't need a physical space to share your art. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are great for reaching a larger audience. Start a blog and share your journey as a watercolor landscape artist. You can post progress shots, share tips and techniques, or just express your thoughts about the creative process.

If you're looking to further improve your watercolor landscape painting skills, make sure to explore the workshop 'Introduction to Watercolours' by Bianca Rosen. This comprehensive workshop will provide you with the fundamental techniques and tips to enhance your watercolor painting abilities, setting you on the path to create stunning landscapes.