Your Cart

Step-by-step Sunset


This method should work for painting any sky that has windswept clouds across it. Practise different colour combinations to get the hang of painting in the clouds at the point when the background sky still has just the right level of moisture in it.

    •  Watercolours – naples yellow, lemon yellow, cadmium orange, alizarin crimson, cobalt blue, cadmium red, ultra-marine blue, indigo and burnt umber.
    • Brushes – watercolour brush, size 12 and half inch flat synthetic, synthetic size 6
    • Plastic palette with deep wells for watercolour
    • 2b pencil and rubber
    • Paper towels/kitchen roll

1. Begin by drawing in the horizon line very lightly with a pencil then mask out a small circle for the sun with masking fluid. Add in a few strokes of a wax crayon (white or clear) where the light from the sun is reflected in the water.

Wet the whole of the sky area right dawn to the horizon, including the area where the distant hills and buildings will be. Drop in a thin wash of naples yellow and lemon yellow for 2⁄3  of the sky, then blend in a mix of cadmium orange and alizarin crimson down to the horizon, keeping the area around the sun yellow and bright. Add in a touch of cobalt blue to this orangey/pink mix to make a warm mauve and sweep that across the top part of the sky.

2. Turn your paper upside down and use the same colour washes to reflect the sky in the water leaving a thin strip of white paper at the water’s edge where it meets the land. Add the warm orangey/pink mix to the left and right hand side of the water leaving the area where the sun is reflected the lightest. Turn the paper back the right way around.
The sky should still be slightly damp – this is important otherwise the edges of the clouds will not blur. If the sky has dried out you will need to, very gently, re-wet it and wait until it is just damp.

3. Create 2 reddish purple mixes – one more red and the other more grey – using alizarin crimson, cadmium red and ultramarine blue (add a touch of indigo or paynes grey to dull down one of them if necessary). Paint the distant hills at the horizon with the redder one. Now dab your brush on kitchen paper so that it is not too saturated and paint the clouds using the side of the brush and rolling it to and fro in small movements across the paper. Use both mixes to create a variety of colour in the clouds. Painting with the brush on its side gives an uneven mark and ragged texture to depict cloud shapes more convincingly.

4. Mix more of the muted purple mix and another of burnt umber and paint in the the buildings along the horizon over the top of the distant hills. Then use this same mix to paint the sandy area on the left hand side of the water. Use a half inch flat brush this time but once again take the moisture out of the brush and stroke it across the paper in quick short sweeps to give strong but broken brush marks. Take care to leave areas of white paper for the reflection of the sun. Pull out highlights with a damp brush if you need to. Leave to dry.

5. Create a dull pinky/red by mixing naples yellow, alizarin crimson and cadmium red with a touch of cobalt blue. Rewet the sky and that water very gently taking care not to disturb existing washes of colour and stroke in warm areas of the lower part of the sky and all of the sea on the left and right hand edges of the painting. Add indigo to the red mix and paint in the sea area on the right hand side while still wet. Rub off the masking fluid used for the sun.