How to paint sand and hills with watercolor

Painting the hills with watercolor

In this step, figure 5, paint the distant hills, leaving a few untouched areas at the bottom of the closest hill were rocks will be place in the next step. Paint one wash over both hills and let it dry thoroughly.

Now paint the foreground hill with a similar strength mixture as was used for the distant hill. As watercolor tones are additive it will make the closest hill look darker and hence closer to the viewer. Remember to paint around the figures and the rock shapes at the bottom of the hill.

Watercolor painting of distant hills
Figure 5: Watercolor painting of distant hills

Then with a creamy mix of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, paint in the rocks, taking care to leave the odd highlight unpainted.

Painting foreground hill and rocks with watercolor
Figure 6: Painting foreground hill and rocks with watercolor

How to paint sand

Let us now look at how to paint sand with watercolor.

After using the same two colors to mix a dull brown to the consistency of creamy milk, take a brush with clean water and wet a section of the painting where some of the sea will merge with the sand.

Then while this area is still quite wet paint the sand.  Remember to paint around the figures clothing.

When using watercolor paint to paint the sand I pick up some of my pre mixed paint, drag the tip of the brush across the lip of my palette to take out some of the paint mix, and then I dip the tip of the brush in clean water. I do this to dilute the mixture a little before starting to paint the distant section of sand. This makes it lighter in tone and helps to create the feeling of space in my painting.

After this start to painting the sand I then just use the mixture in my palette, which is stronger and will make the foreground sand look closer to the viewer.

You can also see, figure 7, that where the sand mixture hits the pre-wet area to the left of the figures, that a soft and lighter patch is created. Hopefully this will make that area read like wet sand later in the process of painting this watercolor.

How to paint sand with watercolor. Painting sand on beach with watercolor
Figure 7: How to paint sand on beach with watercolor

Continue to: Painting people the sea and birds with watercolor

Watercolor techniques: wet on dry

Wet on dry watercolor painting technique

Wet on Dry is the watercolor painting technique you use when you want to place a hard or sharpe edge on your painting, though you can also use it to cover an area with a nice clean watercolor wash, see figure 6.

With the wet on dry technique the paper is dry when you lay down your watercolor wash, think of moping a floor and leaving it wet as you wash it.

The trick here is to make sure you have enough moisture on your brush that the paint mixture will freely flow out from the brush and onto your watercolor paper. It should be fluid enough that once on the paper it forms a bead of paint at the bottom edge of your brush stroke. You use this bead to continue painting down the paper to create a smooth clean looking finish.

Wet on Dry watercolor painting technique, produces hard or sharp edges
Figure 6: Wet on Dry watercolor painting technique, produces hard or sharp edges

Use the bead to help paint a smooth wash. The technique for creating a smooth wash is to keep this bead of watercolor paint flowing down the page. After you lay down your first confident brush stroke with a full loaded brush (a fully loaded brush is one that if you hold it vertically with the point facing down, the paint will drip out of it, but if you hold it horizontally it will not drip). You then reload your brush and your second brush stroke just touches the lower edge of this bead of watercolor causing it to flow down the page before creating a new bead at the bottom of this next brush stroke. It is this continuous flowing of water color down the page that leaves behind a nice smooth finish. Think of it like the sand at a beach as a wave recedes it leaves behind a smooth sandy surface.

If you have a look at my flat wash demonstration, you will see an example of this wet of dry technique.

Now if you create a watercolor wash and while it is still wet you go back into it with another color (this is often referred to as charging by some watercolor artists) then the rules of wet on wet apply.

Continue to: Dry Brush or Broken Edge Watercolor Technique

Watercolor’s Most Important Ingredient

Water is the most important ingredient when painting with watercolor paints.

It is very important to know its characteristics or you will not be able to properly handle this medium.

Many of the wonderful effects achieved in a great watercolor painting are directly attributable to the amount of water on the paper, in your pallet mixes and on your brush. By keeping an eye on just how wet or otherwise all of the above are you can create magical wet on wet washes, dramatic dry brush edges or sharp wet on dry lines and surfaces – as well as an infinite range in between.

The Entrance Sand Bar watercolor painting. Lots of little sand islands with pelicans.
The Entrance Sand Bar watercolor painting