Watercolor Landscape Tutorial – Paint Like the Old Masters

Fun step by step watercolor landscape covers simple landscape basics and featuring a wagon pulled by oxen going over a wooden bridge. Based on an 1880’s watercolor painting, this tutorial takes about 3 hours to paint. Learn to paint like the old watercolor masters!

Downloads for Old Masters Watercolor Landscape Tutorial

Suggested Colors for Watercolor Landscape

  • Cobalt Blue – for sky and mixing grays or darks
  • Phthalo Blue – for mixing greens
  • Yellow – any yellow
  • Green gold – optional – great for mixing greens
  • Green – your mix or tube greens
  • Brown – Burnt Sienna
  • Red – any Quinacridone based red
  • White – opaque white (Dr. Martin’s Bleed Proof White is recommended)

Painting Steps for Paint with Deb Watercolor Tutorial

Watercolor landscape tutorial old master reference photo
Reference – watercolor painting circa 1880

Step 1 – Draw or trace your Old Masters outline onto your watercolor paper using graphite paper.

Step 2 – Paint the watercolor sky with a hint of color at the top.

Watercolor Old Master landscape tutorial painting a hint of color in sky

Mix a puddle of light Cobalt Blue. Use a large wash brush for the best results.

Paint blue along the top of the sky, add water to your brush and keep painting down to the horizon line.

Step 3 – Paint the distant mountains landscape part.

Watercolor Old Master landscape tutorial first wash distant mountains

Mix a puddle of blue gray (Cobalt Blue + Burnt Sienna). Optional – add a little red to warm it up.

Paint the left side mountain darker and the right side mountain lighter in value.

Step 4 – Paint the middle ground greenish yellow.

Watercolor Old Master landscape tutorial dark first wash on middle ground

Mix a puddle of light green (I used Cobalt Blue + Green Gold).

Paint – Use a small brush. Start on one side and carefully paint around the wagon, oxen and road.

Don’t forget! Paint the middle ground color under the wagon and oxen.

Step 5 – Paint the area under the bridge (and to the right), green on top and dark at the bottom.

Mix your colors.

  • a dark brown or black using thick Cobalt Blue + Burnt Sienna
  • a puddle of darker green (I used Phthalo Blue + Green Gold).

Dark – Paint the dark color at the bottom with jagged strokes to indicate grass. (Optional – wet the top with clean water to blend up for a soft edge.)

Green – paint the dark green from the top down, going over the edges of the dark and blending the two together. Paint a grassy edge at the top of the area, also.

Step 6 – Paint the watercolor trees and bushes.

Watercolor Old Master landscape tutorial hit or miss trees first wash

Mix a medium value green puddle of watercolor paint.

Right Side Trees – Paint an initial wash of color on the right tree masses, using a small brush and leaving a lot of unpainted spaces (hit or miss method).

Tree Trunks – Paint the tree trunks and shadow underneath the trees with a dark brown (Burnt Sienna + Cobalt Blue).

Bushes – Paint the bushes on the side of the path with the same green color as the trees.

Watercolor Old Master landscape tutorial hit or miss trees Step 2 Adding Shadows

Left tree – Paint the tree on the left with the same hit or miss method, using darker green paint (add more paint or add brown or purple to darken).

Shadowing? If the trees are dry enough, used darker green to add shadows on the left side of each tree. You can do this step later, also, once the trees are dry.

Step 7 – Paint Initial Color on Foreground and Bridge

Watercolor Old Master landscape tutorial - paint the first wash of golden brown on the foreground and bridge

Mix – mix a puddle of golden brown with Burnt Sienna + Yellow.

Paint – Paint a flat wash over the bridge/foreground area. Don’t paint over the rocks!

Add shadow – Using a dark gray or brown, add a shadow under the cart, and soften the lower edge with clean water.

Step 8 – Paint the brown oxen and wagon.

Watercolor Old Master landscape tutorial - paint the brown ox and sides of wagon


Mix a bit of Burnt Sienna and a bit of dark brown/gray (Burnt Sienna + blue).

Paint the oxen with Burnt Sienna on the left, switching to dark on the right in a graded wash.


Mix Burnt Sienna + Yellow for a dark golden brown.

Paint the sides of the wagon. Optional – paint dark brown/gray at the top edge of the wagon.

Shadow? Darken the shadow under the wagon, if needed.

Step 9 – Darken green areas that need it.

Watercolor Old Master landscape tutorial -add clumps of grass to the foreground

If your shadow areas are wimpy, use darker green (green + blue/brown or purple (blue/red)) to touch up your shadows on any of the trees.

Use darker green to draw clumps of grass in the green area under the bridge.

Step 10 – Dry Brush the Road with Gray

Watercolor Old Master landscape tutorial - paint road with dry brushed gray

Load your brush with blue gray (Cobalt Blue + a little Burnt Sienna).

Wipe most of the paint off on a paper towel.

Drag the side of the brush across the paper in the road, so some of the paint sticks in patchy areas.

Step 11 – Adding Details (Wagon, Driver, Rocks, Bridge, etc.)

Watercolor painting by Deb Watson Paint like the Masters Watercolor Landscape Tutorial

Wheels – dark brown or black

White oxen – shade the bottom half with light blue/gray.

Driver – very dark shadow on the right side, under the hat and a line on the arms. (Also dark on the pole.)

Corn – dark on the left lower and once that dries, add bright yellow to the unpainted top and right side.

Rocks – shadows on left and bottom.

Bridge – darken shadow under wagon if needed, add a few board lines with brush, pen or pencil

Foreground grasses – Use any of your leftover colors to paint clumps of grass in the foreground. Once dry, you can add white spots as you see in the original reference painting.

Fences – add a small fence in the back and a bit of larger fence in the front, if desired.

Original watercolor painting from 1880's for Watercolor Landscape tutorial paint like the old masters
This is the left side of the original painting. See all the fun details?

Step 12 – Evaluate and tweak your values.

Too dark? – Rewet and dab up some of the paint in areas that are too dark.

Too light? – Add another wash of color to darken.

Summary for Paint Like the Old Masters Watercolor Landscape Tutorial

Lots of detail make the watercolor landscapes from this period fun to look at and fun to paint.

To be successful, start with your values and big washes of color. Evaluate and tweak until you have a strong, basic composition. Then add all the little houses, churches, or myriad other human touches that you find in landscapes.

Happy Painting!

The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place - the sky, the earth, a scrap of paper, a spider's web... - Pablo Picasso