Painting Gradient Ombre Skies In Acrylic | Emily Keating Snyder | Skillshare

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Painting Gradient Ombre Skies In Acrylic

teacher avatar Emily Keating Snyder, LA based mixed media artist

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

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Gradient Intro + Demo


    • 4.

      Mixing Your Colors


    • 5.

      Practice time


    • 6.

      Project Inspo


    • 7.

      Taping Your Composition


    • 8.

      Final Painting Fun!


    • 9.



    • 10.

      Share Your Art!


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About This Class

In this fun class we'll create a colorful gradient skyline on canvas using acrylic paint!

Read on...

If you're used to painting with acrylic you'll pick this technique up in no time! And if you're new to acrylic it will just take a bit of quick practice. But creating gradients is actually a perfect way to get started in acrylic as you'll get a real feel for the paint’s consistency and blendability.

This technique can be used for abstract pieces or for any kind of blending you might need in a more realistic painting. For our project, we'll create a city skyline with a beautiful gradient/ombre sky background. I'll show you my tricks to make it easy as (NYC pizza) pie.

Sunny skies ahead!

Meet Your Teacher

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Emily Keating Snyder

LA based mixed media artist


My happiest place is tinkering in the studio. The smell of paint. All the textures of different materials. The satisfaction of trying something new, even (especially) when it doesn’t work. My sketchbook takes the form of a million scraps of paper with more messy notes to myself than actual sketches. In life and in my work, I’m constantly seeking organization, simplicity and order then letting it all go in favor of curiosity and play.

My artwork has been featured on designlovefest, SF Girl By Bay, Parachute Home and Alexandra Gater. Join my email list for 15% off your first art print order. You can sign up and learn more about my work at

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Level: Intermediate

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1. Introduction: Hey, Welcome, Teoh. My third skill share class. My other classes have been a little more in depth and patriots and maybe more time consuming projects. This one's gonna be something you can do pretty quickly, and this is gonna be really fun. One. It's based on a project that I've been doing for a few years. A long running series of city skies that I started when I lived in New York. And what I loved about painting this, guys is that when you live in the city, you just see kind of buildings all around you and just little peaks of the sky on. So in order to emphasize this guy more started making paintings where I would silhouette the city, and so that would kind of fall into the background and the sky would be the main centerpiece. So I'd love to show you how I did that so great for abstract work. You can take it as far as you want to use, you know, tons of colors and that you can just use two or three colors. I make it your own, but I'll show you how toe blend the colors really easily. So this is a great class if you've been doing acrylic for a long time, and you just want kind of a new technique to use. If you are new to acrylic, it will also be a really fun class because it will teach you a little bit about how loco it blends about how fast it drives things like that. So it will definitely help you for other projects, too. So come on and join me and we'll make something cool together. 2. Supplies: Here's what you'll need. Canvas, acrylic paints, paintbrushes, a mixing trey, water, scissors and interesting. I really love the frog tape. Also helpful is palette paper for mixing colors and drawing or acrylic paper to practice your great need. One quick thing about the brushes for the Grady Int project that we're doing. It's nice to have a brush that's not too soft, but also not too firm. So I think this would be too soft. It kind of Ben's really easily and will probably not move the paint around as easily as I would like. And then this one is probably much too stiff because it will be harder to blend the colors with. So brushes like this work really wealthy Zehr? Super cheap. I love using cheap brushes, I think sometimes, depending on the project, they can work the best, uh, these all kind of bend pretty easily, and so they'll smush the pain around really nicely. But they're not so stiff that they'll leave marks or anything like that. When you're picking out your paint colors, make sure one of them is white. It will help you blend the colors and get some different variety in your lungs. 3. Gradient Intro + Demo: Now that we've gathered our supplies, let's talk a little bit more about radiance. So I started using this technique when I was making skies for backgrounds of city skyline paintings that I was doing. And it's something that I just think it's so cool to see because I love color so much, and it's just really nice to see that kind of flowing color. And what I love about using it for a sky is that, um it's this kind of like, fun, imaginative thing. But if you look at a sunset, that really is what it looks like. I mean, maybe the colors or sometimes more or less vibrant. But this is kind of what the sky looks like in nature. So it's it's really kind of a cool thing to paint. So in this piece that I made of, I think it was the inspiration was a photograph from kind of like a Brooklyn backyard. Um, and I started with just blue at the top and then purple in the middle and then kind of more of like a reddish purple at the bottom to make this really like deep purple Lee sunset. So for that, I used ultra marine blue and then a magenta color, and then a Liz Aerin Crimson, which I believe I probably lightened a bit with some white paint. And that's what got that kind of more pastel purple color so you can do greedy int with any colors you like. I find that it's really easy to just when you're starting out, just kind of pick three colors that sort of go together on the color wheel. So blue, purple, red those will go together. And to give you a little more detail about how each of those colors work together in the painting, I'll show you how I mix the colors ahead of time, and this is something we'll do in the next lesson. Um, you'll choose your own colors and will mix up a bunch of them on a pallet so that will be ready to paint them on campus. But for now, this is just kind of intro to show you how I did it for this particular painting, and you could just kind of watch along for now and then do it step by step in the next lesson. So to start, I put a little bit of each kind of Maine solid color out on my palette. And then what I did is I took a little bit of each one and kind of blended them together. So just kind of like spreading these colors out into mawr blended other colors. And this way you'll have it all laid out on your palate so that you can easily just dip into the next color as you're painting. And that way, you you don't waste a lot of time kind of mixing colors and figuring out what color comes next. As you're painting, it's it's all set up right there because you do have to work quite quickly when you're actually painting on canvas. So again, I'm still demo ing this for you in the next lesson will go step by step, and you'll actually start mixing your colors. Once I had the colors mixed into a little tray. Ah, it's a little bit easier to spread out if you use a sheet of palate paper. So I then kind of transferred my colors onto the pallet paper just to show you, I'm gonna practice on this piece of paper and show you kind of how the brushstrokes work and how the blending goes with painting the Grady in so you can start to just get an idea and, um, again, just watch along for now so you'll see the three main colors that I mixed in addition to kind of that light past Ellie Purple, Um, and you see that there's no real distinctive line between all of them. They start to blend together as I move the brush, so that's what we're looking for. So that's basically your introduction. Dig Radiance. Join me in the next lesson and we will start mixing up our colors for our final painting, and you can do it along with me. 4. Mixing Your Colors: you've gotten a look at how I choose my colors for Grady INTs. You can go ahead and take out your acrylic paints and mix up some colors along with me now . So I would like my sky to go from purple to pink toe orange. So I'm gonna mix up some colors to have ready to go for when I am painting on my canvas, and sometimes it's good to split it up. So I know that I want a more purple E magenta, and then I know that I want one that goes more with pink, so I'll take a little bit here. And I can use that to mix with the blue to make more purple, and I'll use this one to mix with pink to make more of a pinky purple. And this is darker than I really want my purple to be, so I'm gonna add a little bit of white. I use a lot of white when I'm painting, um, because I tend to like brighter and lighter colors. But it's also nice, um, as a way to kind of thin your paint eso when you're making Grady INTs, it's good for the paint to be kind of in between consistency. If it's too thick like this just straight out of the tube, it will be harder to blend. Um, the color just won't come out as evenly, but if it's too thin, the color can get a little translucent. And when we go to make our final composition, we're gonna be using tape to block off the skyline. And so we don't want it to be so thin that the pain will bleed under the tape. So it's really important to get kind of an in between consistency. Sort of. I wanted to be like yogurt or like drinkable yogurt, Um, and not like Greek yogurt. So I don't know if that helps at all. So usually to get that consistency, I'll use like a really inexpensive student grade white acrylic paint. In that way, it's just already much thinner. But if you're using something like this, which is a lot thicker, you can always just add water if you're mixing colors. If you want something to be lighter, so easy to transform the white, just a little bit of pigment will totally change that color. So when you're using what you always want to add color to the white rather than adding white to the color. Another tip. When I'm mixing up colors like this, a lot of times, it's easier to just have a few different paintbrushes on hand. Thes aren't the brushes that I'm gonna use to paint, but I like mixing with them. And this way you don't have to rinse off the brush between each color and maybe add a little more white to this just to breaking it up a little bit on. Since I actually don't want such a light color in this case, I am going to add white to the color because they don't want to completely lose all of its depth. They wanted to still be a little bit dark. Your colors don't really need to be perfectly mixed. I mean, if you want the Grady and to be perfectly kind of solid in each color than you dio sometimes it's nice, especially your painting a sky to have a little bit more variation, like if there is a little pop of the magenta or pop of pink in the sky, it might look a little more natural, so we don't need to mix up every single color that will be in the Grady int ahead of time. A lot of that will come in when we're when we're brushing back and forth on the painting, the colors will mix, so you really only need like your three most dominant colors. And in this case, I'll just add some water to this, thin it out a little bit rather than using white to totally lighten it all use this, which is more of like a nude like flesh tone. And there we go. We're gonna do a pretty small canvas today, so I'm gonna go ahead and mix up a little bit more of each of these colors. If you're doing a really big canvas, you want to make sure that you definitely have more than enough paint for each color so that you can cover the canvas and not have to worry about going back and mixing up more. Because once the paint hits the canvas with this kind of technique, you really need to work super fast. And as the paint dries, it becomes a little bit harder to mix, so make sure you have lots of paint ready to go 5. Practice time: It always helps to get a little bit more practice on kind of your rough draft or a piece of paper before you go to the campus just to get a feeling for how the paint will mix. So I start off on one and and then I'll add in the middle of color. Do it here and you'll see that there's orange on the brush so it will kind of mix in here, which is what we want because we don't want it to be like three start colors. We really want them to mix in here, and you can even go like counter to the brushstrokes that you're using. Mix it up a little bit and then even it out this way as you go. If you end up getting like a lot off this color down here that you don't want, you can always just come back in with your orange or whatever your your lower colors and add more and kind of blend them to get and just keep moving up in one direction. Really swift soft strokes. I'm not pushing the brush super hard, just giving it enough of a light touch that the colors will blend, but I'm not moving the paint around that much or making any harsh lines. We'll do a little more of purple if you find that a lot of your bottom color is coming into the middle color and you don't like that, you can just rinse off your brush, get it nice and clean, and then go back in and add more of your middle color. And here, as you're working with your middle color, you can start to extend this color a little bit higher than you want it. Um, and that way, when you add the next color, you can kind of use this as a blending area. And since there's some pinky purple sort of already on the brush, I'll just put it right here and start to blend the two. And then I don't want purple to get back into this area, so I'm going to rinse off the brush again. It's good to get it pretty dry afterwards, uh, so that it doesn't add too much water. Um, and here I want to get more pink up into this purple so I'll just start pushing my brush upwards. And since I'm doing this on paper to so test it out. You'll notice the paint dries really quickly, and so it becomes a lot harder to blend on the canvas. It will. You'll have a little more time to mix because it just won't dry so quickly, and your lines will be more even on the chemistry and the next video. We'll get to laying out our composition and taping off our skyline so that we can get ready to paint. 6. Project Inspo: Okay, so now you've got your colors all mixed, and you've practiced making great on paper. So we're ready to get our composition ready for the final project, which is going to be the city skyline. So for me, like I've talked about, I started this. Siri's living in New York. I've continued it. Now that I live in L. A. I feel like even if you can't always see the exact details in the skyline, you're making or necessarily know what city it is. For me, having kind of the vibe of the city is so important. And I really love cities and especially in New York, it's just one of my favorite places. So painting it, even though it may not come through and the actual look of it, Um, just knowing that it's inspired by a place that I love makes me feel really good. So what I like to do is actually just go on Pinterest and search the city that I want. So you know, you can do your hometown. You can do any city you love in the world, Um, and just kind of search around Pinterest and see what sort of different neighborhoods you see come up and different layouts of skylines and things like that. Uh, I just like looking at kind of like the buildings and the colors. Ah, it all inspires me. And as you're looking at the skylines, you can kind of see the form that your silhouette is going to take when you tape off the building. So in some of them you'll see, there's like a really narrow little cut out of the sky. In some, you can get some really cool shapes if the buildings look a certain way or it's photographed at a certain angle. This one, I think I'm gonna use this one. I really love it. Um, Central Park in the fall. It's just perfect image, and I like how there's a lot of space between the building, so it will really give this guy some time to shine. You'll notice some. There'll be just a small amount of buildings at the bottom and then a huge amount of sky. So that's a cool kind of way you can go with this project. Um, on the other hand, you might find one. You might find images that are mostly of the city and then there's just, like a little peek of this guy at the top. So, um, feel out what you'd like your painting toe look like. And remember, you won't be able to see the details of the city. You'll just be seeing the silhouette. 7. Taping Your Composition: now that we've had a little time to gather some research and inspiration, and you have the skyline picked out that you'd like to use, let's go ahead and tape it off. This part is pretty simple. You can make things that are really, um, much more intricate, like if you have trees or other sort of more organic shapes that are in the skyline, that can be a little bit more advanced. It's also something that you can go back afterwards and paint in. Or there are more advanced ways that I kind of figured out to to cut shapes out of tape on and make them almost like stickers. But today I want to keep it really easy, so we're just gonna do the buildings. And so I'm using this photograph of Central Park, and I really liked how there's a little bit of sky, and I like how the buildings are spaced out so you can really get a lot of sky in between them. But in the photograph, there's a lot more of the foreground and only a little bit of sky. So I am going to in my compass. You kind of put push that down a little bit still have the buildings a little bit lower here so I can get more ingredient and up here so we'll get out our tape with this statement says to keep it in the container. And I actually think that does make a huge difference. I think that's probably one of the main reasons why this works so well is just that you don't get dust or anything on the edges. I do look at my inspiration picture, but more often I just kind of use it as a guideline. And then I make my own shapes as I go. So to start out, we can do it really simple. I'll just put a little piece here. And, of course, since this is, you know, we're using buildings as our subject, they are very straight and level. So you want to make sure your lines are pretty straight, and then I'm gonna come in with my first building, and since you can see at the top the one on the left, um, it is at a little bit of an angle, so that's really easy to do. I'll just take my scissors and cut the angle out So to get that top angle, just gonna eyeball it will be right about here, and then I'll overlap them a little bit. Right now, as you're just starting out, you can just kind of rub the tape down a little bit. We'll go back in and make sure it's really secure leader. And then the next building there is like a small little building in the background that has kind of a step. Look to it, or that might be a few different buildings, so that's a fun one to create. Also, if you have a hard time just cutting straight on the tape, you can at a little pen line to it first. So let's see the building. We kind of wanted to go like this, and that way we have a little guide to cut up, see, and then the next building is pretty simple. It's basically just a rectangle. There is a little bit of an indentation, it looks like at the top, but I'm gonna keep mine really simple, just to the rectangle. It's also nice in these kind of compositions to vary the height and the width of the buildings. Just add a little more interesting to make this one wider than the 1st 1 I did. Then it looks like there's a nice chunk of wide space here, and then the next building comes in that seems to have a few different levels at the top. So I want to cut those in. And then these less little buildings on the right are really low. And I don't want to seem too much like everything just kind of going in this direction. So I'm just going Teoh, make some imaginary buildings and put them a little bit higher up here. The way you see the top of the building is this kind of crooked and rough from the tape so I can go back in if that happens and just cuts a clean piece of tape now to film the bottom part again. Like I said, you could go back in and painted tree. You could cut a piece of tape to make a tree here. Um, I'm just going to keep it really simple and just to kind of straight lines. But I'll do varying heights just so that it seems more like that city look. So if you take a look Now you'll see that the green will actually be all of the negative space and are painting, and all of this will be painted. So if you feel really confident with your brush skills and you feel like you could just paint right over everything without getting into all of this negative space than feel free to do that or if you want a little more security, you can cover all of this with tape, uh, or just kind of tape down a piece of paper here to protect all of this white space that we've made. So I decided I would like to make two paintings so I can hang them side by side and make kind of this long skyline. So I'm going to tape off my second painting now as well. So for this one, I'm kind of just using my imagination. I wasn't really looking at one specific picture, but just kind of had in mind a few different pictures that I had seen of New York skylines on and then kind of making my own pattern as I go. Now that I've got the tape all laid out and I've smoothed it down with my fingers. I'm going to show you the best trick for evening out the tape and making true gets really, really stuck on there, so no paint will get under it if you don't have a tool like this. This is just kind of a plastic clay tools. You can use the back of a pencil. You can use the end of a paintbrush, whatever you have around, and what you do is just rub it along with the edges that will touch the paint. And don't be afraid to push on the campus. It it's not gonna leave a big debt or anything. Just don't push too hard. So we're all set. We've got our composition done. We were paint mixed, and we're ready to make the greedy in. 8. Final Painting Fun!: Okay, so now it is officially time to paint our grading on the campus. So I'm going to go through and just show you my entire process and let you see how I paint and I'll pop in here and there to point out some different tips and tricks to show you. First thing I always do is get my brush wet. Um, so just dip it into the water, and then you'll notice that I'll also use the brush to collect a little extra water and kind of blended in with the paint to thin it down a little bit. So I'll do that from time to time. As I feel out how thick or thin the paint is that I'm working with. Start out with the darkest color, the purple that amusing, and that's gonna go at the top. I always use back and forth horizontal strokes this way. The paint blends really easily, and it's just a quick motion that I can use to start out. I like to fill in the top completely, so I go to each edge and fill it in entirely, and then I'll add a little bit of blue just to give it a little more variation at the top might get more kind of blue and then going into purple. So I'm finishing off the purple section and then I'm going to start adding the more kind of magenta pink, and I started off doing it a little bit below the purple and then kind of picking the color back up towards the purple as they go. Don't worry if it doesn't look perfect right away. You can just go in and make it really messy at first and then go back in with your side to side strokes and even out the color. Now on to painting number two. And I'll show you how I get around the buildings and make that little orange sky. And here I'm going to use the same colors, and I will be doing the exact same process, just starting with that dark purple at the top, feeling that in and then starting to transition. Each new color is I go as you're painting the lower portions where there's tape coming through, where you're kind of painting where the buildings are, make sure you're still keeping that great horizontal line because that where the sky will look natural. It won't look like there's kind of an orange chunk of sky behind one building and then a pink trunk behind other. It's just kind of like the same horizontal sky throughout the background. 9. Untaping: So while the paint still what? I'm gonna go ahead and start removing the tape very carefully. I just lift up where it's loose, and then, um rather than just kind of ripping it off quickly, I do it at a 45 degree angle and I try to be pretty slow. It's fine. You don't have to be super careful with it. It's not gonna like ripped the paint off or anything. Um, it's just nice to go slow toe, help get uneven line. And just to keep things meat, you also want to be really careful when you're pulling off the tape, make sure you just take it off and then put it in a little pile somewhere else because it does have wet paint on it. So you don't wanna end up getting that on the white areas or getting it on your hands and then touching the white areas. You can re use this tape. Uh, you know, it doesn't say sticky forever, but you just stick it onto something plastic or non porous, and then use it again for other pieces. And I actually think this is the funnest part of doing this because you get to see these like, perfect clean lines. And it's just so satisfying now on to UNT aping the second piece and again I just lift the tape off really slowly. Sometimes a bunch of pieces will get kind of stuck together, and that happens. You just have to be, like, really slow with it. And careful, so you'll see. I got a little orange paint. Ah, where I maybe didn't tape the tape down well enough or there might have been some paint stuck to the take. So I'm gonna take my white paint and dust cover over it, and I'll be good to go. Here are the painting side by side. I think it turned out really well. It looks like kind of this ongoing, really bright, sunny sunset, which I really love 10. Share Your Art!: we owe You had the best time in this class and you'll join me for another 12 You can check out all my classes in my profile. I have a great watercolor class collage class, and I'll be bringing more to use it.