Creating landscapes : painting skies with watercolor | Sarah Van Der Linden | Skillshare

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Creating landscapes : painting skies with watercolor

teacher avatar Sarah Van Der Linden, watercolor artist & nature enthusiast

Watch this class and thousands more

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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

11 Lessons (50m)
    • 1. Intro

    • 2. Supplies

    • 3. Inspiration

    • 4. 8 ways to paint a sky

    • 5. Tips and recommendations

    • 6. Blue and grey sky (version1)

    • 7. Blue and grey sky (version2)

    • 8. Pink sky

    • 9. Colored sky

    • 10. Finishing a landscape

    • 11. Project time

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About This Class

Hello everyone!

I'm so happy to welcome you in this class about painting skies in watercolor. This class will be focusing on day skies and on how to paint skies than can be part of a landscape.

My name is Sarah and I'm a watercolor artist from France. I really love painting landscapes and creating atmospheres inspired by what I see around me.

In this fun class, you will learn:

  • how to find inspiration
  • what supplies to use
  • 8 different techniques that you can use to paint skies :db377c49
  • how to choose your colors and create color palettes inspired by¬†a season
  • 4¬†step by step paintings :


  • how to add trees to create a whole landscape :b9d859dc

This class is great for beginners, or anyone who want to explore and discover new techniques, or just want to have fun painting skies!

You will find here my others classes about watercolor :

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Sarah Van Der Linden

watercolor artist & nature enthusiast


Hi there, my name is Sarah also known @mirglis on instagram. I’m a watercolor and gouache artist living in the French countryside.


I believe that nature, inspiration and imagination are deeply connected, and for me, creativity is a long road leading to a better observation and understanding of the world. I'm most myself and happier when I'm in a forest or in the middle of nowhere, and that’s why all my inspiration comes from nature. I love painting landscapes with watercolor, playing with water to create textures, and patiently adding one layer after another.


You will find here on Skillshare different classes to learn to paint landscapes with waterc... See full profile

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1. Intro: [MUSIC] Hello everyone. I am so happy to welcome you in this class, about paintings skies in water color. My name is Sarah and I am a watercolor artists from France. All my inspiration comes from nature and landscapes are my favorite subjects. This year I completed the [inaudible] projects that led me to bend a lot of skies. I now have a great technique that I want to share with you today. In this class, I am going to show you how to bend skies and out to convey different atmospheres. I will cover everything from finding inspiration to learning different ways to bend the sky. I will show you all my tips to choose your color palette and create interesting pictures with watercolor. I will also talk about how to adapt to your painting and things to keep in mind. Finally, I will show you how to paint simple pine trees to complement a whole landscape. Your projects will be to create your own sky using all the techniques you learned in this class. I have created a board on Pinterest to give you ideas and inspiration and enqueue getting endured. This class is great for beginners or anyone who wants to learn to paint skies with a simple technique. I am really excited about this class and I will see you in the first lesson. 2. Supplies: First, let's talk about the supplies you will need for this class. You will need watercolor paper. What's matter is not the brand at all, but it needs to be a heavy paper, 300 gram per square foot. Then you will need some paints. We will mostly use pens gray and some blues of course for the sky. You will need some tape, two jars of water. One to clean your brush, and one with clear water. You will need a few brushes; a round one like this one, and a smaller one. If you have one, an upper brush is great and also a tiny sponge. This is a really great tool for painting the sky. You will need some paper towel. That's all. I think you can mostly use what you already have at home and create some skies with it. 3. Inspiration: We can't bend skies without looking at clear once firsts. Where I live, the sky never looks the same each day. Sometimes each hour I observe a difference thing. It can be the shape of the clouds, the colors of the sunrise, or just a surprising texture. Take a minute to look through your window or choose some photos. What are you noticing? What are you feeling? You can observe the colors. Is it blue, gray, or even pink? Is there some wind and gentle breeze? You can also take note of sensations like cold, warm, amazement, surprise. Painting a sky is not always a matter of using the right technique or focusing on tiny details. It's more about conveying an atmosphere. It's about what you feel when you look at it. All of these elements will help you choosing what techniques and colors you want to use. You can also observe the light where it comes from, how it's diffusing, is there an area that is brighter as it includes lighter on the top or at the bottom? Does the texture evoke you something? Observing the sky is a first step before painting it. I'm sure it will give you ideas that you can implement in your watercolors later especially because this is an ever-changing subject. 4. 8 ways to paint a sky: In this lesson, I want to show you different techniques that you can use to paint the sky. What's interesting is that you can combine two or three of these techniques to create a beautiful sky. For this exercise, I will use a blue and a gray. The blue is a cerulean blue and it looks like this, and this is a Payne's gray. For our first one, we are going to do a simple radiant with one color. I start at the top and here I'm using a very concentrated paint. You can see that I'm wetting my brush with paint, straight form the pan. Then I'm just cleaning my brush a tiny bit, and you can see that I'm painting down and carrying some blue with me. The blue is turning paler each time. Then I am rinsing my brush again and I'm going down like this. Now you can see that the blue is very dark and the top and very light at the bottom. You can use this technique to add contrasts when you're painting the sky. For the next one, we are going to do exactly the same thing, but this time with two color, one blue and one gray. I will start with my blue again. I'm doing the same thing as we did earlier. I'm starting at the top with a very concentrated blue, and then I'm rinsing my brush and add a little bit of water. At the bottom I will add some gray. This time I start at the very bottom and I'm painting towards the top. I'm cleaning my brush and I'm painting up. You can see that the gray has started to blend with the water and then with the blue. Now for our next one, we are going to use the wet-on-wet technique. This is one of my favorite technique to create skies. This time, I will wet my paper first with the aqua brush. The goal is just to wet the paper. You don't want to add too much water because you don't want to have any puddle on your paper. I'm starting with my blue again and I'm just coloring to create a round shape on the top and a bit on the bottom. The goal of this exercise is just to show you what you can do with simple techniques. Don't overdo it because the magic will happen when it will dry. It looks good, so now I'm going to add a bit of gray just to darken the bottom. I will also add some drops at the top, just play with the texture and experiment, and don't forget that you won't be able to see the result until all the painting is dry. This is really important, don't overdo it and wait until you can see how it looks. Now, moving on to the next one, we're going to use the same technique, wet-on-wet again. You have to wet your paper first either with an aqua brush or with a brush and clean water. This time, I will use my very small brush. I'm using my blue paint again and I will draw lines starting from the inside, going to the outside. Sometimes when you look at the sky, it's as if there were some lines even there. As if someone has used a brush to paint in the sky. Remember, to always start from the inside and then end to the outside. I will now add a bit of gray. I'm just doing the same thing, enjoying a few lines on the paper. I'm adding a few more lines at the top. This is exactly the same thing than for our previous one, and we have to wait until it's dry to see the result. Don't overdo it and just wait and see. For the next one we are starting with the pens and we will add the water afterwards. I'm using my blue again and my wood bigger brush. You just have to add a thin layer of blue at the top. Don't use too much paint because otherwise it won't work. Just draw out your paint towards the bottom and create a rich shape like a cloud shape. Then with my aqua brush, I'm going to add water. I'm starting below the paints and then I'm adding the water towards the top and I'm just touching the blue paints in the end. You can see that it creates a beautiful cloud texture. As usual, don't add too much water because otherwise you will have something like a puddle on your page and not a cloud. The next one will be a more simple one. We're just going to paint the shape of a cloud. I'm using my run brush and my blue paint again and I'm just drawing the shape of a cloud. I recommend that you hold your brush by the middle or the end and not too close from the tip, because it will help you to create a less perfect shape, a more organic one. In order to create the bottom of my cloud, I'm just touching a tiny bit of water and I'm drawing my shape, and that's it. For our next one we're going to create texture again, but this time we are not going to use water, but our tiny sponge. I will just paint the top of the sky again with blue paint. Now I will use my sponge. The sponge is fully dry. What is great is that, you can use it to create texture on the cloud. If you add a bit more paint on the bottom, you will be able to draw it out. You can see that it creates an interesting texture, a very different one. I'm just using the dry side of my sponge, but if I'm using the other side and just dipping it in the water, I will be able to create a different texture on the top of the cloud. As always, you will be able to see the results when the painting will be fully dry. For the last one, I'm going to create a crude again with this one using paper towel. First, I'm going to paint all my rectangle with my blue. You have to be quick because you don't want your paint to start drying. I'm taking my paper towel and I'm going to crumble it. I will use it to remove some paint by blotting the paper. Remember to be quick because you want to create your cloud before the painting are starting to dry. If you press your paper towel twice at the same place, it will be whiter. Now you have eight different techniques to paint skies. You can use these tips as a reference or as a toolbox, because you can combine these techniques together. For instance, you can use this technique and this technique and create a sky that is a bit magical. Just play with it, experiment and often. In the next few videos, I'm going to show you how you can combine these techniques and I think you will understand better what I mean. 5. Tips and recommendations: [MUSIC] In this lesson, I want to give you a few tips and recommendations that will help you to paint your skies. First, for painting the shape of the clouds in a loose way, I would really recommend that you hold your brush very far away from the tip, like this. It will prevent you from drawing a neat shape. The shape will be more organic than if you hold it close to the tip like this. Let me show you what I mean. You can see that if I hold my brush close to the tip, I will paint a more perfect and detailed shape, and my clouds won't look very natural. It would be odd to let my mind wander if I'm so focused on what I do. Now, if I'm holding my brush far away from the tip, I will be able to do something random and loose. I will also paint quickly, because I will be able to do bigger movements. The shape now looks more natural and organic. Remember, to hold your brush very far away from the tip. The second thing I want to talk about is colors. I would recommend that you use colors that aren't too flashy. Both of these blues are the same, but if I use the colors straight from the pan, it will be really concentrated and a bit too flashy but if you add water, the color will be diluted and softer, and your sky will look more real. It's exactly the same thing if you are using gray or pink, don't choose the pigment straight from the pan, always add a bit of water to dilute it. I would also recommend that you don't overwork your painting. You don't have or need to add too many details. Since we are going to add a lot of water, we won't be able to see the results until the painting is fully dry. I would say that for printing sky, lesser is better. The last thing I want to talk about is that it's important that you leave some white space and that you don't paint all over your page, because otherwise it will be too much and too crowded, especially if you want to add pine trees or mountains after that. Let me show you what I mean. I'm going to use this painting as an example. You can see that I leave some white space here at the bottom of my clouds, because I wanted to paint hills and the white is a great way to add some depths to my painting. There is also white here on the clouds. It feels like my painting is breathing and the sky is light, so don't add too many colors everywhere. Now, that we talk about supplies and theory, it's time to start painting some skies. I will see you in the next lesson. 6. Blue and grey sky (version1): Our first sky will be a blue and gray sky. If I use a chart we did earlier, I will use this technique. I will add paint first, then water and this technique is a wet on wet one, because I want to add a bit of gray. We will use the same two colors as earlier. That is to say the Cerulean blue and the Payne's gray. I will use my big long brush and my blue. I'm going to fill my paper with blue paint and I'm going to keep some white large areas. I am also going to leave some white space at the bottom because I don't want my sky to feel too crowded. I am not thinking too much about what I'm doing, I'm just adding a lot of blue on my paper. I will add water with my aqua brush in the middle here and remember, if you don't have an aqua brush, you can just choose a brush and Clear water. I start by filling the middle of the cloud first and then I touch the edges where the blue paint is and I will do this for every white space on the page. So now that there is water everywhere, I will add some gray and draw some line just as we did in the exercise earlier. Remember to start drawing the lines in the middle of the page and then going to the outside. I think my sky will be more interesting if there isn't only one color, but two, the gray will add a nice contrast. Now I will use my sponge and clear water. Don't use a jar where you clean your brush because the water is a bit Blue and Grey already and it won't be the same. Just softly dipping at the middle of the paper in the center of the clouds. Don't add too much water, otherwise you'll have a puddle on your paper. You can see here that I've added too many water, so I will have to remove it. You can see that it has already begin to create interesting texture. I will use my water brush to add a bit more water and to create a more precise shape. I can also add a few drops of water in the middle and on the top. When you look at the cloudy sky, it's very similar everywhere. Usually you can see a bit of texture here and there and the cloud seems to be soft and it's this texture I want to create here by adding more water. Your painting needs to stay wet during the entire process, so that means you have to paint quickly. If you notice some places where there is too much water, you can remove it by using either your water brush, or your paper towel. I think that my clouds are a bit too big on the page, so I will add a bit more gray on the clouds. I'm painting some lines again, just as we did earlier. You can see that the gray has already started to bleed in the paper. I will add a few more lines on the side and remember to start in the middle and then go towards the edges. I think I like the sky better now. To finish, I will add a bit of water here and there. The goal is not to do exactly what I do, you just have to experiment and remember to keep some white space for the clouds. You just try adding a bit of gray, a bit of blue, a bit of water, and see how it reacts on the paper. Remember that you won't be able to see the results until your painting is fully dry. 7. Blue and grey sky (version2): Now I want to show you how I paint the sky, my favorite way to paint a sky. This time we are going to combine this technique and this one because they look really, really great together. We would still be using the Cerulean blue and Payne's gray. I will use my sponge and I will wet my paper. I will do this at the beginning and then at the end. I'm not wetting my paper completely. I'm just adding water here on the top to create the random shape of a cloud. With my one brush and my blue, I'm going to draw clouds and I'm starting just on top of the water. You can see that the paint is starting to spread when it touches the wet paper while the shape is well-defined when the paper is dry. Remember to hold your brush in the middle of the handle and not too close to the tip. I will keep some white space at the top and the bottom of my paper. Now, I will add some gray a bit over here and a bit at the bottom too. As always, don't think too much about what you are doing. Painting a sky is more about creating an Atmosphere than painting little and accurate details. I'm also adding a few drops here and there on the paper. I will repaint just the sky. I mostly paint landscape and the sky is one element of it. I like to keep white space at the bottom to a tree or hills or something. Now, I will add some water with my aqua brush. I'm just doing this at the bottom. You can see that a few drops of water is pushing the paints and it creates the shape of a clouds in the cloud itself. This is a really great technique to paint the sky because you don't have to work too much on it. I'm going to add a bit more water here. I love the texture it's creating. I don't know if you can see it on the video, but there is a small puddle of water. With my sponge, I'm going to remove it. If you are painting a landscape, you can let this white space here, otherwise, you can paint another cloud when your first layer is drying. I just want to add a bit more water here and there and the sky is done. Now, we have to wait until it's fully dry to see the results. This sky is not a realistic one, but more a stylized one and it can be a great addition when you are painting a landscape. 8. Pink sky: For this new sky, we are going to use this technique, a gradient with two colors and this technique, the paper towel blotting. This time, we are going to use some more fun colors. I have an opera rose here, and still the cerulean blue that we used in our other paintings. This time, I will use my flat brush. Starting with my blue again, I'm going to paint the top of my paper first. I'm just adding some blue. I'm just painting a flat tint. Nothing fancy. I'm just applying my blue the more regularly possible. Now I will add a bit more water to create the gradient. You can see that I'm just going back and forth with my brush. I just want my blue to be paler and lighter. Now, I will add my pink starting at the bottom and moving slowly towards the top. Now I'm using my brush to add a bit of water. Remember that in order to use our paper towel, we need the whole painting to remain wet. I am going to add a bit more blue at the top and a bit more pink there. It's okay if the two colors blend a little, it's going to create a lovely shade of purple. Now, I'm taking my paper towel and I crumble it and I'm starting to create my cloud by blotting the paper gently. As always, you don't have to think too much about what you are doing. The goal is just to create a random fluffy shape. The most important thing is just to operate quickly. My goal here is just to create one big cloud that is going to cover all my paper. I want to add some whiter areas that's why I'm pressing my paper again. The more paint you remove, the more white your cloth will be. This is quite a funny technique because this time we are not adding paints but rather lifting it out with our paper. I'm just adding two lighter clouds on the top and the bottom just to add a bit of this. You can have fun with this one because the technique is pretty easy. All you have to do is play with it and create a fluffy cloud. I think it's starting to be pretty great and now our pink sky is fully done. 9. Colored sky: With this last guide, I want to show you that you don't have to always use realistic colors. You can also follow the seasons. For instance, if you want to print a Spring landscape, you can use a bit of pink. Sorry, my pink is light, and why not a bit of green? For Summer, you can also use some green and for Autumn, you can add a bit of ocher and a bit of brown, and for winter you can use some brown, and because the nights are very long, you can also use a very dark blue. Let me show you a few examples. I want to paint a sky inspired by Autumn. So we will use this four colors; sap green, ocher, burnt timber and indigo. Using my tiny sponge again, I'm going to wet my paper, just as we did earlier with the blue and gray sky. I'm just wetting a certain area of the paper, but not all of it. Since I want to append an Autumn sky, I will start with my ocher. I'm just drawing some clouds a bit randomly, and I'm adding paint just above the wet area. Now I will add a bit of brown, and what's interesting is that you can use the color of your own landscape. If you plan to add some trees here, for instance, you can use some brown, but you can also use some green. You can use that same green in your sky, and that's what we are going to do. I'm using my sap green and I want to create a really warm atmosphere. Brown ocher and green radius of chorus of Autumn. I am adding just a few tiny drops to create a whimsical atmosphere. I notice that it has already started to dry, so with my tiny sponge I will add a bit more water. Now I want to add a bit more green again. I don't want my sky to be symmetrical, so that's why it's the tiny drops of water are great to separate the left spots from the right spots. Because it's a sky, I will add a bit of the glue. Autumn days can be really gloomy and radical too. This blue will be a great way to suggest that feeling. I am just doing what I did for the green painting, the random shape of a cloud on the top and adding a few drops at the bottom. You can see that when I add a new color, I always try to add it on top of zeros or ones. Now, I will add a bit of water; I'm pretty sure you know, that I love doing this by now. I added a bit too much, so I'm using my sponge to remove the excess water. I try not to press too hard on the water brush because I want just tiny drops, not big drops. Painting that skies is really about creating an atmosphere, and you can really have fun with the colors. I recommend that you use four colors, at the most, but not more. Remember, that the magic happens when the painting is drying. You can see right now how it will look at the end. I think it looks pretty great, so I'm going to leave it like this. I really love painting that skies because I can follow the season and create the atmospheres I want. I hope you will have fun experimenting with all the colors that are outside in nature. In the next video, I'm going to show you how to add trees at the bottom of your landscape to finish it. 10. Finishing a landscape: In this final video, I want to show you how you can add some trees at the bottom of your sky to finish a landscape. If you want to learn more about how to paint pine trees, my previous class covers all I know. I will use my one brush and the gray we used earlier to paint the sky. Basically, a fair tree is made of a triangle for the foliage and the line for the trunk if you want to paint one. I start by drawing my line first, and then with fine brushstrokes, I paint the foliage towards the bottom of the paper. You can now picture the triangle shape. I have to be quick because I don't want my first tree to start drying. I'm doing the exact same thing for the second tree, first, I drew a line for the trunk, and then I paint the foliage. I will paint another one here, my sky was not dry. You can see that my trees have different sizes, some are smaller and some are bigger. By painting this tree, I want to show you that your sky look difference, which you add some landscape elements. Here is the trees are great way to add contrasts and depth to these paintings. You can see now why it's important to leave some white space, because the trees are really standing out. I want to add some more trees, and this time I will use my small brush. I also want to use some more concentrated paint, so I will use the gray straight from my pan here. You can see that the Grey is really darker. My first layer of trees is not dry yet and my gray is blending with the first layer. I don't want my trees to be regularly spaced, so I'm adding my new one in the middle of the older ones. Using this dark gray is perfect to add some more depths and contrasts. I will add another one just at the edge of my painting, and I want this one to be even more dark than the other ones. You can see now that our sky looks difference after adding some trees. It's one piece of a whole and the gray is what links both parts. This was a quick way to show you are completing a landscape. You can also paint some mountains or hills if you want, it's up to you. 11. Project time: There are a thousand ways to paint the sky and this class is about giving you ideas to start creating your own. Your project will be to create one sky or multiple ones using the techniques you learned in this class. You can use variety colors like blue or gray, or invent your own palettes inspired by season. You can also go to Pinterest to get inspiration from the rod [inaudible] I created, especially for this class with photos and paintings. You can find the link in the project section of this class and make sure to upload your projects, because I can't wait to see you skies. Thank you so much for joining me in this class. I hope you are ready to paint a lot of skies. If you want to see any of my future classes, please click the follow button upon this video and have fun.