October 16, 2020
Mike Jr

10 Tips and Tricks for Painting Landscapes

Good landscape paintings capture a special place. Some paint cityscapes. Others paint mountain ranges, lakes, or rivers. Some people paint their hometown, while others paint their favorite landscape photo from Instagram.

Good landscape paintings capture a special place.

Some paint cityscapes. Others paint mountain ranges, lakes, or rivers. Some people paint their hometown, while others paint their favorite landscape photo from Instagram.

At Paint and Sip Live, our virtual painting classes are filled with beginner, intermediate, and expert painters.

Whether you’re painting a landscape for the first time or looking to take your landscape painting to the next level, here are some of our best painting tips.

1) Give the Illusion of Numbers

You can’t paint every element in a landscape. You shouldn’t paint individual trees, people, or buildings. Instead, give the illusion of numbers.

If painting a crowded cityscape, use swaths of color for buildings in the distance. If painting a mountain, avoid painting individual trees.

If you’ve used color and value correctly, then viewers will understand what these swaths of color represent.

2) Start by Drawing out the Image

Use a 3B pencil to sketch out your landscape. Outline the basic details of your landscape to give yourself a guide for the rest of the painting. Don’t worry about messing up certain areas or leaving certain sections for future detailing.

By drawing out the image, you can see the focal points of the painting before you start painting. You can get an idea of where you want to focus – and how you might want to highlight those areas with your colors.

3) Start by Painting the Darkest and Lightest Areas

Some painters recommend starting a landscape painting by highlighting the darkest and lightest areas first. Paint wisps of white in the sky for clouds, for example, while highlighting solid objects – like mountains or trees – with darker colors.

4) Avoid Putting Everything In

Your painting doesn’t need to include everything in the scene. You don’t have to paint every tree or blade of grass. Instead, let certain features blend into the background. If people see a splash of green against a field or mountain, they’ll assume it’s a tree. Painting every object can give your photo a hyper-realistic appearance, but it’s rarely effective for landscape painters.

5) Remove Items that Don’t Work

Maybe you’re painting a beautiful lakefront – but there’s an industrial facility at one end of the lake. Maybe you don’t like the way a mountain stands relative to another mountain. Sure, you could perfectly re-create every element of your painting. Or, you could adjust the painting as needed. Remove items and change things up. You can replicate a landscape while taking artistic liberties.

6) Emphasize a Focal Point

Landscape paintings look messy without a focal point. Identify the most important part of your painting or the area on which you want viewers to focus. Maybe it’s the tallest mountain in the range. Maybe it’s a tree in the foreground.

Some of the best ways to emphasize a focal point include:

• Use more delicate brushwork on your focal point

• Use brighter or more saturated colors in that area

• Use palette knives or crisper brushwork to highlight the area

• Create a sharp contrast between the focal point and the rest of the scene using relative colors or values

Without a focal point, viewers don’t know where to look. Use the tips above to identify a focal point for your landscape painting.

7) Use a More Complex Color Palette

One of the biggest mistakes new painters make is to use a simple color palette for landscapes. You might use green for trees and mountains, for example, and blue for skies and lakes. This color palette might make sense – but it gives your painting a 2-dimensional appearance.

Use a more complex color palette. Add in new colors. Use different colors, shades, and mixes to emphasize your focal point. If you find your landscape paintings generally have the same bland appearance, then it’s time to start experimenting with colors.

8) Don’t Be Afraid to Buy Green Paint

Some artists frown upon the idea of buying green paint for landscape paintings. They claim you should mix your own green paint – not just buy it.

However, you’re not an elite painter, and you can buy whatever paints you like. Buy your own green paints. Add blue or yellow to these green paints to create new shades. It’s not cheating.

9) Understand Value Distribution in Landscape Painting

Value distribution in landscape painting is crucial, and many beginners are unaware of it.

Value distribution is based on the idea that our brains process images in a certain way. Our brains expect the elements in a landscape to have a certain relationship with one another.

In other words, value distribution is the idea that if the sky is one color, then the grass and mountains underneath that sky should be a certain value of that color.

Value distribution states that your painting should go from lightest to darkest with these elements:

• Sky (lightest)

• Horizontal or flat items (second lightest, because they tend to reflect the sky)

• Slanted and diagonal items (a little darker)

• Upright or vertical items (the darkest)

Painting instructors recommend painting with black and white or monochrome to test your knowledge of value distribution. It’s a simple thing that separates beginner  landscape painters from intermediates.

10) Join a Virtual Wine and Paint Night to Learn More

Paint and Sip Live brings painting classes to your home.

You get actionable painting tips in a fun environment. Whether you’re a complete beginner or an intermediate looking for tips, we welcome painters of all levels. The importance is to have fun – not become the next Monet.  

We host virtual painting nights each week with painting instructors and live DJs. We can ship a beginner painting kit to your address to join a class this weekend. Or, if you have supplies, just sign up online today.

Bring friends, setup your painting area at home, and get ready for a fun class. Plus, you can bring your own wine.