How to paint a grassland landscape with watercolors

When it comes to watercolors, the most effective way to grow and improve your skills is by practicing. Needless to say, practicing allows for you to make mistakes and become more familiar with the brush you’re holding. For this tutorial I thought it might be good to paint a simple but somewhat detailed painting of a grassland scenery.

This watercolor tutorial is a little more challenging than some of my other tutorials. However don’t be discouraged by this because challenging yourself and stepping out of your comfort zone will help you improve drastically which is exactly what we want! So if you find yourself struggling remember not to feel discouraged.

Materials used in this tutorial

Watercolor paper: In this tutorial I used cold pressed 140lb paper

Watercolor brushes: I used a total of three brushes: Size 12, size 8 and size 4 and size 2 Round brushes. If you dont have these sizes then you can just use the a small, medium and slightly large brush that you have on hand. Remember the size of the brush also depends on the size of the paper.

Additional supplies: Masking tape; 2 jars of water; napkin

Colors used

  • Ultramarine
  • yellow orange
  • lemon yellow
  • Orange
  • Cadmium red (you can also use scarlet or vermilion if you dont have it)
  • Rose Madder
  • Yellow green
  • Chrome green (or try mixing cadimum yellow + prussian blue)
  • Lemon yellow+ Ultramarine + Burnt Sienna= darker olive green color
  • Viridian+ Ultramarine+ burnt Sienna= Dark green
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Black

Painting the grassland

Before you begin, it may help to go through these steps before following the actual process, this will make it easier to follow along.

Lets get into it!!

1st step- Painting the sky

Start by stretching the paper. Using masking tape, tape down the four sides of the paper. Try sticking the tape to your clothes first if the tape is too sticky.

Begin by using graphite pencil (Hb) to draw the outline of some mountains across the horizon and the outline of a leafless tree just below the mountains.

Using clean water and the size 12 brush, pre- wet the area where the sky will be, just above the mountains. Add some light strokes of ultramarine, paint it lighter at the top and lighter moving toward the tips of the mountain. Clean off the brush and mix some yellow-orange mixed with a touch of lemon yellow. Begin dabbing spots in the centre where the sun will be. Use the image below as a reference.

While the paint is still damp, its time to add some diluted dabs of Cadmium red.

Adding the dabs of paint

Blending the paint and spreading it out.

Next add some yellow orange to both the sides of the cadmium red as shown below then blend it out.

2nd step- Painting the grassland background

While the sky background dries its time to lay the foundation of the grassland itself.

Here I used a combination of Lemon yellow+ Ultramarine + Burnt Sienna to get darker olive green color. Using the size 8 brush lay down some streaks of this green like in the picture below.

After the layer dries, begin adding yellow-green in smooth streaks around the rest of the tree. Add less streaks around the tree where the sunshine will be. As you can see below, the brush strokes do not leave a smooth stain. Instead there are patches, this will create a 3 dimensional illusion by adding texture and depth through dark patches (more on that later).

To express the sunlight gently gleaming over the plain we’re going to add a glaze of cadmium yellow as shown below.

Begin by using the point of the brush to dab some paint

Blend out the yellow with the green but be sure to focus it only in the centre where the sunlight touches

Its time to deepen those dark patches by adding come more defined brushstrokes using the size 4 brush.

3rd step- Finishing the sky

Back to the sky! Now that the first layer we painted is somewhat close to dry it’s time to add another layer of yellow orange, cadmium red and cobalt blue.

Without adding to the sun, begin by adding streaks of yellow orange on the sides of the sun. Use your brush to create streaks so as to create texture

Add a few small streaks of cadmium red along with the yellow orange. Make the Cadmium red more diluted than the yellow orange. Add the ultramarine, darker in the corner and lighter towards the yellow orange. Do the same thing on the other corner

4th step- Adding the mountain

Finally its time to paint the mountains. Because they are far away from the viewpoint simply paint them with cobalt blue at a subtle gradient (somewhat darker at the edges and lighter towards the bottom). Allow the paint to dry then add another layer of blue. Leave the mountain at the very back light cobalt for now.

5th step: The Grass part 1

When painting the individual grassland we wanna add depth to our painting by taking note of the perspective. The grass further away from the painters viewpoint will naturally be less defined and appear smaller. Meanwhile, the grass closest to the artists view point will be longer and more defined.

Remember the darker patches added in the beginning? In this next step you are going to use the size 2 brush and with Viridian+ Ultramarine+ burnt Sienna= Dark green to give you a dense dark green. You are going to begin painting long thin strokes of grass where the dark patches we made earlier are (use the image below as a reference).

You may notice in the image below how I’m holding the watercolor brush against the paper (size 4). I have tilted the brush so that the sides of the tip are brushing the paint. This is called the dry brush technique. Holding the brush like so, you are going to create small strokes moving upwards with some chrome green. Repeat this motion only around the bottom of the paper and around the dark patches of grass. For now you are going to leave the centre empty. Use the three images below as reference.

Taking some yellow green you are going to dab the area just around the tree where the sunlight touches. then take your brush and blend out the paint.

6th step -The grass part 3

Using black, paint the tree trunk as shown below (this will act as a guide to where to paint the shadow of the tree)

Using a diluted version of dark green (Viridian+ Ultramarine+ burnt Sienna) you are going to paint the shadow of the trunk. Try not painting it too straight. this is because the grass causes the shadow to break in real life.

Using the same techniques above, add the grass in the middle surrounding the tree with yellow green color. Remember, the grass is longer shorter and tiny as the distance increases. You may notice how the brush strokes get very small and vague towards the mountains. Also take notice of how the grass is lighter across the centre where the sunlight is focused.

7th step- Final touch ups

We are almost there! finally you’re going to finish painting the tree silhouette. Using black pigment just add the branches making sure that they become smaller towards the edges of the tree.

The mountain at the back seems to be too light so here you’re just gonna add another layer of cobalt blue.

Now it’s time to take the size two paint brush and add in a few trees in the distance. Remember you don’t have to make them too detailed, the ones closer to your viewpoint will be larger than the ones farther away.

You are almost finished with this tutorial, time for just one more step; the most satisfying step is slowly pealing off the tape after the paint has dried of course 🙂

I’m so glad you’ve made it to the end of this tutorial! If you faced any challenges make sure to comment about them down below or if you enjoyed this post make sure to leave a comment down below!

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