Introduction: Simple Watercolour Landscape

I have always painted for fun and I decided to try to write some instructions on how to do a very simple watercolour landscape. I am by all means not a teacher but I hope some of these instructions will come off useful! You can either follow the images for a step by step or use your own idea or photo and follow the process in that way.


  • Watercolour paints (hard or tube, I will be using the tube kind)
  • Watercolour paper
  • A paint tray for holding the colours
  • Scotch or Artist tape
  • A cup for water
  • Pencil and eraser
  • Paintbrushes (one small for detailing and one large)

Step 1: Outlining the Image

To start, it usually helps to take a pencil and sketch out a rough idea of what you will be painting as sort of a guideline. Make sure you press lightly on the paper, leaving very light pencil marks as this will show under the paint in unwanted areas if you are too messy. You can start by sketching something from memory, from a picture or from something you see in front of you. For this I sketched a lakescene from memory!

Step 2: Framing the Image

Once you have your sketch, take a piece of tape long enough for each of the edges.(Make sure not to just stick the tape to the paper or it will rip. It usually helps to stick the tape onto a different surface first to reduce a bit of the stickiness as so it will peel off the paper when done.) Use this to block off the edges of the paper so that the painting will have a border away from the edge of the paper.

Step 3: Paint!

Now is time for the paint! For this step it works best to plan out what colours you will be needing. For my example, I am going to be using different blues and greens for the forest and lake. In addition, I am also going to use browns, black, white and purple for the mountains and shadows. If using the tube water colours you will only squeeze out a small dot of paint, adding about 3/4 of the rest of the tray holding the colour with water. You will also want to keep a few empty spaces in your tray for mixing colours if necessary. If in doubt if the colour is correct or not, have a sheet of watercolour paper aside from your painting for testing the colours on. You can always test on the extra paper but once it is on your painting it's done!

(apologies for the dirty tray)

Step 4: 1st Layer

To begin, it is best to start with a base on the larger areas. I am starting with the sky and lake. Taking the bigger brush, it is best to dip it in the paint-water mixture of the colour you need, being careful to make sure there is more water than paint on the brush. Start by brushing the colour onto the correct area, continuing to add water onto your brush as needed to even it out and set aside until dry once the areas are filled in. You are going to want to build up LAYERS with this painting, it is what works the best with watercolour! If the first coat is too dull or light make sure to go over it until you're happy but before moving on to the next step. If it is not dry that is where problems will come into play.

Step 5: 2nd Layer

Once the first coat is dry, you will move to the second biggest or more forward perspective areas. For example, I will be doing my second layer as the mountains in the background and the lakeshore in the foreground (front). Repeat the same technique as used in step four but with the colours of your choosing, only this time making sure they are a bit darker and less water distributed than before. Once more, let dry once done.

Step 6: 3rd Layer

Moving on to the next step, you will paint in the remaining largest layer, which in my case would be where the trees are. Paint this in like the others, making sure it is a little darker than the previous steps, let dry.

Step 7: Details!

Now for the detailing. While this will be different for whatever your idea or reference may be, this is where the smaller pieces that make the painting whole come into play. For my image the main detailing will be in the branches of trees or the rocks on the mountains. It is important to make sure the painting is dry before you start this step, or it will lead to the paint running and blending your layers. To start, I am now using the smaller brush, using a darker colour of paint than the background layers to make sure it is seen. Following your reference or idea, carefully start adding the details necessary, starting from front to back. I am starting with the details on the mountains, waiting for that to dry and then moving to the trees and then the lakeshore etc.

Step 8: More Details

Once again, a big part to watercolours is layering. Waiting for the piece to dry, and then adding more and more layers until you are done. Moving on from the previous step, Wait for the piece to dry before adding any last details you may need, continuing to use the small brush to do so. Once it is completely dry, remove the tape and make sure to sign. Also remember! Make sure it’s dry or you will smear the paint (like yours truly in the final piece).

Step 9: Final Piece!

Apologies for the bad lighting, but thank you for reading!