Painting Of A Sunset With Watercolors

painting of a sunset made with watercolors

Posted On May 17, 2019

Sunsets and evening sky with their luscious bright colors can be a real challenge for artists. If you are painting outdoors and trying to get the colors of the evening sky you have to work really quickly because the light is changing and fading swiftly.

In order to make a perfect painting of a sunset make sure you are in the chosen place on time that you have all the colors you are going to use already prepared and use big wide brushes to capture the most important details.

Simplify colors and shapes as much as you can so you can quickly transfer the atmosphere and the mood you see on your painting.

One more way is to create a sketch using pastels outdoors and to complete your painting in your studio using that sketch. For the sketch use, just a few primary colors on a medium toned paper that will allow you to focus on dark and bright areas.

During the sunset, the sky has such bright light that not even the colors with brightest pigments can depict. You need to use little tricks to create the illusion of bright light on your painting. One of those is using the cold tones as much as warm ones for the sky because warm colors appear to be brighter next to cold ones.

When you intertwine warm purple and golden colors of the sunset with cold blue and violet colors of the clouds the colors flicker next to each other creating shining light. Besides that cold tones of shadows in the landscape that is falling in the dark will make the colors of the sky look warmer.

Don’t be tempted by the wonderful warm colors of the sunset and mix too strong warm tones because the sky will appear unnatural and like it is in the front plane of the painting. Use all the warm colors moderately and the effect will be much better.

sketch of a sunset painted with watercolors

Sunset over The Water

For this painting, you will need the following:

  • One sheet of yellowish toned watercolor paper
  • Round sable brush number 10
  • Round sable brush number 4
  • Round sable brush number 1
  • HB pencil

And the following colors:

  • French Ultramarine
  • Prussian Blue
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Cadmium Red
  • Lemon Yellow
  • African Black
  • Alizarine red
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Grey
  • Permanent White gouache

Make a rough sketch using HB pencil. Paint the sky with very diluted paint wet on wet using sable brush number 10. Start from the top of the paper with French Ultramarine, then use different combinations of Ultramarine, Prussian Blue and a little bit of Cadmium Yellow to get pale grey-blue tones.

Add a little bit of very diluted Permanent White here and there for the clouds. Mix Permanent White with a bit of Cadmium red for the pink sky over the horizon.

Start using sable brush number 4 and paint the buildings in the distance. For that use different combinations of Cadmium Red, Lemon Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Ultramarine and African Black. Let the colors blend on the paper to create a strain of tones from purple-grey to warm brown.

part of a sketch of a sunset

Building The Composition

Let the first layer of paint to dry. Mix dark grey using ultramarine and black and pain doors and windows on the buildings. Since buildings are in the distance do not go into details.

Start painting the water using a mild mixture of white, Lemon Yellow and a bit of ultramarine to create a layer of pale green water in the distance.

Mix white, Alizarine Red and a bit of Lemon Yellow to paint pink surfaces that depict the reflection of the setting sun and white and ultramarine for blue surfaces.

Add the paint using sable brush number 10 with short wavey moves to create the impression of moving water surface.

paintbrush on a sketch of a sunset made with watercolors

Adding The Details

Make sure that the paint on the sky area is dry and using the mixture of ultramarine and alizarine paint the dark storm clouds.

Painting wet on wet use the sable brush number 4 and with swift energetic strokes give shape and movement to the clouds.

Paint the bright sky above the buildings with narrow lines of white and alizarine paint. To create the orange glow mix Cadmium Red and Lemon Yellow.

Build the thickness of tone in the storm clouds with the darker spread of ultramarine and alizarine.

Use relaxed wavey strokes to give the impression of movement and give energy to the painting. Add a thin white spread of paint right above the buildings to give it some light.

Go back to the brush number 10 and paint the sky above the storm clouds with a spread of gouache white and ultramarine.

Now you can add fiery colors of the sunset. Mix Lemon Yellow, Cadmium Red and a little bit of white to create luscious golden orange and using the tip of sable brush 

number 4 add smears of this color around the lower edges of the clouds. For the yellow clouds use smears of Lemon Yellow and white with traces of Cadmium Red here and there. To create the airy transparent quality of thin clouds in the sky use dry color added with a dry brush.

Finishing Touches

Add some depth to the buildings in the distance using the mixture of grey and white.

Mix Lemon Yellow, ultramarine and white and add architectural details to the closest buildings on the right side of the painting.

Paint the farthest rooftops with mildly diluted Burnt Sienna. Get sable brush number 1 and paint the reflection of the sun on the water using dark, medium and light tones of the mixture of Cadmium Red, Lemon Yellow and white.

Use the tip of the brush and paint with short rhythmical moves to depict the reflection of the sun on the uneven water surface. To give your painting the sense of depth and perspective let the moves in the distance be shorter and closer together.

Paint the stairs leading to the water with the dark and light tones of Burnt Sienna and black. Leave it to dry and then add more water to the colors and paint wooden poles for tying the boats. Finally, paint the reflection of the poles using scattered, wavey moves of ultramarine and grey.

Add more water to that mixture and use it to paint dark little waves on the water surface.

If you have any questions regarding the subject leave them in the comment section and I will be more than happy to answer them.

Written by Magdalena

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