Painting a cool blue sunset sky with watercolors

Painting the blue sunset sky

Firstly I must say that whether or not this is a blue sunset sky or a sunrise one all the same points would apply.

Before I touch my paper with watercolor I first decide on the colors I am going to start with including their tones and how much of each color I will need.

Initial color mix for sunset sky over beach watercolor painting

Figure 4: Initial color mix for sunset sky over beach watercolor painting

I then mix these colors in my palette making sure I have enough mixed, it is much better to mix more than you need than not quite enough. I check these paints for color and tonal strength on a spare sheet of the same type of watercolor paper as I am using for my painting.

The colors I mixed are Cobalt Blue on its own, then some Cobalt Blue with a little bit of Permanent Alizarin Crimson and less water, and the third mix is French Ultramarine with some Permanent Alizarin Crimson and even less water. This will give you three different water color mixes and each one will be progressively stronger in tone and warmer in color. See figure 4.

Once I have all the colors and qualities right I can start painting.

The first painting step is to lay down some clean water over the lightest area of the blue sunset sky; this is where the setting sun is. See figure 5.

First wet the area of the sunset with clean water. Blue sunset sky painting with watercolor

Figure 5: First wet the area of the sunset with clean water

Next step is to pick up some of the Cobalt Blue mix and paint a wet on wet section to either side of the sun area. I want all this to be soft edges which I why I wet my sun area first. Make sure to leave lots of the sun area untouched. See figure 6.

Paint cobalt blue watercolor mix away from sun wet on wet for soft edges

Figure:6 Paint cobalt blue watercolor mix away from sun wet on wet for soft edges

I now pick up my second color mix of Cobalt Blue and Permanent Alizarin Crimson and paint this to either side of the section I have already painted. See figure 7.

Add the Cobalt Blue and Alizarin watercolor mix to either side of the painted area

Figure 7: Add the Cobalt Blue and Alizarin mix to either side of the painted area

Finish the sky with the French Ultramarine and Alizarin mix to the left and right. While the sky still has a shine on it drop in some cloud shapes in the sun area using the same mix but using very little liquid in your brush or the cloud shapes will just wash down and you will lose their streaky look. If need be lower the angle of your board so these cloud shapes do not wash down too quickly. See figure 8.

Finish the blue sunset sky with the French Ultramarine and Alizarin mix to the left and right and drop in some cloud shapes in the sun area.

Figure 8: Finish the sky with the French Ultramarine and Alizarin mix to the left and right and drop in some cloud shapes in the sun area.

After the shine has just left your watercolor paper in the sky drop in the distant hill with a stronger pigment mix of French Ultramarine and Alizarin. Use only a little paint mixture in your brush or the paint will bleed upwards too much. The aim is to create a controlled soft edge for the top of the hills. I varied the mix of colors ¬†as I painted these distant hills to give them a feeling of form rather than just a flat single color shape. This require a bit of experience so don’t worry if you don’t get as much variety as I achieve – it will come with experience and is not a major part of this watercolor painting. See figure 9.

After the shine has just left the sky drop in the distant hill with a stronger pigment mix of French Ultramarine and Alizarin.

Figure 9: After the shine has just left the sky drop in the distant hill with a stronger pigment mix of French Ultramarine and Alizarin.

Let this stage dry completely. You can use a hair drier to speed things up.

With the blue sunset sky completely dry we can now proceed to paint the sand part of this sunset scene.

Continue to: Painting the sand of our beach watercolor landscape. Return to: Previous step