Beginner's Guide to Painting Watercolor Landscapes

Unlock your artistic potential with a with our comprehensive Beginner's Guide to Painting Watercolor Landscapes.

Beginner's Guide to Painting Watercolor Landscapes
Beginner's Guide to Painting Watercolor Landscapes

Watercolor painting is a captivating form of art that allows you to express your creativity and capture the beauty of the natural world. Among its many subjects, landscapes hold a special place, offering a plethora of colors, textures, and emotions to explore.

It's time to dive into how to paint a watercolor landscape for newbies

If you're a beginner eager to embark on a watercolor journey, this comprehensive guide will provide you with step-by-step instructions and tips to paint a stunning watercolor landscape.

Materials Needed

Before diving into the painting process, it's essential to gather the necessary materials. As a beginner, start with the following:

  1. Watercolor paper: Choose acid-free, heavyweight paper, specifically designed for watercolor painting, with a weight of 140 lb (300 gsm) or higher.
  2. Watercolor paints: Invest in a basic set of watercolor paints that include a range of primary and secondary colors. Artist-grade paints offer better pigmentation and quality.
  3. Brushes: Purchase a variety of brushes, including round brushes in different sizes (e.g., 4, 8, and 12) and a flat brush for washes.
  4. Palette: Opt for a palette with wells to hold and mix your paints effectively.
  5. Water containers: Have at least two containers for clean and dirty water.
  6. Paper towels or a cloth: Keep them handy for blotting excess water and paint.
  7. Masking tape: Use it to secure the paper to a board and create clean borders.
  8. Pencil and eraser: For sketching the initial outlines.
  9. Palette knife: Optional but useful for mixing colors and creating texture.

Here's a detailed article about the materials I suggest and use for my watercolors;

The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Best Watercolor Supplies
Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced artist, choosing the right watercolor supplies is crucial to achieving stunning results.
Beginner's Guide to Painting Watercolor Landscapes
Walking in Williamsburg by Robert Joyner

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Choose a reference image: Select a landscape photograph or picture that inspires you. Look for a composition with varied elements like trees, mountains, water bodies, or buildings.
  2. Plan your composition: Use a pencil to lightly sketch the outlines of your composition on the watercolor paper. Divide your paper into thirds (rule of thirds) to create a balanced composition.
  3. Mask off the edges: Secure your paper to a board using masking tape. This step prevents the paper from warping and provides clean edges.
  4. Wet your paper: Moisten your entire paper with clean water using a large brush or a spray bottle. Ensure the paper is evenly wet but not excessively soaked.
  5. Mix your colors: Start by mixing the basic colors required for your landscape. Experiment with different combinations to achieve the desired shades and hues.
  6. Apply washes: With a large flat brush, apply a light wash of your desired sky color to the top third of the paper. Blend the colors smoothly while avoiding hard edges. Allow it to dry partially.
  7. Paint the background: Proceed to paint the distant elements of the landscape, such as mountains or distant hills. Use lighter colors and gradually build up the layers, maintaining a sense of depth.
  8. Work on the middle ground: Move on to the middle ground, where you can paint trees, foliage, or structures. Use smaller brushes and add details to create depth and texture.
  9. Focus on the foreground: Finally, add the foreground elements, which might include rocks, grass, or flowers. Use darker tones, richer colors, and crisp brushstrokes to bring these elements to life.
  10. Add details and highlights: Once the layers have dried, use a smaller brush to add fine details like tree branches, leaves, and reflections. Lift off color with a damp brush or paper towel to create highlights.
  11. Experiment with techniques: Explore different watercolor techniques like wet-on-wet, dry brush, glazing, and splattering to add interest and texture to your landscape.
  12. Sign and protect your artwork: Add your signature and protect your artwork with sturdy backing and archival plastic wrap, or protective sleeve.

Congratulations! You have successfully completed your first watercolor landscape painting. By following this beginner's guide, you've gained valuable insights into the techniques, materials, and steps involved in creating a captivating watercolor artwork.

Beginner's Guide to Painting Watercolor Landscapes example
A quick chat by Robert Joyner

Bonus tips for success with watercolor landscapes

Remember, painting with watercolors is a journey of exploration and self-expression. Each landscape you paint will teach you something new and unique. Here are a few additional tips to enhance your watercolor skills:

  1. Practice regularly: The more you paint, the better you'll become. Set aside dedicated time for painting and experiment with different subjects and styles.
  2. Study from nature: Take time to observe the natural world around you. Pay attention to light, shadows, colors, and textures. Use your observations to improve your understanding and interpretation of landscapes.
  3. Learn from other artists: Explore the works of renowned watercolor artists. Study their techniques, compositions, and use of colors. Attend workshops or online tutorials to learn from experienced artists.
  4. Embrace mistakes: Mistakes are part of the creative process. Instead of getting discouraged, embrace them as learning opportunities. Experiment, take risks, and allow yourself to make mistakes—it's through these experiences that you'll grow as an artist.
  5. Develop your style: As you gain confidence and proficiency, allow your unique artistic style to emerge. Don't be afraid to experiment, mix techniques, and develop your own personal touch in portraying landscapes.


The joy of watercolor painting lies in the process itself. Enjoy the journey, embrace the unpredictability of watercolors, and let your creativity flow. With each stroke of the brush, you'll create breathtaking landscapes that reflect your artistic vision.

So, pick up your brushes, immerse yourself in the world of watercolors, and paint your own masterpiece. Happy painting!