In this detailed step by step tutorial, I’m going to show you how to paint an atmospheric landscape with only one color in watercolor and still create a mesmerizing effect. This tutorial is a first introduction to a free watercolor masterclass video where I film in real time my process for this painting and I also explain the biggest mistakes to avoid. Meanwhile, here is the detailed step by step tutorial for this atmospheric monochromatic painting.
Painting with only one color can be a little bit counterintuitive at first as you cannot play with colors. However this kind of practice will force you to focus mainly on value and composition.
And improving your composition and your understanding of value will take your paintings to the next level. At the end of this tutorial, you will see examples of the same paintings with color mixing and you will then understand how powerful this exercise can be.
I’m going to walk you through a 3-step process:
- Watercolor supplies
- Painting execution
- Analysis after finishing the painting
For this painting, I will only use Winsor Blue (Green Shade) from Winsor & Newton but you can use Cobalt Blue or French Ultramarine blue as well. For the watercolor brushes for this painting, I will use 1 mop brush (Raphael 803 size 4) and 1 synthetic brush (Escoda Perla size 10).
As for the paper, I only use Arches rough cold press 300g 100% cotton. I stretch the paper with some tape. I don’t wet the paper before painting. I tilt the board on an easel by around 20° to get the water going downwards when I paint the graded wash. Finally, I get a sponge to dry the brushes and a water bottle spray to wet the washes that are drying too fast.
Here is the reference photo. As you can see, the mountains in the background create directional lines towards the boat.
Painting Execution – How To Paint A Watercolor Landscape
Start with a light blue wash (lots of water and very few pigments) with the mop brush. Go downwards until you reach the horizon line.
Don’t wait too much (the wash has to be still quite wet) and pick lots of blue pigments with little water. Make a single brush stroke to define the mountains in the background. Do not dabble as it will spoil the freshness of watercolor.
Fill the bottom of the mountains with the same amount of pigments and then fill the bottom of the mountains with lots of pigments to create the impression of trees in the distance.
Let the mountains paint themselves thanks to gravity. The pigments will gather until the horizon line and it will create a blur effect from afar.
Start the wash for the water with pure water on the mop brush. It will bring with it the pigments from the distant shore and it will consequently create the reflections of the mountains on the water. Start putting more blue pigments as you go downwards.
Reach the bottom of the painting with a graded wash. You always have to put more pigments than water, otherwise it will create a discrepancy in the water’s wash.
This part is optional: to create waves, take the synthetic brush with almost pure pigments and make quick horizontal brush marks on the wet wash to create the wave effect.
Now is time to dry the paper. You can use a hairdryer or you can let the watercolor dry naturally.
Keep the boat simple and start with the body of the boat.
Once the body is done, you can paint inside the boat with some brush marks to create an impression of stuff going on in the boat.
Then paint the fisherman on the boat. Be careful on the proportion compared to the boat.
To create a story, paint a fishing rod. This fisherman is waiting for something…
The reflection should be lighter than the boat. Keep it loose with small horizontal brush marks to create the illusion of water reflection.
Your one color atmospheric painting is finished. Congratulations!!
Analysis After finishing The Painting
You can compare to other paintings from the same reference photo. Here is a variant with warmer colors. The atmosphere is completely different.
And here is another one with a more detailed background.
As you can see, you can play with only one color to create very different moods in your watercolor paintings.
If you want to know exactly how to paint this landscape in watercolor, I created a FREE watercolor masterclass video where I film in real time all my process for this painting and I also explain the biggest mistakes to avoid. To have instant access to this FREE course, you just have to click here!Recommended3 recommendationsPublished in