Learn to Paint a Watercolor Mountainscape


When the mountains are calling ... paint them! Whether you're out there in nature or just dreaming about your next hike, landscapes are a great way to learn how to incorporate more perspective into your art. Consider this step-by-step your trail to the top.

What you'll need for this project:

  • Watercolor paper
  • Masking tape
  • Pencil
  • Medium round paintbrush
  • Small round paintbrush with fine tip
  • Watercolor paints in Cobalt Blue, Phthalo Green, and Yellow Ochre

Step 1: Tape down paper and sketch

Using masking tape, secure your paper to a table or drawing board. Don't skip this step: Landscapes require lots of watery layers and the paper will curl if not taped down.

Next, lightly sketch outlines of mountain peaks. Create three layers of mountain ranges, which should occupy the middle third section of your paper. Leave space at the top for the sky and space at the bottom for the foreground. (You can use a reference photo for this, if you like!)  

Step 2: Apply a light wash for the sky

With some very watered-down Cobalt Blue and a medium round brush, paint a light and airy sky above the mountains. Let dry.

Step 3: Paint a light wash over the most distant mountains

The watercolor wash over the mountains at the top and back of your painting needs to be very light. Make it slightly darker than the sky next to it, but not too dark. Use Cobalt Blue and a medium round brush for the all of the mountain ranges. Let dry.

Step 4: Paint a darker wash over the middle mountain range

With more saturated, less watery paint, paint the middle section of mountains. It's OK to vary the value a little here and there as long as it's darker than the section behind it.

To create softness and atmosphere, you can blot small sections with a paper towel. This will lift some of the paint off your paper. Let dry.

Step 5: Paint the front mountain range and add a light wash to foreground

For the foremost mountain range, use darker, more saturated paint. Paint down to the base of your mountains, rinse your brush, then mix a little Yellow Ochre and Phthlalo Green for a light wash over the foreground. Let dry.

Step 6: Paint trees and grass

Right next to the base of the mountains, paint some lighter, less defined trees. Let these dry. Then mix a darker green and paint darker, larger trees in front of the lighter ones.

For the grass in the foreground, mix Yellow Ochre and Phthalo Green and paint sharp strokes from the bottom of your paper. Allow a little space between the top of the grass and the beginning of the trees.

Step 7: Peel tape off and frame

After your painting is completely dry, carefully peel the masking tape away from the edges. Sign it, frame it and enjoy it!

See how value influences the colors you choose as you add paint to your initial contour sketches. Then, stop to evaluate your progress and decide what makes good subject matter for a landscape. Finally, create a fun, quick gesture sketch with expressive, loose strokes. Along the way, pick up tips and tricks for handling your brush and working with watercolor.
Everything you need to start painting with watercolors.
Kateri Ewing
Kateri Ewing
Meet artist Mary P. Murphy, who starts by walking you through the tools you need to complete your project, a watercolor floral still life, including brushes, paper and paint. Then she revisits some basic techniques from the class "Startup Library: Painting With Watercolors," and key tips for mixing colors.
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Learn to Paint a Watercolor Mountainscape