Skip to main content

How to Paint a Landscape

Landscapes don't move and they have natural lighting, so painting one is easy and fun for beginners.


  • Step 1: Choose your paint Choose if you want to work in oil, acrylic or watercolor. Whatever you decide, choose the appropriate paints for your medium.
  • Step 2: Get a filbert brush Leave all of your brushes at home except for a single filbert brush. As you progress in landscapes, add and experiment with other brushes.
  • Step 3: Bring water and rags Bring lots of water and rags.
  • Step 4: Set up your easel In the middle of the day, go set up your easel In a comfortable location that has a good view.
  • TIP: The light changes the least over a given number of hours in the middle of the day.
  • Step 5: Sketch your drawing Using the pencil, sketch your painting on your sketch pad. Make only very rough shapes — triangles, arcs, blobs —to give it a general look and feel.
  • TIP: Painting is less about the medium (paint, pastel, pencil) and more about how you create the image. Drawings use lines. Paintings use shape.
  • Step 6: Work out values When you're happy with the composition, it's time to work out the values, or lightness and darkness. On a scale of 1 to 10, choose a key object with a middle value.
  • Step 7: Eye the composition Eye your composition, or structure. What's lighter than the object you chose? What's darker? What's in between and by how much?
  • Step 8: Choose values for all other objects Using that value as your key, begin choosing values for all of the other objects in your composition.
  • Step 9: Color your key object Once you're done, turn to the canvas and select a color for the key object.
  • TIP: You will probably need to mix paints to get the value you need.
  • Step 10: Paint the rough key object Paint the rough shape of your key object.
  • TIP: Wash your brush thoroughly between colors in your jar of water. Dry on a rag.
  • Step 11: Paint another object Choose an object touching your key object. Choose a color and assign it a middle value. Paint its rough shape. Stick to the middle values, avoiding highlights and shadows at this stage.
  • Step 12: Keep painting Keep working around your composition until you've blocked off the whole piece.
  • Step 13: Appraise composition Step back and look at your composition. Does it feel right?
  • Step 14: Assign and develop contrast Now go back in to your piece and begin assigning and painting colors with more accurate values for ever-smaller shapes around the piece. Your contrast will begin to develop.
  • TIP: Start with lighter values, then move toward darker values.
  • Step 15: Add shadows Add in your shadows in. Generally, you'll want a cooler color. Avoid pure black.
  • Step 16: Add highlights Finally, add the highlights. These will be something in the family of the color of your light source, but avoid pure white.
  • Step 17: Sign and date the painting When you're satisfied with your painting, sign the front, and, when it's dry, use a marker on the back to identify the title, place, and date.
  • FACT: Color theory is the practice of picking and identifying colors for specific situations, like in advertising or design.

You Will Need

  • A pre-stretched and gessoed canvas
  • An easel
  • Paints
  • A filbert brush
  • Water
  • A jar
  • Rags
  • A palette
  • A pencil
  • And a sketchpad

Popular Categories