Simple Landscape Painting Step-by-Step
This is a step-by-step tutorial on how to paint a simple and contemporary landscape with acrylic paint.
I have painted mine on a 12" x 12" stretched canvas. The use of complementary colors and simplified shapes makes this painting energetic and modern.
- Canvas (mine is 12″ x 12″)
- Acrylic paint. The colors used here are:
- Burnt Sienna
- Raw Sienna
- Hansa Yellow Light
- Naphthol Red Medium
- Titanium White
- Ultramarine Blue
- Cerulean Blue
- Paper towel
How to Paint an Abstract Landscape With Acrylics
Want to paint a landscape? An easy way to go is to paint horizontal bands of color: the viewer’s brain will read them as a landscape, guaranteed.
Try several thumbnail drawings with horizontal shapes of different values, you’ll see how they all read as landscapes.
Pro Tip: Start Your Painting on a Tinted Canvas
It is much easier to start painting on a tinted canvas. You can paint your canvas in any color that will complement your color scheme.
I used a canvas that I had painted with the colors left on my palette at the end of another painting session, and it worked out fine for this project.
Some unevenness in the background paint is fine; it will add some texture to the painting.
Step 1: Lay Down the Ground Color
Many times it is hard for artists to come up with ideas on things to paint.
A white canvas can be quite intimidating, and the fear to ruin a painting or wasting supplies can be so strong that no idea sounds good enough to actually attempt it.
- Starting from a tinted canvas eases a bit the fear of making mistakes. The same way you are painting over the ground color, you can paint over any mistake.
- Getting rid of the white of the canvas, also makes the painting feel finished much sooner.
- If you leave some of the ground color peeking through the final painting here and there, it will create a harmonious and unified look.
Step 2: Set the Horizon
When in doubt about where to place things on the canvas, I love to turn to the Rule of Thirds for guidance.
The horizon line is going to be your focal point, so you want to place it on one of the lines dividing the canvas into thirds. Avoid placing the horizon exactly in the middle; it makes it difficult to create an interesting composition.
Paint a dark line at the one-third line. I picked the lower third, but you could use the upper third as well (see example on image below).
In my landscape, I used complementary colors to create a contemporary and abstract feeling.
Complementary Colors Will Pop
Once you have your horizon in, start painting the two big masses of "ground" and "sky". I used complementary colors in the families of blue and orange.
The neat thing about using complementary colors is that they make each other pop, a color seems brighter when placed near its complement.
For the ground, I used Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Hansa Yellow Light, Naphthol Red Medium, and Titanium White. For the sky, I used Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, and Titanium White.
The darker blue areas are obtained by mixing Ultramarine Blue with Burnt Sienna.
Step 3: Create a Focal Point
Since your focal point is on the horizon line, make sure you have the following happening in your painting's horizon:
- The darkest dark
- The sharpest edge
- The strongest value contrast
Step 4: Add Highlights
As a final touch, paint the highlights of a painting.
In this case, I thought I would make it look like a sunset—or a sunrise, who knows?—and added yellow and white at the horizon.
I also painted a wash of the sky and ground colors lightened up with white, to create some changes in value and carry more attention to my hot spot.
Tips on How to Find Painting Ideas
When looking for ideas on what to paint I recommend doing one or more of the following:
- Create a reference material binder. Collect photos, drawings, and pages from magazines and calendars that you find inspirational and love for one reason or the other. It could be the color combination, the subject matter, or the composition. Include original photos taken by you; these are the best reference because you are sure you are not infringing copyright when you paint them.
- Doodle and sketch. Take pen and paper, and without worrying about the final results, start doodling and sketching. Let your pen go freely, this exercise is not meant to be artwork; it's just for you to warm up, and for your drawing skills to get some practice. Sketches could become the inspiration for your next piece, you never know, but for sure they will get the ice broken by getting you to create some form of 2D representation.
For more info on how to find inspiration and ideas for a painting, read 12 Things to Plan Before Starting a Painting and How to Do It.
© 2013 Robie Benve
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on October 22, 2017:
Hi Chuck, currently I write about painting but I don't teach. You can surely earn a lot by reading instructional painting articles, however the best recommendation I have for you is to paint, paint, paint, with a teacher or alone. Thanks for your comment.
Chuck on October 21, 2017:
I only paint in watercolor..... will your workshop help me?
Marcy on May 31, 2017:
Hi Kristen....it is so pretty and looks easy....so I am going to do it....tahnks
Morrissa Clanahan on April 14, 2017:
Loved your tutorial
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on September 15, 2015:
Hi Kristen, that's great to hear! :D Glad you found it easy and useful thanks a lot.
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on July 27, 2015:
Robie, this was so beautiful and easy to do to paint a landscape painting, even with a sunset in the background. Voted up for useful!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on November 25, 2014:
Thanks a lot DarrylGreen for your kind comment. Abstract painting is a lot of fun. You make some very good ones! :)
Darryl Green from Phoenix AZ on November 25, 2014:
That was well written. Good advice on how to do an abstract landscape.
This is coming from a person who does abstract paintings himself. See
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on July 17, 2014:
Hi rebeccameasley, that's wonderful to hear. :) Give it a try, take chances, be creative, and most of all have fun!
Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on July 17, 2014:
I like these ideas! I have painted a landscape from a photo once.It was a lot of fun. This makes me want to try painting again. Thanks!
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 24, 2013:
Hi SaritaJBonita, I did mix the acrylics with a little bit of water, sometimes I add a thickening medium too - acrylics tend to dry quite flat. Thanks a lot for your comment and support. :)
SaritaJBonita on April 20, 2013:
Really pretty, I love the simplicity of it. Did you mix the acrylics with water on your palette? I like to use a thickening medium and I tend to gob on the paint to create textures. This would be a change for me, and I think I'll try it!
Thanks, I always love your Hubs. Voted up and useful, and shared as well... :)
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on April 15, 2013:
Hi celeste inscribed, simple abstract landscapes can really dress a wall and what a conversation piece when your guests find out you did it! :) Happy painting!
Celeste Wilson on April 14, 2013:
It just goes to show that we don't need to be Picasso to find our own artistic side. This is so useful, I love painting and am going to give this a go for sure. Voted up
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on March 18, 2013:
Hi Brenda, yes the blank canvas block is similar to the writer's block. You've got to break the ice and start doing something. Painting a colored ground can help a lot. Thanks for reading and your comment. I'm glad you found it useful. :)
Brenda Lorraine Scully from Ireland on March 14, 2013:
this was very useful for me, as i really want to learn to paint, but as you said it is so difficult to stare at a blank canvas, and wonder what to do.
Robie Benve (author) from Ohio on February 28, 2013:
Hi Carol, thanks a lot for the great compliments, you are too nice! Happy painting! :)
carol stanley from Arizona on February 27, 2013:
I always enjoy your artsy hubs and learn something new. Lovely painting and well written. Voting up and Pinning in my artwork section.