How to paint a starry night landscape for beginners

In this post, I will take you through step by step on how to paint a starry nighttime landscape with watercolors.

If you’re new to watercolors then this tutorial is perfect for you!

You’ll be painting a simple wet into wet background then adding stars and trees on top.

Let’s get into it…


  • Watercolor 300gsm cold pressed paper
  • watercolor round brushes: Size 18, 12, 4. (you can choose the brush sizes that better suit the size of your watercolor paper.
  • 2 jars of water
  • Paper towel to remove exess water from brush.

Colors used:

  • The sky:
    • Cerulean blue
    • Prussian blue (you can use indigo as a substitute)
    • Viridian
    • White gouche (or opaque white watercolor)
  • The forest:
    • Paynes gray

Step-by-step tutorial:

Video tutorial

I have linked the video tutorial for this painting with subtitles. However, for further explanations, you can go through the written steps below:

Painting the starry night sky:

  • Colors to prepare on your palette:
    • Cerulean blue
    • Viridian
    • Prussian blue

To begin, I used the wet-on-wet technique. I simply wet all areas of the paper with clear water.

Next, I added broad circular strokes of cerulean blue along the middle of the paper.

I made sure to leave some areas lighter than others.

While the paper was still wet I dropped some viridian along the bottom. Finally, I added Prussian blue at the very top of the paper and along the sides to make the top of the sky darker.

how to paint in layers with watercolor

Once the first layer was complete it was time to let it dry…

After the paper had dried I wanted to add darker values, I did this by painting a second layer using the same colors in the previous step.

This time I used the wet on dry technique.

painting the background sky with watercolor.

To finish off the sky I painted more Prussian blue around the top and the sides, avoiding the middle and bottom.

how to paint skys with watercolor. adding a nighttime atmosphere to a watercolor landscape

I finished the background then let it dry…

Painting the stars!

To paint the stars I used white gouache, if you don’t have any that’s alright! You can always use opaque white watercolor paint instead.

Only add the stars when the sky has completely dried otherwise you’ll get unwanted backruns.

I’m too lazy to paint every single dot… so I used the splattering technique instead. To do this I held the brush a couple of inches above my painting with one hand and with the other I tapped the brush handle.

This produces a splattering effect littering the sky with stars!

Tip: Be careful not to use too much water in your brush. Too much water will cause bigger dots and create unwanted blotches! It’s always a good idea to test the consistency of the dots on a piece of scrap paper first.

how to add stars on watercolor painting step by step

Alternative technique: If you do not feel comfortable with the first approach that’s alright.

You can also use a toothbrush instead, simply load the brush with the paint; then using your finger brush the bristles and let the dots splash onto the paper.

Additional step: You can use the point of the brush to create small lines indicating shooting stars!

Painting the Forest

Here I used Paynes gray and a size 4 round brush.

I first painted the background of the trees by adding short brush strokes with slightly pointy tips as shown in the image below:

how to paint a starry nighttime forest painitng with watercolors

With the size 4 brush, it was time to add the tree silhouettes.

To make the painting more interesting and seem more realistic, I added different variations. I painted some tall some short and I even changed the shapes of some of them.

step 7 on how to paint watercolor 
 starry night time lanscape step by step.

That’s the end of this watercolor landscape tutorial! If you’re interested in learning about different watercolor techniques, check out the articles below:

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found it helpful! Leave a comment below or email me if you have any questions, I would love to hear from you! 🙂

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