Watercolor Tutorial: Painting a Landscape

Step-by-step advice on painting a landscape in watercolor

Christopher P Jones
5 min readNov 12, 2019

Christopher P Jones is the author of How to Read Paintings, an introduction to some of the most fascinating artworks in art history.

Watercolor tutorial landscape painting

Christopher P Jones is the author of How to Read Paintings, an examination of art’s most enthralling images and their meanings.

I enjoy painting all types of subjects. Landscape painting is especially pleasurable because it encourages me to look so much more closely at the scenes around me. Finding the right subject matter is not always obvious at first, but after a bit of practice, suitable scenes for painting seem to jump out at me all the time.

I took this photograph whilst on a walk in a part of England known as the Peak District, a national park in the north of the country. The pathway winding to the stack of rocks at the top of the hill feels like an appealing subject to base a painting on.

Kinder Scout, Peak District
Photo by the author

Make a sketch first

As a useful exercise, I tend to make a quick pencil sketch of the scene before beginning the main painting. I only spend about 10 minutes on this, since the purpose is to roughly plot out the structure of the painting rather than get pulled in by the details.

The benefits of making a sketch are two-fold: firstly, it allows you to clearly define the structure and composition. In this painting, I’ve decided to follow the classic “rule of thirds” as it fitted well with the original photo: divide the picture into thirds (both horizontally and vertically) and place the points of interest along the lines and at the intersections.

Secondly, sketching helps to train your eye on the subject, improving your powers of observation and allowing you to explore the areas of the scene that may not be particularly obvious at first glance. For instance, when sketching out this scene, I realised there is a whole…