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Watercolor landscape painting is an art form that’s been practiced for centuries. Yes, the landscapes in watercolor are delicate and mesmerizing, but they can be attainable for even the most novice of watercolor artists. 

Whether you’re painting seascapes, mountain ranges, or a cityscape, your watercolor landscape can transport people to an abstract place of serenity and nostalgia. 

Let’s get started with a watercolor tutorial that’s perfect for beginners. 

How to Paint Watercolor Landscapes

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies and Inspiration 

Gather paints, paper, and water.
Gather paints, paper, and water.

The first step in landscape watercolor painting is preparing your painting surface and watercolor paper. Tape down the paper with painters or masking tape so you don’t have to worry about it moving around. 

You’ll also need paint, paintbrushes, and water. Note that, unlike acrylic paint, watercolors are a bit trickier. Due to their translucent colors, they can’t be easily layered to hide errors. But watercolor’s delicate nature also allows you to work with the medium to perfect your style. Learning the right balance between paint and water and when to apply light and dark colors will help your landscapes turn into beautiful works of art in no time. 

It’s best to use a picture as a reference for the watercolor landscape painting you’d like to create. You can use something from a watercolor art class, or if you’ve got a photo you snapped yourself, try that! 

Step 2: Sketch Your Design

Want to learn how to paint watercolor landscape step by step? Start with a sketch.
Want to learn how to paint watercolor landscape step by step? Start with a sketch. 

Using your reference photo as a guide, lightly sketch your landscape with a pencil. If you’re new to the process, try sketching a very light grid on the paper to make sure certain details within the larger watercolor landscape are placed where you’d like them. 

Watercolor painting is delicate and abstract. Because of this, you don’t need to replicate the original photo exactly. Sketch pieces that you’d like to bring into the picture without worrying about including all the tiny details. Your interpretation is a part of the art. 

Step 3: Paint Large Elements

The beginning stages of watercolor landscapes
The beginning stages of watercolor landscapes

Start by painting the sky or horizon in your landscape painting, using large brush strokes. Be mindful of details that could impact the perception of your painting, like where the sun is shining. If the sun is on the right side of the painting, this means that the sky will be lighter on that side. 

Then, using similar large brush strokes, paint the ground and larger details. If it’s a natural landscape, this could be the trees or the water. If it’s a cityscape, this could be buildings and the road. 

Use broad strokes to paint the ground and larger details
Use broad strokes to paint the ground and larger details.

Step 4: Add Small Details

Add all of the small nuances to your watercolor landscape
Add all of the small nuances to your watercolor landscape

Wait for the first layer of paint to dry before moving on to the next step. From here, paint your smaller details with a small or medium-sized brush. This is where you can define the larger details painted before. And add any elements that are in the foreground to be a bold pop of color. 

Where to Find Classes on Painting Watercolor Landscapes

Want to learn how to paint a watercolor landscape step by step? Try a watercolor landscape painting course! Skillshare offers thousands of online classes for creatives, including these tutorials that’ll further your mastery of watercolor art. 

Examples of Watercolor Landscapes

A watercolor landscape by artist Elina Zhelyazkova
A watercolor landscape by artist Elina Zhelyazkova

The purple, yellow, and pink tones of the water and the peaceful sailboats in the distance give this sunset painting a dreamy feel. 

Paint wildflowers in a class by Eva Nichols.
Paint wildflowers in a class by Eva Nichols. 

The poppies in the foreground are the focus of this watercolor scene, while the mountains are a secondary detail. 

An abstract watercolor lake scene
An abstract watercolor lake scene

This abstract watercolor landscape scene showcases colorful pines reflecting in a lake at dusk. 

Student work by Adam Hallberg
Student work by Adam Hallberg

Details are the star of this foggy, muted landscape: scattered pine trees, children fishing, and birds flying in the distance. 

Student work by Sabrina
Student work by Sabrina

The tie-dye-like watercolors of the sky and mountain provide an abstract yet still recognizable scene.

Get Started on Your Watercolor Landscape

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