Beginners guide to painting the Northern Lights with fun Salt technique! | Emilie Taylor | Skillshare

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Beginners guide to painting the Northern Lights with fun Salt technique!

teacher avatar Emilie Taylor, Watercolor Artist

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

4 Lessons (45m)
    • 1. Beginners guide to painting the Northern Lights Intro

    • 2. Northern Lights (Sky and Salt Technique)

    • 3. Northern Lights (Foliage building)

    • 4. Northern Lights (Detailing Trees)

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About This Class

Want to learn how to give your watercolors a cool salt effect while painting the brilliant Northern Lights? Then this is a class for you!

Cartoon Realism is the word I use to describe my style, I love having enough detail that the scene can feel real and almost transport you there, but retain the artsy bit that reminds you it's a painting. This Northern light scene falls into the less detailed category but I wanted to create a class that was faster and easy for a beginner to take on.

In this class you'll learn:

- The art of wet on wet

- We'll work with speed to keep the painting wet and workable

- How salt can add such a fun effect

- The Patience it takes to layer the pines

And more!

I would suggest this class for anyone who feels comfortable following along a video while painting, beginners are welcome!

You can find me on Instagram here

All music from Ben Sound

Meet Your Teacher

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Emilie Taylor

Watercolor Artist


My name is Emilie Taylor, I'm a Watercolor Artist. I started painting in 2016. I developed my style that I call cartoon realism while painting botanicals, fruit, and other things. I avoiding landscapes not knowing my style could work for them too. I took some courses and found not only does my style work for landscapes but landscapes are my favorite thing to paint! 

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1. Beginners guide to painting the Northern Lights Intro: Hi there, My name is Emily and I'm a watercolor artist. I love all the different things you can do is watercolor. From painting detailed to painting, very loose and watery. Sometimes you can add cool elements like the salt trick we're going to be learning about in today's lesson. If you've never added salt to a painting before, you're in for a real treat and you'll probably be addicted like IAM. All you need is some normal table salt. Other things you'll need for today's lesson are a nice white, maybe a squash or a permanent white. Watercolor. Salt. A couple. Russia's a nice wash brush to get your paper wet. And one that's a little better for detailing. We'll be using a variety of blues greens, purple, and pink. You can use any colors that you prefer and mix them to try to match mine or make your own hues. This painting, we'll all be in real-time and you'll be able to follow along and paint with me. The first part of this painting is very fast pace. As we paint wet on wet and race are paper drying. If you are a beginner at following along lessons, I suggest watching through all of part one and then painting along with it. After. I hope that this class is fun for you and that you enjoy the awesome celt effects and maybe learn a few new things. See you in there. 2. Northern Lights (Sky and Salt Technique): Welcome to Emily Taylor Skillshare class, whether it's your first time joining me or you've joined other classes before. This is going to be a fun and faster one today. Before we get started today, I just want to let you know this is a very wet on wet sky will be working relatively fast. So if you want to watch through and then do your own, or you feel confident in being able to watch and keep your sky. What, for the best results. I'm going to try and show you a couple of the colors that we're going to be working with before we even get some water down. So I'm going to be using a couple of different blues. One's a nice navy, one of them is Payne's gray. And then a more teal blue. And I've also got a nice really bright green, a pink, and a purple that we're going to be using for the northern light flares. So if you'd like to have your colors mixed up on the side or just trapped by you. Go ahead and get that done. And then we'll get started. I've got a nice wash brush prepared and a 16 mop brush. I've also got my salt here on standby. This is just regular kitchen salt. If you have a coarser salt, might lead to different effects. But all you need is just regular kitchen salt to make these cool effects that we're going to have. So I've got my wash brush. I'm not clean water and I'm just going to start wetting the whole paper. I go side to side and up and down just to make sure I've got every square inch of it nice and wet. Once you feel good about it and you're getting a nice glass from every inch of it. We're going to get started in on the first blue. I'm going to use this nice cobalt blue and get a little bit of darkness right up on the top. And then down at the bottom, I'm just getting the thinnest layer of it. So we've got something to work with. Picking up a little bit of the Payne's gray and start adding that in. And here we've got a blue color in the pan here. This has a bit of a Navy and teal hue to it. It's a really pretty blue. I can't think of the name at the moment. But for the sky, we're just mixing in a lot of colors. So whatever you have to work with, variations of blue if you want to mix some purple and with your blue, some green in with your blue print just trying to give the sky. So I'm dynamics. Now I am going to grab some of my violet. And I'm just going to plop it into a couple of spots and then grab my blue again and start to spread into that. So the violet is not just sitting there funny. And this is starting to look really pretty when it's very light. So I'm going to grab another blue and go in with more punch. This blue is a Winsor and Newton color. I think it's Windsor blue with green. If I'm correct. Obviously, it's very bright, but we're going to go in with some darker colors. I just want to make sure I'm saying wet here at the bottom. I'm just going to go over it with a light blue. You can go over it with just water keeping that bottom nice inlet and backup to the top. I'm going in with a little more Payne's gray, nice and dark color and my pen color blue. And here we are back to the cobalt. You can see that I'm just adding in lots of followers. It's totally okay. We're mismatching. We're going to get the cool effect in the end. This is going to give it a night sky, atmosphere, little more purple here and there. And once again, just checking the bottom, I want to give it a little bit of color down there because once we add the salt, we're going to be pulling back up the white paper. So we need color for it to be going through. Also, we're making sure it's nice and wet for when we go to apply some green. So switching to my 12 round, I've got a nice dark for a screen. It's Mattie Palmer, natural green. And I'm also adding a little bit of Payne's gray to it, watering it down fairly, fairly well and just stippling in these trees. So these are going to be in the background and have a layer of salt over them. You don't need a lot of definition, just the idea of the shape of trees. My color is very light, darkening it in some places. Okay, I feel happy with that and I'm ready to grab my salt, just going to pour a little in my hand and start to sprinkle it on the area where the trees are. So there's no real art to this. You just don't want to be shaking the salt shaker all over the painting and get it all over the sky. So this pinching it between my two fingers. You can see it as I zoom in here, all the salt pieces are just popping out there. And slowly as this dries, it's going to lead to a really cool effect. If you've never worked with salt before, you're in for a treat, if you have, it's still fun every time. I'm still always learning. With salt, how much paint you have, how much color, how dry you're working with, the different effects you get. But I find that it's best to work with the salt when the paint is still pretty wet. So the two apply that right away. Once we are done with the salt and happy with it. Just going to double-check that this area is still decently wet and start to apply my nice bright green, also a Matthew Palmer color. It's natural green light. I'm going to work with this color and be spreading in upwards and downwards motions, but it's slightly out with a diagonal line. If your sky is starting to dry off a little, it's best to be pulling the direction up into it instead of down. And we're going to add a bit of that violet color. Just in these streaky motions, the northern lights, all sorts of shapes. I've decided to go with a more straight across, especially because the way the sky was already turning out. I also have my pink that I'm getting out as a very bright pink, rose pink, Winsor Newton color. This lightly applying it. None of these colors are at full capacity, their water down a bit. And then as I because I go along to grab colors at a thicker capacity, there's the green at a brighter, sicker capacity. So at this point my sky is drying off quite a bit. But I know if I go over the whole thing with some paint colors, I should be able to salvage and get it wet again so that it's remarkable and can continue to do work on this without waiting for the whole thing to drop. So I'm adding back in some mixture of the different blues at a watery consistency. If you start to notice too much white coming up and you're pulling up paint, then you're painting was probably too dry and you may need to get a blow dryer out and dry it, the whole thing and what it all again with a light layer of water so that you can rework into the peat. But luckily, mine was not too far. And as I get down to the green, I'm just slashing through them to continue to keep the effect of what I already had going with the lime green. Adding in more bright blue. Keep the color dynamics. Now that I've rewarded the whole thing, you don't see as much. So I'm gonna go back through with all the colors. Okay, I'm pretty happy with how that blue is looking. I'm going to clean up my brush really well and just go back into this northern lights with a really damp brush, helping to keep that area wet and be able to reshape a little bit of this. And even though we are in a rush, you can see that the salt is already giving a really cool effect at the bottom. So I'm grabbing a little more of that green reworking that in. You just want this to be nice and vivid. When you see the northern lights in their full glory in pictures. I've never actually seen them in real life. Viet two would love to. But when I see him in pictures, the colors can just be so striking. So that's what we're going for here. In the Breakout. Some more violet here. And I'm just continuing to use these slashing motions. Really light handedly. Back to that bright pink. And I've got this teal color hanging out on my palette. And I'm just going to add in a little bit of that down at the bottom and top of these lights kind of mixing in a blue-green color. And back to a nice dark blue. I'm just scribbling in a few areas that I wanted to tie in a little more of that darkness. But I also know I paint is drying and I'm kind of running on borrowed time here. So I'm just trying to be careful of where it's going. The cool thing to work with the night sky is if we are running into some of the issues of paint going on weird with a drying. It's not always so bad because the sky can have a cloudy effect at night, or we're going to add stars also. So it is kind of okay. So here's a quick zoom in on how my salt looks. Yours may look different. But whatever you've got is probably a cool effect. And this is about the point where we're ready to add in more trees. My salt is mostly dried, it's damp in a few areas. But I think it's going to be okay to add in more trees into if there's any leftover salt on there, it can kind of bleed through these trees. So I'm mixing back-up my natural green with just a little bit of Payne's gray and continuing in a watery consistency but maybe a bit thicker than last time. And I'm just stippling in these shapes of trees. This layer is still not the layer that we will be using to create definition. In the defined or trees. This is still a back layer. So as you've got most of the trees down, I'm just looking back through to find out if there's any spaces that look like they have too much salt sticking out and just giving them a little fill in with a pretty green color. So at this point, basically 20 minutes into the painting, it's finally safe to have let things dry off. And we're going to add some stars and the defined trees in the next parts. Hopefully you were able to bear with me. I know that was pretty fast. And trying to keep the paint wet while following along may have been tricky. At your painting, is total badness. Feel free to start over or continue on and take it as a learning curve. Hopefully it's still been fun. But basically you're painting should have some northern lights, some dark sky and the hint of trees, pretty salty background at this point. And we will move on to the next part to take this painting further. 3. Northern Lights (Foliage building): Jump right in and start working on some stars in the sky. I am working with holding artists watercolor, Chinese white. If you have a squash or even a pan white. You can go ahead and use these whites can be tricky to work with. A lot of times I prefer to use masking fluid. But I did just get this new white and I thought it would be a good use to try it out. So I did my brush right in the tubed, grab some and added a little bit of water off to the side. But I'm mostly working in a nice consistency. And I'm just going to start dotting in stars. You don't wanna make these too big. But you want to give them some variants and sizes, some that are smaller. And then you also just want to be careful when dotting that you're not making nice uniformed lines or patterns. Stars are very crazy. And so you want some all close together and some far apart. And it's cool with stars because can just do whatever and everyone will know what they are. I find this process pretty therapeutic. Just letting my hand like the tap down and places and seeing what comes out of it. So I hope you enjoy this part as well. So for a couple of these stars, I want them to have a twinkle and to look bigger. So I'm kind of giving them a tail, little cross shape. This is going to give them the effect of being brighter or shiny in the sky. I'm working with a pretty watered down. It's hard to say exactly what the consistency, but it's not full capacity thickness as I do these lines. So I'm just giving it to all the stars that are already bigger. Okay, so these are looking pretty great. I think I'm ready to go back to the trees, start to give that area more definition. So I've got a size eight round now and I'm continuing with that mixture of Payne's gray in natural green. And now I'm mixing up a consistency that is still not extremely thick. The slayer of trees is close to the front, but we're going to have air over the top. So as you can see as I start to put some down, you can tell that consistency isn't as thick as you might want it to be at this point. But this is just going to help give these trees layer and dynamic. So as I create these trees, I am stippling and leaving space, making them a lot more tree-like instead of the lines that we were doing before. But because they are still background trees, you don't have to focus on them too much. I always run into the problem where I don't mix up enough color. In here, I'm getting a little bit of a darker variation, but it is nice. So I'm adding that just in little stipple. So the ones I already have. So at this point, I notice there are a couple of spaces in the background that I want to fill in just a bit more. I'm going to grab a nice watery consistency in your stipple in filler space. So that the salt and white color isn't quite so sparkle. And so now I'm mixing up some more color and making this a little bit darker and a little bit of a thicker consistency. And I'm going to go back in and create a few more forward trees. Once again, these aren't quite going to be the very few front trees, but they are going to be darker than the password. Hello. Now. So I'm liking where we have this couple more trees in a nice dynamic. I just want to go back to the white and bright enough the stars a little bit. So I'm going to add in a few more. All right, Let's see are the ones that are already existing just by adding a little more white over the top. Once this is all done, we are going to come back in the next video, last video, and work on our front foreground trees and get them on a stark effect and finish off the painting. 4. Northern Lights (Detailing Trees): All right guys, welcome back to the last and final part. I'm just showing you here as I touch my paper that is nice and dry on the bottom. You can see that some of the salt maybe you noticed earlier, made it up into the northern lights and kinda cool star effect. I like that. And it probably would have been cool to do the salt in the sky, four-stars. The first painting I did that was like this. I actually did use salt in the sky, but I used to weigh too much. And it's in my exercise book. And it actually is what started the idea for this all. But I wanted to go with paint for this one. So I have more control. Anyway. We are going to get started on these final trees. I've got a nice mixture of the Payne's green, dark green. I've added a little more of the Payne's gray. So it's a nice darker color and we are going to be working in a thicker consistency. I've grabbed a six brush round for the spinal part, so I have a little more control point, a little bit about going to your tip. And I'm just going to start by drawing in a nice long straight line that I'm going to be working off of. So as I start in stippling away, I hope you can kind of tell from the video just the shapes and the way that this is calling. You don't want to fill it in completely. What you want to leave spaces. Kinds of really cool tree to do because they always have such interesting ways about them, the way the branches come out in, how they're filled with foliage. So together however you would like. Every once in a while I just dip my brush in the water and reactivating the paint. Now as I reached the bottom, I'm just giving the trunk a bit more definition down here. So that tree is good for now. I may add in a little more to the foliage, but for now, we will move on. The second tree is going to be the tallest of them. Just continuing the same process of drawing that straight line down so I know what to work off of. Making sure to leave little gaps places. The reason this process just takes so long. We want to make sure we're leaving the proper amount of space and not making these blocky trees that don't have any definition to them. If we want the detail solely along, make sure we leave space. Yeah. A little bit of filler on the first tree again. As we come to the space for the last tree, I wanted to put it close to slip the most pleasing there, but you can do placing your trees forever. It would look best how yours is already looking. So as I get down to the bottom of this tree, is going to go back through still in any spaces and gaps. Just wanted to give my second tree and nice very defined point and fill in any extra little spaces. So at this point, painting is finished. I hope that you are happy with your results. If you need to continue to fill in trees or whatever, go right ahead. But I hope fun class and let your salt effect turned out super cool. I would love if you share a review or if you're on social media and you want to share it on Instagram, I always love to see the final results. Take care and I'll see you next time around.