If you’re looking for something fun yet challenging to paint, this street light watercolor painting could be perfect for you! This tutorial will challenge your skills in translating values and perspectives from the reference image to your paper.
Let’s get started…
Here are the things you’ll need:
– Watercolor paper. I used 100% cotton, cold pressed, 300 gsm
– Watercolor paint. (the colors mentioned below)
– Watercolor brushes. The size depends on the size of paper you choose to use. I used a mop brush for larger washes and a small round brush for details
– 2 Jars of water
– Paper towel
– Masking tape to secure your paper.
– Hb pencil/eraser to draw the outline.
Colors used. The colors I used are mentioned below, however, you can use different colors based on what you have available or your personal preferences.
- Cobalt blue + cerulean blue + touch of burnt sienna
- Add a touch of ultramarine to darken the mixture for the top of the sky.
- Lemon Yellow
- Cadmium Yellow
- Pyrrol Scarlet
Swirls of the lamp
- Cobalt blue + Burnt sienna (Lighter values)
- Ultramarine + Burnt sienna (darker values)
The streetlight pole:
- Ultramarine + Quinacridone Rose + touch of burnt sienna
- Prussian blue
- Payne gray
- Ultramarine+ Quinacridone Rose + touch of burnt sienna
- Pthalo blue + Quinacridone Rose + Yellow ochre
- Alizarin crimson + Pthalo blue + Olive green + Pyrrol Scarlet
- Paynes Gray + Touch of payroll scarlet (thick consistency)
Value sketch + Reference image
In the image below, you’ll be able to see the reference image that I used for this tutorial. Although the lamp seems to be fully black, there are still some lighter areas that suggest more values and shapes going on.
I didn’t go into too much detail about the drawing process as I didn’t want to stray from the main topic. However, you can see in the next image how the value sketch turned out.
Before starting the painting I made a value sketch using graphite pencil. You can see the areas with the darkest and lightest values. Drawing the swirls of the pole can be a bit tricky so you can choose to remove them completely or paint them in a different design.
This is a crucial step in breaking down the reference image so that it’s easier for you during the painting process. You can create your own value sketch or refer to the one below.
If you want to improve your watercolor value skills then I would recommend checking out these 3 watercolor value exercises for beginners.
1. Pencil Sketch
Now that you have finished the value sketch it’s time to outline the lamp onto your paper. This is how it turned out:
2. Paint the background
In the reference image, you can guess the picture was taken around evening time just before getting dark. Because of this, I didn’t want to make the sky too dark.
Using the wet-on-wet technique, start by painting a mixture of cerulean blue and cobalt blue with a touch of burnt sienna. Notice how I left some areas lighter and other areas with a higher concentration of paint:
Now that we have the lighter values, it’s time to drop in the darker values. For this, I added ultramarine mixed with burnt sienna to create a darker blue-gray shade.
In this step, make sure the top of the sky is darker than the bottom.
3. Paint the light
The next step is to paint the light! Wet the areas of the lamp where the light is shown then drop in some lemon yellow at the centre. Without covering up the lemon yellow, drop some cadmium yellow around the lemon yellow.
Now it’s time to blend it out without covering up the lemon yellow in the center. Drop in small amounts of pyrrol scarlet along the edges of the light and let it bleed into the yellow.
4. Adding the pole
Before painting the pole, make sure to start with the swirls. This is because you want the swirls to have a dark value but not darker than the area behind them.
I started with a mixture of light gray using cobalt blue and burnt sienna.
I then dropped in a slightly darker gray using ultramarine and burnt sienna for the shadows on the swirls. You can refer back to the value sketch for reference.
Remember the area behind the swirls is supposed to be darker. So the dark gray for the swirls shouldn’t be too dark.
Now that the swirls are done, it’s time to paint the pole. For this, I used a mixture of Ultramarine and Quinacridone rose with a small touch of burnt sienna. This made a slightly muted purple for the undertone of the pole.
Notice how I made the top of the pole darker than the bottom. Once you’ve painted the first layer let it dry completley
To finish off the pole, I used Paynes gray for the darkest value underneath the lamp head and the metal lines ontop of the light.
Finally, glaze over the purple-gray with Prussian blue. This is how it turned out:
Using the same purple-gray mixture, slightly watered down, paint the first layer of the lamp head and the very top. Notice how the middle of the lamp head has a slightly darker value than the sides.
5. Painting the streetlight lamp head
Using the same gray, (ultramarine, quinacridone rose, and a touch of burnt sienna), add water to dilute the mixture then paint the first layer of the other two sides of the lamp. Note how they are much lighter in value than the middle section in the image below:
Let it dry…
Now it’s time to mix a dark gray color. Start by mixing pthalo blue and Quinacridone rose to make purple then add some yellow ochre. Keep adjusting the mixture until you get a dark gray color.
Next, make sure the previous layer is completely dry then paint the areas just underneath the top of the lamp. Once again, note how the middle section is slightly darker than the other two sides. I like to paint a line on the edge and then blend it out gradually.
Finally, using Paynes gray add another layer to darken the area underneath the lamp.
6. Last touches
The key to painting the streetlight is to gradually add the darker values. It can be challenging because some of the value changes are very subtle.
For the final step, I used a mixture of Alizarin crimson + Pthalo blue + Olive green + Pyrrol Scarlet to make a warm black. I then went over the lamp head, making sure to dilute the mixture in the lighter areas so that the darker values could still be seen.
I then used a thick mixture of Paynes gray and scarlet to make the darker areas more pronounced. This includes the point just above the lamp head and the area underneath the lamp.
That’s the end of this street light watercolor painting tutorial!! I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful! The main focus of this tutorial was painting values, however, I also found myself using different blending techniques to portray those values. Especially when there was a gradual transition from dark to light.
If you struggle with blending techniques, be sure to read my detailed post on how to blend watercolors step by step!