How to Paint Landscapes

How to Paint a Landscape

Learn how to use a reference photo, block in your lights & darks to create your shapes, add highlights to turn your 2D shapes into 3D, and how to have fun experimenting with color!

Materials used: Reference Photo, 5x7 Canvas Panel, Gesso, Acrylic Paint, Square Brush (my preference, you are welcome to use a round brush), Parchment paper to mix your paint on (I clip mine to a clipboard) and of course a pencil! 

Step 1 - Choosing your Reference Photo

Choose a photo of a landscape you want to paint (try and take your photo if you can). The photo does not have to be anything fancy; I took this photo on my phone while in the passenger seat. 

Step 2 - Preparing your Reference Photo 

Crop the photo using the rule of thirds. Notice I have my mountain peak hitting close to one of the four central intersections.

**If our composition is not correct, to begin with, our painting will already be ruined from the start! As a beginner, I HIGHLY recommend sticking to the Rule of Thirds when setting up your landscape. Once you become more comfortable with the composition you can start to break the rule. 

Step 3 - Prime Canvas & Sketch in the Landscape

Prime your canvas using Gesso and Burnt Sienna. Then I lightly sketch in my main objects. For this one, I only needed the outline of my mountain range.

*Beginner Tip - lightly mark with your pencil the rule of thirds on the edges of your canvas to help you draw in your landscape. This gives you a guideline while you are placing your main objects.

Step 4 - Blocking in the Sky & Clouds

What do I mean by blocking in? Blocking in means laying down your general colors and shapes. At this stage, I'm only concerned with laying in where my clouds will be verses sky.

I will come back later to add definition with highlights and shadows. Having my mountain range lower on the canvas creates a lot of sky area, which can be boring if we do not fill it with a beautiful blend of sky and clouds.

Step 5 - Blocking in your Light Value

Start to block in your landscape with your lights and darks. Don’t get caught up in details right now. I start with my lighter value first (pale green color) and block in the general shape of the mountain.

It is essential to know where the sun is hitting your landscape because that affects where you lay in your lights and darks. My sun is coming from the left corner. After I finish the light value, I can move on to my dark value for my shadows. 

Step 6 - Blocking in your Dark Value

To make the mountain look three-dimensional, I need to add the dark value to the back side of my mountain where the light is not hitting as intense.

Step 7 - Adding Highlights 

Now that we have the general shapes blocked in, we can come back and start adding highlights to help turn our forms from two-dimensional to three-dimensional!

I went back to my clouds with almost a pure white to add highlights to the top of my clouds. The bottom of your clouds will hold the darker values. Notice how these clouds suddenly went from a flat shape to a three-dimensional form? 

After I added highlights to my clouds, I needed to do the same with my mountain. Notice my highlights on the mountain are a blend of yellow, pink, light green and light purple. Have FUN with adding highlights and experimenting with the color! 

**I will come back to both of these areas with more lights and darks. 


How are you doing so far? Comment below with what step is the most challenging! 

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