Lessons for an Absolute Beginner
So have you started your painting?
Whoo-hoo! You are now ahead of 90% of aspiring creatives everywhere.
Often just starting is the hardest part of any creative endeavour.
We have too much choice and an over-excited imagination…
A little tale about my little sister
My little sister is currently in her final year at art college, and I get weekly, if not daily, updates on her creative ideas.
Revolutionary concepts to conquer the world, ideas that will leave a legacy behind her, spawn a global empire and change the very face of the artistic community.
I check back to see how her progress is going, did step 1 lead to step 2?
Guess how much physical, tactile work has been created?
Okay, that sounds harsh, a few…but on a new ‘amazing’ idea!
Our ability to make things happen and to move forward even when we know the result will not be perfect is a tricky one.
Having too many options can lead to creative blocks, which can easily stop you from getting going.
Hick’s Law, introduced by British psychologist William Hick in 1951, describes how long it takes our brains to decide. Essentially, every time the number of choices doubles, the time is taken to make a decision increases by a fixed amount.
That’s why I’ve designed this free landscape painting course to use simple colours that can be used on paintings again and again, from still life’s to portraits.
Once the decision of which paint colours to choose is eliminated, we can get on with the fun part…the painting.
Acrylic landscape painting – Lesson 2
In this acrylic landscape painting series, I am posting a weekly video on my YouTube channel that you can follow along at home. It’s free to subscribe to the channel so you can keep updated with the painting progress.
In the demo, I have premixed a few colours to get us started; you can see this video below:
Premixing the Colours for the Landscape Painting
The next 3 steps
Step 1. Establishing a local colour for the sky
It is easiest to judge the hue of colour in relationship to the colours around it. If we have a grey placed on white paper and black paper, it will appear differently. The first layer we put on, a local colour to the sky – is quite thin. The trick is to try and get it thick enough to cover the underlying colour but not too thick that it becomes harder to paint over.
Step 2. Blocking in the clouds
Because we have previously colour matched the cloud tone, we can afford to apply it quite thickly. Notice how it looks ‘wrong’ to start with. This is due to the effects of simultaneous contrast.
Step 3. Using glazes to achieve optical mixing
You don’t always have to mix and match the exact colour first before painting with acrylics. In this section, I use the golden glow of the underpainting to create an optical mix of the sky. I use the premixed purple, but it appears redder.
This is due to a combination of the Yellow Ochre ground shining through the thin watery mix and the fact that all colours appear warmer when mixed with water as opposed to appearing cooler when mixed with white.
Acrylic landscape painting- Free video Course |Part 2
The video below shows the second steps in the acrylic landscape painting. Make sure to subscribe to my YouTube Art school Channel to keep updated, you don’t need an account, and you’ll get weekly email updates when a new video is posted.
Here is Part 3 of the Acrylic Landscape Painting Lesson
You might also like:
1. Acrylic landscape painting techniques – Lesson 1 of 4
2. Acrylic landscape painting techniques – Lesson 3 of 4
3. Acrylic landscape painting techniques – Lesson 4 of 4
This Post Has 71 Comments
Hi Will! I am trying this right now and am a bit frustrated, not sure what I am doing wrong. I mixed the colors (I am using some student quality paint, I have Winsor and Newton Titanium White) but when I apply them they do not flow well at all on my canvas. I prepped my canvas but as I paint the paint is very thin and does not fill in the canvas nicely. I run out of color very quickly as well. Not sure if it is the canvas, the paint, me or ???
I’ve just has a look at the canvas you are using on your website and that looks fine, and the block in also looks fine. You might just need to add a bit more water to increase the fluidity. Often my first block in of the colour doesn’t completely cover the coloured ground (as in you can still see the coloured ground through the layer of paint). It just acts as a guide so I can then do another coat of thicker paint when I’m feeling more confidence of having the correct colour mixed.
A classic beginner mistake is simply not using enough paint. You can feel that you are going to ‘waste paint’ so subconsciously used less paint than is needed.
I was teaching a palette knife painting class this morning, painting only with palette knifes, and my students had some fab results.
It forced them out of their comfort zones and gave them the confidence to experiment with thicker paint. So maybe try not only mixing the paint with the palette knife but applying it with the knife to the canvas. This doesn’t have to be over the entire painting, but just as a method to loosed you up and get a feel for acrylics.
Let me know how you get on,
thanks a lot for your help , the way you teach is so simple that anyone can understand. I successfully painted the tutorials of the cherry. However , I end up with a disaster on attempting to paint landscape. It was my panic what caused such results. I applied too thick white paint ubove the clouds trying to correct my mistakes. so far I hadn’t read your comments on the three stages of painting. Is there a way to remove dried acrylic paint from a canvas and restore a hole on the canvas without bying any extra liquid or material ? if not what is the materia or liquid that one has to buy and how is it used ?
any answer will I appreciate
thank you, thank you, thank you so much
Thanks for your kind words, so pleased you had great success with the Cherry painting. It’s very hard to remove the acrylic from the canvas once it’s hardened into the fibres. You can easily build up the painting with thicker acrylics on top though.
With painting it is often a case of painting over and repainting your work so don’t get too discouraged if it doesn’t go perfect first time! I have many paintings with multiple layers as the work progresses.
Repairing a hole in a canvas is a bit trickier and usually a job for a a framer or restorer.
Thank you so much, I am afraid of “wasting” paint and I know I have to get over that. I painted again today and used more paint and it felt better on the canvas. I need some work on the color mixing and blending, it takes me too long to mix the paint that my canvas dries. I did pick up some Golden paints in a few colors and I love them. I definitely like working with fewer colors for now and will try the painting again. Do you have any advice for blending paint on canvas? I should probably mix all my colors first so they are ready when the canvas is still wet.
I will also try the painting with the palette knife, to get me over the paint wasting.
Thank you again for all your help, I truly appreciate it.
When I’m approaching a painting with Acrylics I often premix colour strings that I keep on a stay-wet palette before I start to paint. It can seem like a lot of work before you’ve even begun but I’ve found this preparation time is like masking off skirting boards and sanding the walls before you decorate – thoroughly boring when your eager to get on but makes the actual painting time easier and quicker.(I’m just about to release a post on the benefits of colour strings.)
If you do premix your colours, blending on the canvas does become easier as everything is wet at the same time. You can also try adding a touch of Retarder to your paint or Glazing Liquid.
The paint wasting problem is a common one, so don’t be too hard on yourself, go palette knife crazy on a 6 x 6 inch piece of paper and enjoy yourself!
How do you accomplish a “stay-wet” palette? What materials do you use to do this?
I personally buy a stay wet palette as I prefer to work on a larger surface area. So I use a A3 stay-wet palette from Daler Rowney. You can make your own by using a resealable shallow plastic tub, lay some kitchen roll in the bottom and soak with water. Then place some greaseproof paper ontop, and finally add your paints onto the greaseproof paper.
If you give ‘home made stay wet palette’ a google I think there are a couple of videos on youtube.
Hope this helps,
I’m very new to acrylics and stumbled across your website today – best one I’ve found :-)
In my eagerness to start however, I didn’t do a stay wet palette and am now wondering if the paint left of my palette will have to be washed off or if it can be used again?
Your assistance is very much appreciated.
Glad you like the website.
however, I didn’t do a stay wet palette and am now wondering if the paint left of my palette will have to be washed off or if it can be used again?
To answer your question you’ll probably have to scrape the paints off the palette as they dry so quick, the paint won’t be able to be used again but the palette will be.
I often use tear off palettes as they’re disposable, then I don’t have to constantly scrape off and clean up – I just tear them off and throw away at the end of that painting session.
Sorry! just thought of another thing – I don’t have alizaron crimson in my collection – I’ve got Cadium Red, Brilliant Red & Scarlet – all by daler-rowney – what’s the best way of mixing the pale pink with one of these as mine came out more orange when substituting…
Just had a look at the Daler rowney colour chart and it looks like all the reds you have are warm reds (bias towards yellow/orange). The Crimson from Daler rowney looks the closest to Alizarin Crimson and would get the pinks of this painting as it will be a cool red (bias towards purple/blue)
If you watch my video on ‘how to mix a bright pink’ you can see how you’ll never achieve that pink with the cadmium red.
Hope this helps,
Came across you site, i am an acrylic painter too. Appreciate what you are offering here, its hard to find informative, educational sites on acrylics….well done!
Thanks for the comment, pleased to hear it is helping your painting.
When I try to paint a ‘large’ area the paint (artist quality) dries quickly and sticks. I’m interested to know how you kept your paint so fluid? Did you use a retarder and if so, how much?
Are there acrylics available that dry slower?
I don’t usually use a retarder myself but if you do want to use retarder with your paints mix in just a little bit, no more than 15%.
Lots of students ask me how do I keep my paints flowing so well and it is really a balancing act between adding in the mix too little water or too much, but if you are still having trouble Golden paints make a medium called ‘Acrylic flow release’ this will help you get a better flow to your paints over a large area as it gives more of a staining effect rather than using a retarder and is perfect for soaking into raw canvas.
I also use Acrylic Glazing Liquid Gloss to help blend edges and achieve very thin glazes when working at an easel, but this is usually used towards the end of a painting to soften edges rather than when you’re first blocking in your colour at the beginning of a painting.
You can get ‘Golden Open Acrylics’ that have a slower drying time and can be mixed in with normal acrylics.
Hope this helps,
Firstly to say thanks so much for putting this website together – what a fabulous resource!
Just been watching the Acrylic Landscape Painting video (part 2) in which you refer to a different video where you demonstrate how you arrived at the pre-prepared colour mixes and how to match the colours of the sky and clouds etc to the photo. I can’t seem to find the link to this colour matching video anywhere…..I’m probably missing the obvious…any clues?
Thanks very much, pleased your enjoying the videos.
The video I mention is here: How to colour-match an acrylic landscape painting
So happy to find this question!! I’ve been searching myself for the link for creating the prepared color mixes…phew! Now on with the painting. :)
For the beginner ‘acrylic landscape techniques’ videos are you using the colours straight from the tube or do they have any medium added / any water to dilute them?
P.S. Why do most painters seem to paint with the canvas propped up vertically, is there something bad about painting with the canvas on a flat, or slightly angled surface?
Yes, throughout the painting I am adding water to my mixes, I don’t use any medium in this painting, just water.
I only really use the paint straight from the tube in the latter stages of the painting. If you are using student grade paints these will often have a thinner consistency than artist quality so can more readily be used straight from the tube.
It is fine to work on the flat when painting quite small, however, if you want to work on a larger scale an easel is much easier. It enables you to be able to step back from your work and see the whole of the piece, rather than get too engrossed in the details too early on. It is also key to certain methods of classical painting when sighting an object. If you are painting fairly small scale working on the flat ( or on a slight angle) is absolutely fine, each artist has their own personal preference.
Thanks for this Will,
Just to clarify (apologies if this sounds like an obvious question) when exactly are you adding water to the paints, before you mix the colours, as you mix the colours or after the colours are mixed? Or is it a little bit of all three?
It’s usually a mix of all three, it just depending how the paint flows (or doesn’t!) on the canvas and then I adjust the consistency accordingly. I always dampen my brush slightly before I begin so I’m not using a completely dry brush and then add more or less water if I’m working in thin layers or thicker impasto sections.
Thank you for such good beginners videos. Colour matching so good, Marion.
Thanks Marion, really pleased the videos have helped your colour matching.
Will, you are such a gifted teacher, your power and experience help a lot. Thank you for what all you do. Your site is so nice. The most useful one I’ve found so far. I have just bought a set of acrylic paints and I am looking forward to starting. Warm greetigs from Moscow, Russia. Irina
Hi Irina, so kind of you to say so. Really pleased the articles are helping you find your way around acrylics!
I’m using Winsor Newton artists’ acrylic and wondering if my ultramarine blue is different from yours? When I mix it with the titanium white I get a blue that leans towards purple and not that nice sky blue or baby blue that you show in the video. Phthalo blue and white seems to work better for me…..?
Ultramarine blue does lean towards purple which is perfect for this painting.
Phthalo blue mixed with white leans towards turquoise so I would stick with the Ultramarine blue,
Thanks for the excellent instruction. Love the blending technique for the clouds and awesome colors.
Cheers Perri, pleased you enjoyed it.
I stumbled on to your amazing website looking for guidance for acrylic painting, and now this has become my go to site. I haven’t bought any colors yet though! Still going over the painting in my head, it even took me a lot of courage to write a note of appreciation to an amazing artist and teacher like yourself. The fear of doing something wrong, of wasting paint, resources is too much :-(. I like your less is more approach. Hope to make a trip to the art store and atleast get the ground going !
Thanks for dropping by and glad to hear the website has inspired you to get creating! It really isn’t as scary as your mind thinks, once you get going.
Let me know how the painting turns out,
Thanks for the videos. Great help. Am ready to get some better paints. Do you have a basic list? What do you use in your color mixing course? I want to take it.
Pleased you’re enjoying the site. The basic colours I recommend are listed here. For the colour course I use this palette plus a couple of extras you such as phthalo blue and raw umber.
Well, getting set up to try the landscape acrylic painting. I’ve got all the paint and brushes and have the stay wet palette. Have downloaded all 4 youtube videos and printed out all 4 tutorials. The canvas has been coated. Now its time to “belly up to the easel”. We’ll let you know how it comes out. I started in oils a couple months ago and have completed 9 painting but think that I will like acrylics more (specially the clean up or lack of it).
Happy painting everyone,
Good luck with the painting Morgan!
Wow!! This is the best website. I love it!
I’ve drawn a lot over the years, but have had great difficulty moving from graphite to color in any medium. I really want to learn about color and how to make a painting pop with color. I get part of the way in a painting and then get stuck. So far, your website is giving me the confidence to explore moving past the half finished piece. I’ll keep studying your words and listen to your videos. Any additional suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks for the kind comments, so pleased the site is helping you gain confidence with colour. The best way is to start with a couple of colours that are opposites. This way you can learn about balancing colours, muting down strong colours, and the power of neutrals in your compositions. Have a look at this tutorial which will introduce all these concepts. The simple colour mixing course goes more indepth into the theory behind colour mixing.
Hi, I am Anita, I live in a tropical place ,my problem is my acrylics dry very fast before Ican really use them.
Nice to hear from you, to increase the working time when working with acrylics you have a couple of options
1. Mix in a small amount of ‘retarder’ with the paint. This will slow the drying process.
2. Blend colours using ‘glazing medium’ rather than just water, again, this will give you a bit more working time.
A stay wet palette can be very useful in keeping your mixes wetter as the heat will play a big difference in the speed of drying of your acrylics, as acrylics dry by evaporation. So the stay wet palette should really help.
Hope this helps,
Hi Will, I’ve only just begun to paint and was told about your website. I love it. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise. I have jumped right in and am thoroughly enjoying it. SPLASH! Sincerely Helen
Good one Helen, looking forward to hearing about your painting progress!
Can u help me how to make cream colour which u used near the clouds????
Just try Titanium white with a touch of Yellow ochre, that should be perfect for the lights in the clouds.
I have been working through the 7 Painting Principles and finding these extremly helpful. I am up to the 2nd video Acrylic Landscape Painting. I know I have seen the video regarding the mixing of the colours for the sky but I can’t remember what it is called. I have searched for it but can’t find it.
Can you please advise which video it is.
Hi Rosemarie, pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons, here’s the video mixing the landscape colours.
Hi will this is Zunera. I just love your paintings. And your videos are real easy to follow. I made the acrylic landscape and it looked excellent. I have told my friends about this brilliant website. Thankyou!!!!
Great to hear it Zunera, really pleased you have been enjoying the acrylic lessons.
Hello Will! I love your website and your free lessons are terrific. I am an absolute beginner and I’ve had a great time creating a both the cherry and apple paintings so far. I am trying this landscape but in a bit of trouble, I cannot find the color matching video anywhere and I’m having a rough time matching the colors on my own. If you could let me know how to find it I would be much appreciative!! Thank you!
Hi Lisa, really pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons, here is the colour matching video for the seascape.
thank you for this fantastic course. I have one problem – I have covered the canvas in the yellow, but the other colours, even the darkest ones, don’t cover this properly even though I have not thinned them down with water. Could the reason be that I’m using the cheapest of cheap colours? They were from a box set I bought at Aldi some time ago…
Hi Rena, yes that will be the case, cheaper colours have less pigment in the paint mix so can be much thinner that artist quality paint, if you invest in an artist quality titanim white that will give you the biggest jump in opacity to your paint mixes.
I am newbie to acrylics and found your videos extremely useful, thank you! I will continue to browse your site. Tried my hand at the landscape painting, it is definitely no where near yours but much better than my other paintings. Thank you for sharing!
Hi Reshma, thanks for your kind comments, really pleased you’ve been enjoying the landscape painting lessons.
You are so right about eliminating the colour choices making it sooo much easier. That is still my biggest obstacle. Sometimes I see really great pieces of work except for the colour, they remain dull, drab, lifeless and I always feel it’s a shame and hope that my own work doesn’t turn out the same.
Thank you so much Will for all your courses and sharing so much knowledge.
ps. Have you done any work that covers trees, bushes, leaves, forests? I would really like to see that.
Hi Laurie, pleased you’ve been finding the articles and courses helpful, thanks for your kind words. I haven’t got any specific landscape courses at the moment but am working on a new ‘sketching the landscape course’.
Hello from Holland,
Thanks for posting this nice video. Do you only use water to thin the acrylic paint or do you use another medium ( to let the paint/brush flow nicely)? What kind of brushes ?
Thanks again for your time.
many greetings from Holland,
Hi Hedy, for this demo I just dilute with water, Lesson 1 has a full material list for the tutorial.
Am very new to painting and have found answers to many of my questions. Your information and delivery make for a positive leaning experience for me. Will be attempting the landscape but have one question. Do I have to finish in one day? Or can I take my time and progress with the painting to fit my schedule. Thanks
Hi Mark, nice to hear from you, you can create the painting in stages to suit your schedule, just start with the first colour and then complete that section first, then complete each section when I introduce new colours to the painting.
I too am a beginner having never painted before but always wanted to try, I have been viewing your excellent videos and hope to make a start. My question is how do you know what colour to put on the canvas as a base paint before you start.
Hi Carol, it depends on the feeling and mood you’re trying to capture in the painting. What can be a good experiment is to pick a scene and then paint 4 different coloured backgrounds and then paint all 4 paintings of the same scene. That way you’ll start to develop your own personal preferences to which colours would work best for you.
Thanks for this awesome tutorial. I’ve found that limiting my palette has definitely sped up my process and helped me get better at mixing colors. I really like the depth in your clouds. I’ve recently started painting, and have been working my way through Jerry Yarnell’s Basics book. I realize that this is an older post, but if you’re still watching the site, I just wanted to thank you for the inspiration!
That’s brilliant to hear Chris, so pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons and glad that the limited palette has been helping your painting.
I just started this tutorial that I just noticed its existence . How strange. I did your still life paintings that turned out great specially the cherry that I was gifted to a relative as well the apple. I wanted these days to experiment with these colors and sea theme and I just fall into this tutorial. My happiness can not be expressed . You are the great teacher. Thank you so much that you offer your knowledge. Thank you thank you thank you
Hey Katerina, I’ve just opened your email with your still life painting, they’re looking fab! so pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons.
Hi Will I just came across your excellent website while looking for ideas on how to paint a landscape in acrylics. Thank you for putting such great information together that anyone would need to complete a painting.
Margaret from Ireland.
Thanks so much Margaret, really hope you enjoy the lesson.
Hello will! I’m Emma and I just want to let you know that I love your videos so much. I learned a lot about painting and will continue watching them! I have a question though, what color grounds do you not recommend for painting?
Hey Emma, pleased you’ve been enjoying them, these are the most common ones I use : Colour grounds