Beginner Watercolor Landscape Tutorial

In this blog post, we will explore how to paint a simple, beginner watercolor landscape using negative space techniques, emphasizing the importance of planning, composition, and value hierarchy.

Watercolor painting can be both a captivating and challenging artistic endeavor. One technique that can elevate your watercolor landscape paintings to new heights is utilizing negative space effectively.

Negative space refers to the unmarked, untouched areas surrounding the main subject, and it plays a pivotal role in creating balance, depth, and visual interest in your artwork.

Negative space video

Let’s get started with how to paint simple watercolor landscape for newbies

Now that you know where this is going, we can start to learn beginner tips for creating awesome watercolor landscapes for beginners. The video covers a lot of useful ideas but be sure to read more below.

Suggested Material Checklist

Materials can make or break the outcome of a watercolor study. Watch the video that covers the best watercolor materials if you need more specifics about color choices, brush sizes and such. Basically, it’s exactly what I use and recommend for all levels.

Watercolor Paints: Opt for artist-grade watercolor paints in a range of colors. Choose a basic palette that includes six primary colors (one cool and warm hue for each one including red, blue, and yellow) along with earth tones for a versatile collection.

If you aren’t aware of the six primary palette, then check out our in-depth article on how to mix watercolors for beginners. It has the exact hues I use for every painting. And, if I make changes, I always update the article so you know the exact hues that get the best results.

Brushes: Invest in a set of good-quality watercolor brushes with different shapes and sizes. Round brushes are excellent for detailed work, while flat brushes are great for larger washes. I’d recommend one medium and one large pointed round. Then get a large mop brush that will handle those initial washed that are applied in the very beginning.

You only need three brushes to do most of the heavy lifting! However, I do recommend having a dagger and possibly and Motler on hand as well. Check out the article I wrote on how to choose the best watercolor brushes if you have questions on the exact brands, sizes and such.

Paper: I highly recommend selecting watercolor paper specifically designed for this medium. Look for papers labeled “cold-pressed” or “hot-pressed” to suit your preferred texture. Experiment with different weights and brands to find the one that suits your style. Most beginners choose 140 lb. cold press to start their journey. Hot press tends to be a little slick and most used for highly detailed work and portraits.

Avoid cheap, wood pulp papers as they don’t react properly to washes and other techniques. These cheaper papers tend to break down quickly and don’t age well either, basically yellowing over time. Be sure to read the how to choose the best watercolor paper article when you have time.

If you aren’t aware of the six primary palette, then check out our in-depth article on how to mix watercolors for beginners. It has the exact hues I use for every painting. And, if I make changes, I always update the article so you know the exact hues that get the best results.

Palette: A palette is essential for mixing and diluting your watercolors. Choose a palette with wells to hold different colors and a large mixing area. Small palettes tend to get dirty too quick and I found it difficult to have enough free space to mix enough colors without having to stop everything to clean up. The Masterson Pro palette works great and available at Amazon and Blick Art.

Water Containers: Have at least two containers for water—one for rinsing your brushes and another for clean water. Make sure the containers aren’t too small, and I would recommend plastic over glass. I’ve had plenty of studio accidents and cleaning up shattered glass isn’t ideal when in a creative mode.

Masking Tape and Drawing Board: Masking tape helps secure your paper to a drawing board, keeping it flat and preventing it from warping. The tape is optional and depends if you prefer the clean edges. In the beginning you will most likely focus on sketches and studies, so maybe pass until you determine later on if you need it.

A smooth, firm board is a must! I recommend Gator foam board as it’s very sturdy, smooth and durable. Fairly inexpensive and light weight to boot. That covers materials, let’s move on to skills you need to start watercolor painting.

Here’s an article that covers the watercolor materials I use and recommend for all levels.

Beginner Watercolor Landscape Tutorial
Beginner Watercolor Landscape Tutorial image

Simplifying the Composition

When painting a watercolor landscape, it’s essential to keep the composition simple and uncluttered. This simplification allows you to focus on negative space and create a powerful visual impact.

Start by choosing a subject that features a clear focal point, such as a lone tree, a mountain, or a boat on a still lake. Avoid overly complex scenes with multiple elements, as they can overwhelm both the artist and the viewer.

Plan Your Techniques Before You Start

Before touching the paintbrush to the paper, it’s crucial to have a clear plan in mind. Consider the techniques you’ll use to convey various elements of the landscape. For instance:

  1. Negative Space Wash: Create a background wash by applying a light, diluted wash of blue or warm colors to represent the sky or distant hills. Leave the areas where the main subject will be untouched to create negative space.
  2. Wet-on-Wet: Apply a wet wash on the paper first and then drop in more concentrated pigment for trees, mountains, or reflections on water. The wet-on-wet technique allows colors to blend seamlessly and organically.
  3. Dry Brush: For textural elements like grass or rocks, use the dry brush technique by applying a slightly dry brush loaded with paint to create textured strokes.
  4. Lifting: Utilize lifting techniques to remove paint selectively and create highlights or lighter areas, such as clouds or sunlit spots on the landscape.
Beginner Watercolor Landscape Tutorial Using Negative Space Techniques
Beginner Watercolor Landscape Tutorial Using Negative Space Techniques

Always Consider Value Hierarchy

Value hierarchy refers to the arrangement of light and dark areas in your painting to establish a sense of depth and dimension. Plan your painting by identifying the main light source and determining the areas of high contrast and low contrast. The focal point should have the highest contrast to draw the viewer’s eye.

Start with a light pencil sketch to map out the areas of your painting and the distribution of positive and negative spaces. Consider how light falls on the landscape and use that knowledge to determine the placement of shadows and highlights. Keep in mind that negative space can be as expressive and impactful as the subject itself.

Hey, are you looking for fresh watercolor ideas.

Conclusion

Watercolor landscapes are a captivating way to express your artistic vision, and embracing negative space techniques adds an extra layer of depth and sophistication to your artwork.

By simplifying the composition, planning your techniques in advance, and considering value hierarchy, you can create stunning watercolor landscapes that draw viewers into your painted world.

Remember, watercolor painting is a journey of experimentation and practice, so don’t be afraid to explore various techniques and styles to find your unique artistic voice. Happy painting!