How to Paint a Landscape

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Knowing how to paint a landscape can difficult, especially if you have not done it very much! There is never a formula in how to go about painting anything, not to mention a landscape. However, there are certain fundamentals that will help you greatly when applied to painting a landscape. These fundamentals apply to portrait and still life painting just as much as they do to landscape painting.

In this tutorial I will show you the steps taken in creating this landscape painting. This particular landscape in this example piece is from Yorkshire, England. I love the rolling hills in that area of the world.

The hope is that you will be able to learn from this step by step example as I believe that painting is best learned visually. I know from my own experience that I learned the most while watching others paint! So, here we go…

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Outline and Tonal Relationships

The very first thing you need to do (as always) when starting a new painting is to put an underpainting over the canvas to cut its stark white color. Refer to this tutorial if you are unsure as to what I am talking about.

Next, create a brief drawing of what you are painting. I just put down the general architecture of what I was painting. In addition, you can also fill in areas a little more with paint to signify that they are darker (or take away paint if lighter). This helps to create a clear tonality in your painting.

Start with the Sky

When creating a landscape painting you want to try to start with the sky first – this is fundamental #1 when it comes to landscape painting. The light of the sky will determine how the landscape will be illuminated. For example, if the sky is ‘cloudy’ then the land will be cloudy to. It is important for the sky and land to ‘match’ and starting with the sky first will help this.

If you would like more help with painting clouds – refer to the cloud painting tutorial. For the sky to the right I mixed a lot of muted blue colors – the aforementioned tutorial will teach you about this. Clouds can be difficult to paint as there is a lot of subtlety involved when painting clouds.

Next, start to paint the first strip of land that ‘touches’ the sky in your painting. Try to get these two areas to match as much as you can.

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Warm Colors make things feel closer, cool colors things further away

Notice in the painting that the hill on the middle right is bluish in color and therefore cool in temperature. Contrast this with the hill on the left which is reddish and therefore warmer in temperature.

Here is another landscape painting fundamental in action. Objects farther away are cooler in temperature while objects close up are warmer in temperature. You will find this is true when observing landscapes in nature. Paying attention to this fundamental will help you to make your landscape painting have a greater sense of space.

The Middle Ground

Now, it is time to pay attention to the middle ground in the painting. Just like in the sky, you want to each are to match each other. So, in this case, we want the valley to match the hills.

The idea of matching can also be thought of as ‘harmonizing’. You want the colors to all harmonize with each other so that your eye moves fluidly through the painting. To achieve this successfully involves creating smooth transitions. So, the temperature of the ‘green’ valley area in the painting is a similar temperature to the hill it descends from but different enough to differentiate it from the rest of the painting.

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The Foreground

In order to make your foreground stand out from the rest of the landscape you must make the color richer and darker tonally. When you do so it will feel much closer to the viewer and as a result make your painting have a strong spatial element.

Also, it is important to make objects up close with sharp edges and objects further away with soft edges. Soft edges make areas feel further away, while sharp edges make areas feel up close. It is important to look for a variation of edges. The greater the variety of edges the more interesting your painting will be. Get everything you need to know about edges in art here.

The Completed Piece.

When you are wrapping up your painting, pay attention to the ‘big picture’ elements. First and foremost, make sure that there is a clear light structure in your piece.

Take a step back from your piece so that you can view the piece from further away. This way you will be able to see the whole piece at once and notice what changes need to happen.

Check out some more painting tips for your next landscape painting venture!

A Summary of the Important Points

  • Make an underpainting and line drawing on your canvas
  • Start by painting the sky first
  • Warm Colors make things feel closer, cool colors things further away
  • Make the colors of the different areas of your landscape harmonize with one another
  • Make the foreground area darker tonally
  • Edges are sharper in the foreground and softer towards the background

Paint Colors used In this Tutorial available on Amazon

cadmium orange

Elisabeth Larson Koehler creator of art studio life

Hi! I am Elisabeth

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