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How to Paint Landscapes with Acrylics (for beginners)

Both beginners and accomplished artists love to paint landscapes because they provide a huge variety of subject matter and sufficient inspiration to create unlimited compositions. Unlike people, landscapes do not move and they can be viewed in natural lighting, so they are relatively easy (compared to portraits) and fun to paint for beginners.

And acrylic paint, due to its versatility, inexpensive cost, ease of application, drying speed and durability (no cracking – unlike oil paint) is an excellent choice for painting landscapes.

Canopy Painting by Richard Grassi“Canopy” by Richard Grassi

Here is a simple, five-step plan to show you how to paint landscapes with acrylics:


Step 1Sketch the Composition

First, choose a landscape you wish to paint. You can either sit outside and work from an actual natural landscape or use a reference photograph.

With the help of a pencil, draw the landscape lightly. At this stage, do not focus on getting details in your sketch. Instead, draw only very rough shapes — squares, triangles, arcs, etc. You just need to work on setting the composition and getting the perspective outlined.


Step 2Paint the Sky
“It will be difficult to name a class of landscape in which the sky is not the ‘key note,’ the ‘standard of Scale’ and the chief ‘Organ of sentiment.’” – John Constable

Start with painting the sky. Use wide strokes for this purpose. Let the colors follow from dark to light. Blend the colors to give a natural appearance to the sky. Ensure that your brush strokes are in the same direction so that the colors disperse naturally.

Now add some dabs of white paint and use drawn out, curved strokes to paint clouds. You may want to thin out some places by brushing those areas with water, not paint. Conversely, you may want to increase depth or texture in other areas by adding or dabbing additional paint to selected spots.

Kearns photo

Here is an interesting and informative article about painting skies by a very skillful landscape artist, Stapleton Kearns. (Click HERE.)

Step 3Paint the Rest of the Composition

Start painting the other elements of your landscape. To paint trees and foliage, make use of various shades of green, blue and orange. Use brown and blue to paint the tree trunks. Use the handle of your brush to drag slender lines through the paint for added definition.

For painting the grass, use different shades of green, yellow and blue — and apply some light strokes of brown to enhance definition.

Of course, you can experiment by adding or removing selected design elements to make the composition less complicated and more interesting.

You may also want to experiment with different colors to suit your taste.

Here are some excerpted notes that accompany a video demonstration of Step 3:

“…it’s time to work out the values, or lightness and darkness. On a scale of 1 to 10, choose a key object with a middle value.

Eye your composition or structure. What’s lighter than the object you chose? What’s darker? What’s in between and by how much?

Using that value as your key, begin choosing values for all of the other objects in your composition.

Once you’re done, turn to the canvas and select a color for the key object.

Paint the rough shape of your key object.

Choose an object touching your key object. Choose a color and assign it a middle value. Paint its rough shape. Stick to the middle values, avoiding highlights and shadows at this stage.

Keep working around your composition until you’ve blocked off the whole piece.

Step back and look at your composition. Does it feel right?

Now go back in to your piece and begin assigning and painting colors with more accurate values for ever-smaller shapes around the piece. Your contrast will begin to develop.

Tip: Start with lighter values, then move toward darker values.

Add in your shadows in. Generally, you’ll want a cooler color. Avoid pure black.

Finally, add the highlights. These will be something in the family of the color of your light source, but avoid pure white.”

Here’s the source of those notes: Video Demonstration

And the video itself…

Step 4Allow Sufficient Time to Dry

Once you have finished applying the paint, let the landscape dry completely.

Step 5Apply Varnish

Then apply acrylic varnish to your painting. Varnishes are easily available in art and craft supply stores.

Application of varnish is necessary as it helps in protecting your painting and enhancing its vibrancy. And it gives your painting either a glossy or matte finish, depending on the varnish you use.

Here is an informative article about VARNISHES.

OK, that’s how to paint landscapes in acrylics in a nutshell. Of course, there are endless variations of this process and innumerable landscape painting tips and techniques.

The main thing to keep in mind, though, about painting landscapes –- or any other type of painting for that matter — is to relax and have fun. And remember that your paintings will get better with practice!


written by How to Paint With Acrylics staff

© GO International Enterprises.
All photos, images and text are copyright protected and not to be used without permission.

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