How to paint a loose landscape (watercolor tutorial)

Loose watercolor landscape tutorial for beginners

A great way to enjoy watercolors is by creating loose landscape paintings, this way you begin to capture the essence of your subject instead of getting lost in the details.

Loose landscapes are a great way for beginners to practice their painting skills and enjoy the process at the same time. In this post I will take you step by step through a detailed process of how to create the painting you see above. You’ll practice some wet on wet and dry brush techniques!

Lets get into it…


  • Cold pressed paper (300gsm/140lb)
  • Brush (Size depends on brush company so just use one big enough for the size of your painting). I used size 12 and 2
  • Watercolors (colors listed below)
  • 2 jars of water
  • Paper towel
  • Masking tape.
  • Hb pencil
  • Board (optional)

Colors used:

The colors I used for this painting are listed down below, however you don’t have to use the exact same colors. Feel free to use whatever colors you may have on hand.

  • Sky:
    • Dark grey: Prussian blue (cool blue)+ Gamboge(warm yellow)+Alizarin crimson (Cool red)
    • Yellow orange
  • Mountain:
    • Dark green: Prussian blue + Gamboge + touch of burnt sienna
    • Dark grey: same as above (PB+G+AC)
  • Field:
    • Mid dark green: Prussian blue + Gamboge
    • Dark green: Prussian blue+ Gamboge + Burnt sienna. (You can use paynes grey instead of burnt sienna to make it darker. I used both variations)
  • River:
    • Light blue: cerulean
    • Light grey: Cerulean + burnt sienna (light grey)

Step by step tutorial

Video tutorial:

Pencil sketch

Nothing too fancy remember, the pencil drawing is there to guide you so you don’t have to add too much detail.

Start by drawing the horizon line then the outline of the mountain and finally the river. Notice how the river starts out narrow then wider as it comes forward.

Basic sketch

Painting the sky

Start by wetting the sky area of the paper, be sure to leave the mountain dry for now. Make sure you have enough water, your paper should look glossy.

Take your dark grey color and begin dabbing the brush unevenly leave some areas white and some areas with gray (this is to create a 3d illusion). Try to make the top of the sky darker and the horizon lighter.

Watercolor loose landscape for beginners tutorial- Painting the sky

While the paint is still wet add in some darker spots, remember to leave the are closest to the horizon white for now.

Watercolor tutorial of loose landscape for beginners - step 1

Next dab in yellow orange along the horizon (don’t add yellow orange around the mountain peak). Allow the paint to spread and bleed, this will create a beautiful granulating texture.

Watercolor loose landscape tutorial step 2

Let the sky dry before continuing to the mountain.

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Loose mountain

Wet the area of the mountain, make sure the paper has enough water and is glossy. Start by dabbing in dark green and dark grey, I used more grey because I wanted the mountain to blend in with the sky.

Watercolor landscape tutorial- step 4 painting the mountain

Dab in a few more spots of dark grey. Make the peak of the mountain darker than the bottom like so:

You can use your paper towel to lift off the paint at the bottom, making it look darker.

Once again let the paper dry. You can use a hair dryer to speed up the process, however I prefer to let it dry on it’s own so that it granulates better.


Begin by wetting the field areas with clean water, be sure to avoid the river. Taking your dark green start by painting lines across the fields as shown in the images below.

Watercolor loose landscape tutorial 
 step 5 Painting the field

Add in different shades of green in the white spaces to create a more interesting atmosphere. Below I used a mixture of prussian blue + Gamboge yellow for the light green and I added paynes grey to make the green darker.

While the paint is wet drop in darker spots, specifically along the horizon. This is to create contrast between the light area of the mountain and the field.

Allow the first layer to dry.

Field part two

After the first layer has dried, its time to switch the brush to a smaller size. Remember the size of the brush depends on how big your paper is. I’m using a size 2 in the image below.

Begin painting irregular lines to give the fields some life. Make the lines in the back of the field less bumpy and textured and more straight (less defined).

You can use the dry brush technique by removing excess water on a paper towel and painting with the side of the brush. It can be easy to get carried away so remember not to over do it.

How to paint watercolor texture on a field

Final touches

Its time to splatter some dark green for texture, you can skip this step if you prefer. Cover the surrounding areas with a paper towel or any paper. Make sure you splatter the field on both sides of the river.

In order to paint the river, begin by wetting the area then adding in cerulean blue and light grey (cerulean blue + burnt sienna). Allow the river to dry.

watercolor landscape beginners tutorial- how to paint river in a scene

To add more contrast you can use a small brush and add in darker green lines. Remember to darken the river banks.

Easy watercolor landscape for beginners.

That’s it for this post, I hope you enjoyed this loose landscape tutorial! Remember, if you’re just starting out with watercolors enjoy the process and keep learning and practicing the techniques and it’ll start to come naturally.

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