Northern Lights in Watercolor - Step by Step | Trupti Karjinni | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Northern Lights in Watercolor - Step by Step

teacher avatar Trupti Karjinni, Artist, Paintmaker, Entrepreneur

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

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

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Studying the inspiration picture


    • 4.

      Prepping our paints


    • 5.

      Taping the paper


    • 6.

      Painting the first layer


    • 7.

      Painting the second layer


    • 8.

      Splattering the stars


    • 9.

      Horizon details


    • 10.

      Masking tape peeling tips


    • 11.

      Final thoughts


  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

One of my dearest wishes is to watch the magical Northern Lights. Until that happens, I dream of them by painting them! Come, paint a stunning night sky of dancing Northern Lights and glimmering stars with me today. I've broken the class content into easy, manageable steps for beginners in watercolors, yet there are techniques for the experienced artist too!

We will learn several important concepts like how to use values successfully, and gain mastery over the wet-in-wet and blending techniques. Are you ready? Let's dive in!

If you like this class, please leave a review that will help this class reach more students.

If you'd like to purchase my Blue Pine Arts handmade watercolors, you can find us on Etsy and Instagram as "BluePineArts".



Class music credits - Summer Vibez by Triple I & Kumkeys @triple-i
Music provided by Free Music for Vlogs

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Trupti Karjinni

Artist, Paintmaker, Entrepreneur



Hey there! I'm Trupti Karjinni, an artist and creative entrepreneur based in India. I wear the hats of a Painter, Paintmaker and Educator.

I am the creator of Thrive With Trupti, a reimagined online membership where I teach watercolor enthusiasts like you the skills and mindset you need to create confidently.

I'm also the Founder of Blue Pine Arts where we make our world-renowned handmade watercolors, sketchbooks and other art supplies.

I live in the idyllic town of Belgaum with my husband, Nahush and my cat master, Satsuki.

Although I work with many mediums, ... See full profile

Level: All Levels

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Intro: Hey guys, I'm Trumpti [inaudible] from Watercolor Girl and welcome to my code sketchy class. This here is Sanscritmp, my class and [inaudible] companion and my Studio Assistant, alright, there you go. [inaudible] and designer based in the Gulf India India, and I'm also the founder of Blue Paint Arts, a company that makes hand-made artisan and watercolors, and other art supplies. So today's class is all about beating the beautiful modern lights, also known as honorably reality's development favorite subjects to be in more colors, and I cannot register my techniques with you. So I've broken the entire class down with easy manageable steps; I'm going to walk you through every single step, right through prepping your bins, to understanding how to use the different dorms, and different colors to make a successful reading. So at the end of the class, just like that; you're going to have a stunning fees of dancing lights in the night sky. So hope you're as excited as I am to get started, let's jump under the next segment where we can now take a look at the art supplies we're going to use, and then we'll just dive right into the class. 2. Supplies: In this video, we're going to talk about all the suppliers that I've used in today's class. Now don't worry, you don't have to have the exact same supplies that I have. You use whatever you have that is similar. Today I'm using Fabriano artistical 100 percent cotton cold-press, 300 years and people. Now this is an artist grid paper and I always recommend 100 percent cotton paper because it has the ability to soak in multiple layers of wet and wet washes, which we're going to be using in today's class. But even if you don't have our discrete paper, make sure that you're using at least 300 GSM and cold-press even if it's a certain grid paper, because 300 GSM paper will have enough thickness to handle the multiple layer of water that we are going to be using, and cold press because it's going to have that texture to hold the water and to help you spread your paint evenly. I'm using it to inch hockey flush to read my paper evenly at the beginning and for the second layer. I'm going to use a half-inch Daler Rowney amplifying brush. This is a synthetic branch which I'm going to use to be in most of my painting, which is the northern lights and the night sky. Then, I'm going to move on to a size six Kolinsky disable brush to paint the horizon details like the distant mountains, but you can use a smaller brush for this tube. Then at the end I have an old synthetic brush, which I'm going to use splatter white stars on my night Skype. But again, you can use any brush you took. As for the paints, I'm going to be using five different colors to paint the Northern Lights today. The first one is Blue Pine Arts Phthalo Green blue shade, which is a beautiful color green to paint the green parts of Northern Lights. The next one is Winsor Newton Phthalo Turquoise which also will be used to paint parts of the Northern Lights. The next three, that is the Sennelier Indathrone Blue, Windsor and Newton's Indigo and Van Gogh Payne's Grey, will be mixed together to create the dark blue for a night sky. When I bought my paints and have fun, like you can see over here, I usually organized them in my Blue Pine Arts Travel Tin Pallete but you can see on the right side. I love having this Travel Tin Pallete because it keeps my paints organized. Then I can also take them with me when I'm traveling. I'm going to use two ways to paint the glamering stars of the night sky today. First, I'm going to splatter them using this white studio brush. Then I'm going to fill in with a few more stars using this Uniball Signo Gel Pen CreamWhite. instead of using my regular flat ceramic plate as my mixing pallate, today, I'm going to use a ceramic dish, which has three separate wells and each well is going to hold a different color that I'm going to use into this painting. You'll see what I mean by that when we go to the section that I teach you how to prep your pens before we start painting. As long as you have any palette that has different wells to hold different colors, you're good to go. I have a few inspiration pictures here that I've downloaded from this amazing royalty-free website called Unsplash. The picture on the top is the one that we're going to use as inspiration for today's class. You can find these pictures in the project section that I've uploaded them for you. I'm using the simple white foam board as a backing for my watercolor paper. Today my paper to the board, I am using this roll of masking tape. Then I'm going to use a couple of paper towels to dab excess paint or water from my brush. I always use to glass jars of water when I paint with watercolors. One of them is to wash all the paint from the brush and other one is to just pick up a lot of clear water on my glass when I need to blend my colors. Alright, now that you've seen all the supplies, are you pumped up and excited for the class? Let's get started. 3. Studying the inspiration picture: All right, let's look at our inspiration picture. So we have beautiful northern lights dancing in the sky, and then we have a small line of mountains, and the lights are reflected in the lake. Now, to create a northern lights painting successfully, I need to know how to use my values and what colors to use. Now, what I mean by values is the different shades I get from the colors by varying their strengths. If you want to know more about how to use values successfully in your paintings, I suggest you take my [inaudible] and monochrome class. I talk about values and how to use them more in depth in that class. When we look at this picture, we want to use the lightest values to show the light dancing in the sky, and we need to use the darkest values to show the night sky around it. So that creates a perfect contrast between the light value of the northern lights and the dark night sky. All right? We're going to use values in different colors today. I'm going to be using a light-valued Thalo green, a light-valued Thalo Turquoise for the dancing lights, and then I'm going to be using a very dark value of a mix of paints of indigo, Indanthrone blue, and paint gray. So that mixture is going to create a dark value for the night sky. Let's jump into the next section and prep our colors first. 4. Prepping our paints: First, let's go ahead and prep our colors. What I mean is that, we need tools of the colors that we're going to use, because we're going to be using wet on wet technique largely in this painting, and we don't want to go back and forth between a pan of paint. It's always a good idea to have our colors ready to go before we start with the ready-made background. I have my half band of blue pine art phthalo green, and I'm going to use phthalo green for some of the Northern sections over here. I have my dealers only half inch flat brush. I am going to get some water in this and trap this color and pull it out in one of the belts. What I'm doing is just getting the color ready to go when I need it. Our phthalo green is ready and I'm almost running out of all of these colors in my half band, so time to top up. We have a phthalo green, blue shade ready to go. The next color I'm going to get is the teletop voice. This is the Winsor Newton telecom voice. Just going to put a lot of water in this and drag the color out and have it ready to go in this band, and gorgeous color, isn't it? Beautiful. Eventually we are going to be mixing both of these colors. Let's not worry about that just yet. Next color I want to get ready is the color for this dark sky. Now, I've got three dark valued colors to mix the color for this dark sky. One of it is the endometrium blue by scenario. The next one is indigo by Winsor Newton and then Payne's gray by Van Gogh. All I'm trying to do is just get a color dark enough to get the night sky. I'm going to get a generous helping of this scenario. Indonesian law, which is a beautiful, dark midnight blue, is one of my favorite dark blues. I'm getting quite a bit of it in there because I do not want to run out of this mixture especially, also make sure that you don't have a ton of water, especially for the night sky mixture. Because we're going to be using a dark value of this first, we're going to be using lighter value of these two colors. The next color I'm going to mix is the indigo, which is a dark value, mixed colors in itself, but the reason I'm not using it on its own is that it dulls out a lot. The next one I'm mixing in here is being screen. I feel like a chemist right now. Getting different mixes of colors. I've a scrap of paper, just going to bring it in and test these colors out, and yeah, that's dark enough color for the night sky. Tests our other colors, so this is my tailored to acquire. It's a wonderful color to paint this section of northern lights. Then we have our Lou Fine Arts taylomp green, blue shade, just such a beautiful color. See that, perfect. You can see how, even though these three colors are different from each other, you can see that this color is a darker valued color as compared to these two which are lighter in value, and I'll show you what I mean in just a moment. 5. Taping the paper: First, let's tape our paper to the board. I have my masking tape. I'm measuring it out and taping it all around the border. Using masking tape to tape your paper to a backing board does two things. It first prevents your paper from buckling when you put multiple layers of wet washes on it, like we're going to do today, and the next thing it does is it gives you a clean, nice white border for your painting. Once I'm done taping, I'm going to run my thumb around the tape just to make sure that we don't get any bleeds under it. 6. Painting the first layer: We're ready to start painting our Northern lights. But before we start, I want you to take a deep breath, relax, and let go of all control that you think you're going to have in this because we're going to be using mostly wet-in-wet technique. You're not going to have complete control over how the paint spreads, where it goes, and that's completely okay. There is no wrong way of painting the Northern lights. Let go for all expectations, take a deep breath and get ready to let loose and have fun. We have an inspiration picture ready beside us. We have our Tolman gradient swatches ready of the colors that we're going to use. We're going to set that aside, have it in front of us still. I'm going to bring in my two inch hockey brush. I'm going to dip it in my jar of clean water and let the fun begin. I'm laying down a wash of clear water on my paper, I'm going to spread it around, making sure that the water is covering the entire paper and I don't have some blind dry spots. Make sure that you don't have a sloppy layer of water on this. It should be wet. You should have a nice shiny sheen on the paper, but it shouldn't have so much water that your water is pulling in the dips in the paper. Now I'm going to dip my brush in. The first thing I'm going to paint, as you always do in watercolors, is you walk from the lighter value to the darker value. The first thing I'm going to paint is the lighter value element in my piece, which is the northern lights and the reflection of it in the water. Then we're going to come up with the darker valued night sky color. I have my half inch [inaudible] Aquafine brush. I'm going to pick in some of that telegreen, I'm going to bring in my scrap piece of paper, test the color out, and let's go in. I'm not trying to control where the color goes, I'm just trying to let loose and have fun. I'm also going to bring in some clear water and then just try it around here. Then I'm also going to paint a reflection into water. I'm going to spread it all around here at the bottom, and I'm just going to spread the paint. We've spread the lighter value telegreen. Now let's bring in the turquoise to complete this part and I want to blend in the trailer turquoise with telegreen. I have made sure that I have given a shape to my northern lights because they usually come in these boiling shapes in the night sky and we want to mimic that. There we go. I'm also going to lift some color off. Now before my paper dries, I'm going to be quick with my darkest value of the color and then we're going to paint the night sky. Just grab some color on your brush, go in with some bold, sweeping strokes and you can see the northern lights taking shape just like that. Do you see that? What I'm trying to do is paint negatively around the lighter value of the northern sky. I'm just filling in that negative area, this dark midnight blue, and then to give the shadow for the leg, I'm going to grab this floor and then come across with these sweeping movements, but leave this area untouched. Wipe out the excess paint on my tissue paper, and now I'm going to wash the color off, damp in my brush and then just blend it. If you want to learn how to blend colors like this, I also cover that in my monochrome mystifying landscape class. Make sure you check that out. One more thing that we're going to do is have your dump brush and just click this dark themed domantas, but I'm also going to make sure that I don't overwork this piece too much, I don't want to do that. I just want to get some nice blends. There you have it, this is your night sky. We're going to let this dry first before we do anything more with this piece. I'll see you in the next segment where we probably have to come back in and do another layer just to get the darks of the night light. 7. Painting the second layer: Now that the first layer has dried, you can see that some of the colors have dulled down compared to when they were wet, especially this blue over here. That's okay. That happens in watercolors. What we have to do is come back over this layer again and then darken these blues. We're going to do all of that using the wet-on-wet technique again. I'm going to prep my colors, my dark blue, using the same three colors as before, but I'm just using a more concentrated mix of each of these. I'm getting some of that end and turn blue, that indigo, and pains gray and I'm mixing it all up. Remember, the consistency has to be much thicker now. I'm going to bring in my two inch hacky brush and I'm going to dip it in clear water. Observe carefully that you have to be very light handed with this brush soaked now. You spread the water across the paper very lightly. Don't scrub it on the paper because then the underlying paint over here is going to come off. Be very light handed with this stroke of clear wash. I'm going to bring in my half-inch flat brush and startling the blue color in the night sky. You can see how much darker the color has gotten. I'm just going to spread it across in all the blue areas in the previous layer. You can see now that we have a perfect contrasts between the lights and the darks. Now when you're doing this second layer, make sure that you do not over work this piece. You want to protect the lighter values of the northern lights. Make sure that you're not spreading the dark blue paint around too much. I love what's happening in that corner over there too. I love that beautiful swirl of blue. I'm just placing my Blues around my Northern Light and being very careful. I'm going to wash off my two inch flat brush. I have my paper towel ready, I'm going to dab it. Get a damp brush, and then blend color again. Again, when you're blending the color, be very light handed, like swooshing movements. Then the last thing you can do is grab some of that concentrated blue, like so. Then bring it on top of the paper and flick it downwards into the Northern Lights. That is just going to give you a smoother blend. Look at that. So beautiful. It's perfect. I absolutely love how this piece is turning out. I hope you're just as happy as I am at this stage, when I see my piece coming together. I'm not going to mess about with this. I think we are done with the second layer. We have a perfect contrast between the lights and the darks, as you can see. I do not want to mess about with this more, remember with wet-on-wet, less is more. In the next section, we're going to paint the mountains and we're going to splash in some of the stars. See you in the next segment. 8. Splattering the stars: Now that the second layer of paint has dried, it's time to draw the glimmering stars of the night sky. To do that, I'm going to use two things. First, I'm going to use my gouache, so this is the Pebeo permanent white studio gouache. I'm going to flip this gouache paint in little splatters all over this. To do that, I have this really old synthetic brush from Van Gogh. I'm also going to use my unit ball signal, creamy white gel pen. We're going to use both of these, but you can use whatever. You can also use acrylic white paint to do your splatters. That's totally fine. You could also use Dr. Ph. Martin's B to splat for this. That's also a great way to go about with splattering your stars. Have a dollop of white paint in the ceramic bowl, and I'm not going to dilute it too much, just a little bit of water. Load of my brush with thick white paint. I'm going to take a piece of paper towel and cover my lake area because I don't want stars all over my lake. That's good. Then with my loaded brush, I'm just going to lightly start tapping it. Then you're going to see stars appear in the sky. I don't want to overdo it. I don't want too many stars, so I'm just going to stop now. I'm going to use my gel pen. Then maybe, add a few stars, if I feel the need for it. Just going to get a few more stars in. Then I'm going to stop and let this layer dry. In the next section, we're going to paint the horizon details. 9. Horizon details: While our stars are drying, let's go ahead and paint these mountains right over here at the horizon. It's going to give our northern lights space a little more definition. Now to do that, I have my size six Kolinsky Sable brush, and I am going to grab my paints gray because it's mostly black. I'm going to get some of that on the side here. But again, I need a dark value of this, so I'm going to get ready to paint out. I want to dab some of that excess paint from my brush because I really don't want to overload it. Then let's go ahead and start painting our horizon elements. I'm going to place my horizon over here, and using the tip of my brush, I'm just going to go across looking at Madison's picture. Not a lot of detailing over here, just some distant mountains. What I'm going to do is draw the outline of the mountains. Then using the tip of my brush, I'm just going to leave some of the areas blank to suggest these snow on the mountains. You can also use a smaller brush for this if you want. Then I'm going to use very light value of the steel blue and maybe some of this inter-drawn blue, then go back into some of the mountains. Just these tiny details that are going to add more definition to a distant mountain elements. Maybe we can go little bit darker. Now that this layer of mountain has dried, I'm just going to go in with a slightly darker value and then just add details on the mountain just to make them look a little bit more realistic. Some more strokes, add some dots. We have added the details of a mountain. Now it's time to wrap up the painting and take the masking tape off. Then of course, design the artworks. 10. Masking tape peeling tips: Using really simple steps and with the understanding of how to use the right values with different colors, we have successfully painted a beautiful landscape with the dancing Northern Lights. We also achieved the look of reflection in this lake. Then we went ahead and painted a few details on the horizon. It's time to take the masking tape off. It's one of my favorite parts. It always get questions on how I take my masking tape off without managing to rip surface of the paper. There are a couple of factors that go into it. First of all, make sure that your paper is actually professional artist creed watercolor paper, because that helps. Whenever I use artist creed paper, it never rips off. But if your paper isn't cooperating, then you just take your hairdryer, give it a blast of heat and then when you're pulling the masking tape off, make sure you're pulling it at an angle, like how I'm doing right now. That helps in not ripping the paper when you're peeling the masking tape. Superb, so our artwork is finally ready, but there's one last touch to add and that is signing the artwork. I always encourage my students, you guys are artists now because you've successfully completed this class. Go ahead and take a fine detailing brush, whichever brush you prefer. I have my Princeton John number two. I'm just going to take a dark value paint, which is my Indian turn blue here. I'm going to sign my name off at the bottom. When you're signing your name, do it with a flourish, do it with some pride and happiness because you have just made a beautiful artwork. There you have it. You have a fabulous piece of Northern lights in front of you and you completed it with a few simple steps. I cannot wait to see all the beautiful Northern lights that you guys are going to paint. Because of the read and write nature of this. Reading my approach savages took everybody's Northern Lights are going to look different and unique in their own ways. So go ahead and look up some reference pictures online, get inspired, painting Northern Lights and upload them in the project section. I honestly cannot wait to see your works. 11. Final thoughts: Hi again. I hope you found my approach to painting northern lights easy and manageable. I've covered several important watercolor techniques in this class which you can go ahead and apply to any other subject in watercolors. Also, if you like this class, please leave a review. It means a lot, and I hope to see you in the next class. Until then, happy painting in watercolors.