9 Easy Tips to Improve Your Watercolor Landscape

Watercolor landscapes can be challenging, but this nine easy tips will improve your watercolor landscapes with one quick tutorial! Work small with the card size to build your confidence and decide which colors you like best, then try a bigger 8 x 10 for framing.

Downloads for – Improve Your Watercolor Landscapes

Reference Photo

You will find lots of great winter/snow photos from Lancaster, PA in my Winter Landscape Album. Feel free to download and paint any you like! This photo was taken at Amos Herr Park in Lancaster county, PA.

(Winter landscapes are the top selling season, fall is second, spring third and summer landscapes are the least sold, so learning to paint winter landscapes is a great start.)

Reference Photo for Improving Your Landscape Tutorial by Deb Watson

Suggested Paint Colors for Improving Your Landscape

Pick a couple of the blues and a brown or transparent orange – the fewer colors you include, the more professional your painting will look. Adding green will detract from the tranquil feel of this landscape.

  • Phthalo blue – very strong, transparent and staining
  • Ultramarine blue – purplish, granulating, makes good grays
  • Indanthrone blue – very dark, grayish, doesn’t granulate
  • Cerulean blue – pretty light blue, greenish, opaque
  • Cobalt blue – pretty medium blue, makes good grays, granulated
  • Brown – any brown
  • Orange – transparent pyrrole orange is the best mixer

Painting Steps for 9 Easy Tips

Tip 1 – Simplify your watercolor landscape composition.

Look at your composition as line, color and values – not details. Leave out anything non-essential. If you consider leaving something out, an easy way to judge is to hold your finger over it and ask yourself – is it better with or without it?

Tip 2 – Pick just 3 to 5 colors for a professional look.

  • Test your colors and scrap paper to see which combinations of blues and browns look best. Include colors that make a black (dark blue + brown or orange) and nice grays for snow shadows.
  • Mix a medium blue puddle for the sky. It can be all blue/blues or add a little brown or orange to gray it down slightly.
  • Mix the same colors with thicker paint and less water to make a small puddle of darker color.

Tip 3 – Paint the landscape sky and distant tree line wet on wet watercolor.

Sky and distant trees painted with wet on wet watercolor for 9 Easy tips to improve your landscape tutorial

Distant trees should look fussy and indistinct. Skies should be smooth. Work wet on wet for both and your distant landscape will glow!

  • Sky – wet the sky with clean water. Paint medium blue at the top and sides and pull it down towards the bottom for a smooth sky that is darker at the top and very light along the horizon line.
  • Distant trees – While the sky is still damp, paint darker color along the horizon line and let it bleed upward into vague tree shapes. If it spread too far, tilt the top of your paper up. If it fades out, add even darker paint to the bottom horizon line.

Tip 4 – Paint every landscape item with variation.

River painting step for watercolor tutorial 9 easy tips to improve your watercolor landscape

Objects that are all one color look flat. For improved landscapes, paint every item to have shading – lighter and darker areas.

River – wet the river area. Paint light blue at the top, getting darker towards the bottom. Add paint as many times as you need and work in horizontal strokes.

After the river is dry, add a dark line under the snow edges on JUST the inside of the curves.

Tip 5 – Add shading to the snow before you add landscape details like the trees.

Wet the snow area and paint some of the medium blue or blue/gray near the top and around the edges.

Tip 6 – Easy ways to paint realistic trees to improve your landscapes.

Your tree branches can make or break your watercolor landscapes, so a little guided practice will show as great improvement in your art work.

Easy ways to paint trees for watercolor landscapes tutorial step

Variety – Paint your tree trunks first, with variety in the size (some fatter, some thinner), color (some black, some gray) and make them different distances apart.

Tiny Watercolor landscape by Deb Watson with lots of bare branches like this watercolor tutorial is demonstrating

How to paint thin branches – Use a special brush for thin lines (AKA rigger, script of liner brush). Have some branches cross over each other, with some areas of thick branches and other areas with few branches.

How to suggest a few leaves – use very watery paint and drag your brush across the dry paper so it only leaves a tiny hint of color. If it’s too much, dab it with your finger to soften.

Tip 7 – Add interest to any watercolor landscapes with reflections.

Finished watercolor landscape by Deb Watson for tutorial 9 Easy Tips to Improve Your Landscape

Add reflections from the trees in the river in the two curves – darkest near the tree and lighter farther away.

(You can always add a rain puddle with reflection to any landscape with reflection.)

Tip 8 – Seat your grasses or trees with shading at the bottom and/or shadows.

Add grasses with thin lines, darker at the bottom.

Tip 9 – Finish with opaque white or Mr. Clean to clean edges or add sparkle.

Snow reflections – add a reflection of snow on the edge of the river, and/or thin white ripples in the water.

Add falling snow by spattering opaque white painting and/or add thin white limbs on some of the trees for even more variation.

Summary for 9 Easy Tips to Improve Your Watercolor Landscape

Limited palette paintings turn out surprisingly well – you’re not really limited – you can make plenty of difference in you colors by blending the colors in your limited palette.

 Don’t paint flat! The more variation you have, the more interest your areas of painting will have. Graded washes from light to dark or one color to another will keep your viewer’s eye moving through your composition.

Keeping backgrounds soft will keep them looking far away. Avoid the temptation to add a lot of details in the background.

A work of art that did not begin with emotion is not art - Paul Cezanne