How to Paint a Loose Watercolor Cityscape Tutorial

Watercolor painting is a versatile medium that allows artists to explore various subjects. In this tutorial, we will focus on creating captivating cityscape paintings. Join us as we delve into the art of painting loose and vibrant watercolor cityscapes. Let's get started!

How to Paint a Loose Watercolor Cityscape Tutorial
One Way Street by Robert Joyner

Watercolor painting is a versatile and captivating medium that allows artists to explore various subjects such as cityscapes, which is what we will focus on for this how-to tutorial.

Capturing the bustling energy, architectural details, and dynamic atmosphere of a cityscape can seem challenging, but with the right approach and techniques, you can paint a loose and vibrant watercolor cityscape that truly shines. In this tutorial, we will guide you through the process step by step, helping you unleash your creativity and create a stunning urban masterpiece.

How to Paint a Loose Watercolor Cityscape Tutorial
One way street by Robert Joyner
Inspiration image
Inspiration image

How to Paint a Loose Watercolor Cityscape Step-by-Step Tutorial

Discover my expert tips for creating a dynamic and abstract watercolor landscape that captures the vibrant energy of a bustling downtown scene. In the accompanying video below, which is only visible for paid members, you'll witness the creation process and gain valuable insights on the techniques employed. Before we dive in, let's begin with a discussion on the essential materials required for this artistic endeavor.

Here's a great article below that covers the materials I use and recommend for all levels.

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.

Materials You'll Need

Before we dive into the tutorial, let's gather the essential materials you'll need:

  1. Watercolor paper: Choose a good-quality watercolor paper that can handle the wet-on-wet techniques often used in watercolor painting.
  2. Watercolor paints: Opt for a set of artist-grade watercolor paints that offer a wide range of colors. Select colors that will capture the mood and atmosphere of a cityscape.
  3. Brushes: Have a variety of brushes, including large wash brushes for applying broad strokes and smaller round brushes for finer details.
  4. Water containers: Keep multiple water containers handy to clean your brushes between color washes.
  5. Palette: Use a mixing palette or a white ceramic plate to mix and dilute your watercolors.
  6. Masking fluid (optional): If you want to preserve certain areas from paint, such as highlights or specific details, masking fluid can be helpful.
  7. Paper towels and tissue: These will be useful for blotting excess water and pigment from your brushes.
  8. Pencil and eraser: Use a soft pencil to sketch out the basic outlines of your cityscape before painting.

Let's dive in to the painting techniques that will help you paint amazing urban scenes

  1. Plan your composition: Start by envisioning the scene you want to paint. Consider the viewpoint, buildings, streets, and any focal points you want to include. Sketch a loose outline on your watercolor paper, keeping it simple and gestural. Explore other artists compositions, too. This is a great way to understand how they compose their artwork.
  2. Wet the paper: Before applying any paint, wet the entire paper surface using a clean brush and clean water. This step helps create a soft and blended background.
  3. Apply the initial wash: Mix a light color on your palette, diluting it with water for a transparent effect. Apply this wash over the wet paper, allowing the colors to blend naturally. Start with the sky or background elements and gradually work your way forward, using broad brushstrokes.
  4. Create the buildings: Once the initial wash has dried, lightly sketch the buildings' outlines using a pencil. Remember to keep the lines loose and suggestive rather than detailed. Use a mixture of cool and warm colors to depict the variety of materials and surfaces in the cityscape.
  5. Establish the light and shadow: Observe the light source in your composition and determine the areas of light and shadow. Use a darker shade of the building's color mixture to paint the shadows, leaving some areas untouched to represent highlights. Keep the brushstrokes loose and suggestive, focusing on the overall impression rather than precise details.
  6. Add details and textures: As the painting progresses, start adding smaller details like windows, doors, and architectural elements. Use a smaller round brush and a darker color mixture for these finer details. Experiment with dry brush techniques to create interesting textures and patterns.
  7. Enhance the atmosphere: To capture the cityscape's atmosphere, introduce additional elements such as trees, streetlights, vehicles, or people. These elements can add a sense of scale and depth to your painting. Again, keep your brushstrokes loose and impressionistic, allowing the viewer's imagination to fill in the details.
  8. Finishing touches: Once your painting has dried, step back and assess the overall composition. Make any necessary adjustments or additions to enhance the balance and harmony of the cityscape. You can deepen certain colors, add subtle washes, or create highlights to bring out specific elements. Remember, the goal is to maintain a loose and expressive style, so avoid getting caught up in too many details.
  9. Sign and protect your artwork: Once you're satisfied with your watercolor cityscape, sign your name or add your initials in a discreet corner. To protect your artwork, consider spraying it with a fixative or applying a layer of archival varnish, especially if you plan to display or frame it.

This is where the fun ends for now unless you are a paid-member. If so, you will get access to the video tutorial along with more loose painting tips.