How to Paint a Sunset: A Detailed Tutorial and Useful Tips

Have you ever seen a beautiful sunset? It’s one of the most popular subjects for paintings. The colors are so vibrant and there is something about it that just makes your heart soar. The warm glow, the atmosphere, and the layers of color are just so inspiring!

If you have always wanted to paint a sunset but didn’t know how to start then this article will be perfect for you. This is a step-by-step tutorial on how to paint a sunset for beginners.

We will discuss how to choose the best colors, painting techniques, and other useful tips that will help you create an amazing piece of art in no time!

Preparation is Key!

Before you begin, read through these helpful tips that will help ensure your painting looks great from start to finish. The first step would be creating an outline before moving on to the actual painting process. This means sketching it all down in pencil so you know what details need to go where as well as how much space is needed between each element within the image.

Next, choose which type of paint you want to use for your sunset. This is up to your personal preference and what you feel comfortable with at the moment.

The best types of paint you can use for sunset are watercolors, oils, and acrylics. For the latter two mediums, it is recommended to start with a white canvas while watercolor paintings require an off-white surface in order for colors to appear more vibrant when applied on top!

It’s also important to know that each type has its own unique properties such as oil paints needing lots of time between layers which means painting them takes longer than usual but they’re worth it since they tend to cover better than other kinds.

Watercolor Painting

These do not need many supplies because all one needs is some paper or cardboard where your drawing will be placed and then choose whatever colors suit your preferences most! The only downside would be having to wait for it to dry out before applying another layer of color which is the same with acrylics.

Acrylic Painting

An advantage would be that you can work on a large portion at once and they tend to cover better than watercolors. You’ll need paper, card stock, or canvas as well as some paints such as tubes, pans, and jars depending on how many colors you want. It’s best if each one has its own separate palette so there isn’t any excess mixing going on between pigments.

Oil painting

The biggest benefit of using oil paints is that because they take longer to dry up it gives more time in order for details to be added such as darker shadows and brighter highlights. It’s best to cover the entire area with a thin layer of white paint first in order for colors to appear more vibrant when applied on top! This also absorbs into the canvas better than watercolors which means you don’t have to work too quickly before it dries up.

Art Supplies to Use

Painting Surface

For watercolors, you can use regular paper or cardstock.

For oils and acrylics, it’s best to go with a canvas as the paint will take longer to dry out which gives more time for details such as darker shadows and brighter highlights.


Choose tubes, pans, or jars depending on the number of colors you want to use.

Keep in mind that not all paints are meant for both interior and exterior painting purposes so if you’re planning on using it somewhere exposed, be sure to get one with good quality- this will also ensure your paint is long-lasting!


Paintbrushes are also something to consider since different types work best depending on what kind of medium you’re using so it’s important to have an idea about that beforehand in order for them to match up properly!

For watercolors, it would be best to start with a round brush that’s not too stiff and then go from there depending on what is most comfortable- just remember softness is key!

As far as oil paint is concerned, the better ones tend to have bristles made out of squirrel hair or camel which help them maintain their shape while being able to hold plenty of liquid overall.

For acrylics, the brushes should be springy enough so they can hold their shape while being able to absorb liquid in order to prevent any pigment from sliding off onto other sections of the painting! It’s also important for them to have synthetic fibers which help them maintain their form when dipped into water or paint which makes clean up much easier overall.

Other Important Supplies

Paper Towels/ Rags

These come in handy when it comes to painting are paper towels or rags in order for the excess liquid from your paints not to ruin any other spots on the canvas.

Reference Images/ Photos of a Sunset

A photo of a sunset would also help since it gives you an idea about how light will hit each section of the drawing while choosing what colors best describe that particular tone.

If there’s red present, make sure to include orange too- this way they work together rather than against one another which creates a more dramatic effect overall.

In addition, black wouldn’t hurt either considering darker shades make lighter ones stand out all the more!

The same principle can be applied using other color combinations such as blue and yellow or purple and green for example.

Palette Knives for Mixing Paint

These are a must-have when it comes to oils and acrylics! However, one can also use old credit cards or plastic spoons for mixing watercolors.

Paint Trays/Palettes

Paint trays or palettes are great for all types of paint. They help keep the colors separate so there isn’t any excess mixing going on between pigments which keeps everything clean overall!

Water Container for Cleaning Brushes

Another helpful item to have is a water container in order to rinse your paintbrushes after each use since this will prevent unwanted pigment from building up within them over time.

It just takes one mistake of using it with the wrong brush afterward and you’ll know exactly why these were made in the first place.

Sunset Colors

Primary Colors

For sunset, the primary colors include red, yellow, and blue which all work on their own or together to create secondary ones such as orange, green, and purple. In addition, these also go well with darker shades of each color in order for them not to have any harsh contrasts either way!

Color Schemes

One way to figure out what colors look best for your sunset painting is by looking at color schemes that other artists have done in the past such as using analogous, monochromatic, or triadic types of arrangements which can easily be found online via image search engines such as Google Images.

These examples are all great starting points overall since they work well together while not being too distracting towards the eyes- it’s also easy enough to switch them up a bit here and there depending on how you like things!

A simpler approach to color schemes in art is by using a color wheel which can be found via Google Images or other sources such as the image below:

This is also helpful when it comes to mixing paint since you’ll know exactly what colors look best together- it’s basically like following a strict set of rules that everyone knows about!

For example, if someone says to go with yellow & blue then you already know which ones would work for your sunset painting without having to worry too much otherwise.

Painting the Subtle Differences between Sunset and Sunrise

One thing to keep in mind when it comes to a sunset versus a sunrise is that the former has much more color involved- this means brighter yellows and oranges but also darker purples, violets, and pinks as well.

In comparison, sunrises only consist of whites, grays, and light blues which are helpful for things such as foggy mornings or wintertime scenes overall!

Sunset Sky Paint Techniques

  • When learning how to paint a beach sunset, start with the sky and work your way down. In some ways, this is more difficult because you’re working from dark to light but it also makes sense as that’s how we see things – from high contrast at the top of our vision to low contrast on the bottom where things disappear into the darkness.
  • When painting clouds, keep them soft and wispy by adding lots of lighter colors around darker shapes using the dry brush technique. This will help give dimension without making everything look too harsh.
  • Don’t be afraid of using pure colors – but use them sparingly! It’s okay to have a few bright pops here and there, especially where they’re bound by other shapes/colors that are darker or duller (such as the space around clouds).
  • Make sure all your paint is thoroughly dry before starting on another layer. You’ll get better results each time because wet paint underneath doesn’t mix well with what you’ve just painted… unless maybe you plan for this beforehand? To do this, try putting down a layer of wet paint first and then going back over it with what you actually want.
  • Try different color schemes to see which fits your idea best! For a more traditional or realistic look try using orangey yellows for sky/clouds and blue-greens on top of that for water/waves. To make things really ‘pop’ just add some bright red sun rays coming out from behind those clouds – so pretty!

How to Paint a Sunset Easy in Watercolors

1. Apply Tape around the Edges and Place Your Horizon Line

Taping down your paper before painting will help you get those smooth edges as well since watercolor is known to warp over time otherwise.

If you don’t want any warping on your art, then this would be an ideal method of doing so considering how clean they’ll look afterward compared to not taping them beforehand – no tape means having wavy lines instead which isn’t very attractive in general.

Plus if there is some sort of bump or wrinkle from where the edge has been taped, then it could ruin what might have turned out beautifully otherwise! Taping ensures nothing like that happens by protecting everything underneath from bending while letting paint passes through the spaces in between.

2. Start with Mixing Your Colors

You will need permanent red, titanium white, yellow, and orange. Make sure your colors are thoroughly mixed before you apply them to the wet paper.

3. Wet the Paper with Clean Water

Apply the water with a flat square brush no. 24 using circular strokes.

4. Add Some Warmth to the Sky with Yellow and Orange Shades

Be careful not to overdo it since you don’t want too much color showing in the final product. Use a round brush no. 6.

5. Add Some Dark Orange on the Top

Use gradients by adding lots of lighter colors surrounding darker shapes – this will allow them to look soft and wispy rather than just being one block of color. The more contrast at the top makes for richer colors later when they fade out.

The colors should be darker and fade into lighter hues as they get closer to the horizon. This all helps give a sense of depth and gives your sunset painting an almost three-dimensional quality.

6. Add Darker Red and Yellow

Make sure you keep everything consistent with how they appear from left to right so there won’t be any noticeable differences from one portion of the image compared to another.

This might take a bit longer but it’s worth taking extra time in order not to mess up later on when adding details such as clouds and reflections onto the water below since these tend to have uneven edges that can easily ruin an entire section if rushed!

It all comes down to being patient and going slow until everything looks just right before moving on.

7. Lighten the White Area of Your Sun with Water

The sun is the most important part of every sunset painting.

If you want an accurate result then don’t forget about gradients while working on shadows – they really help increase depth within a picture which makes for more interesting artwork overall. Try different combinations until you find what works best for yourself.

8. Once Everything’s Dried, Start Painting the Palm Tree Leaves

The hardest part is actually drawing palm tree leaves because their shape can be a bit tricky!

Draw the shapes of your palm trees leaving some white spaces for highlights to pop out. Use light brown color and brush no. 4 to make those smooth and slim edges on leaves.

9. Add Dark Brown Leaves

Don’t forget to add lighter colors on the leaves that are closer to the sun. Use brush no. 4.

10. Paint Your Horizon with Light Brown/Dark Brown

Draw the shapes of mountains, using brown colors and a round brush no. 6 or other sizes if necessary. Use lighter shades closer to your sun.

11. Let It Dry. Apply the Tape Over the Horizon Line

12. Begin Painting the Reflection of the Sky with Yellow and Orange Shades

Paint on the top reflection using yellow and orange paint with a flat square brush for warming up the colors in this area, making it look more vibrant!

13. Add Dark Orange

Use lighter tones on top as you get closer to the horizon line to create those wonderful gradients again – this helps accentuate how far away from you everything appears which makes it look even more realistic than before. Your art will have depth and movement since things don’t always appear right in front of us so keep that in mind when applying paint!

14. Add Some Purple Shade under the Horizon Line

Add purple in the corners of your painting to signify sunset color. Add a bit of orange below, so you have a shape like an archway leading into the depths of the ocean.

Add shadows under the horizon – the darker color that fades into lighter hues as they get far from the horizon

For the reflections on top of the water, it would be best if you used orange or purple colors since these fit better as opposed to painting everything yellow.

15. Paint the Sun Reflection with White Gouache

The final step is to add in the finer details that will make your sunset even more realistic.

Using a fine paintbrush, you can add in the details by making small strokes with white gouache while staying consistent to how they are layered over one another for continuity’s sake.

Depending on how close/far away you want your sun from looking like could determine what type of brushstrokes should be made here- something closer up might require smaller ones compared to those applied further out which may need larger rounder shapes instead and vice versa!

16. Remove the Tape after Everything’s Dried

Don’t forget to remove the tape after everything has dried completely since sticking it longer than you should cause problems when taking off that might leave sticky residue or marks instead if care isn’t taken into consideration beforehand!

Now you know how to paint a sunset with watercolors that looks realistic enough for anyone to mistake it for an actual photograph! All that’s left is framing your painting so everyone can admire how well done this turned out!

This is an easy painting that can be completed in one sitting. Try it out yourself or even try different color schemes altogether – maybe orange/yellow at the bottom transitioning into pink/purple with blue-greens?

How to Paint a Sunset over Water: 10 Tips

1. Set Your Horizon Line Carefully

The horizon line is really important in making your sunset look realistic and well-balanced.

Consider how far away from your sun everything appears (the colors) and use this knowledge when applying paint on top of them like for highlighting/ darkening certain tones while keeping things consistent with all else so there aren’t any noticeable differences between one another’s a placement which would defeat its purpose entirely.

Add some details on the horizon line after everything else is done – whether it’s brighter colors or adding in something like a few stars along with them, this can give your sunset an extra special touch that people will notice!

2. Use Color to Tint the Canvas or Paper

Before painting, you should consider tinting your canvas with colors that will be used throughout like yellow/orange before adding in highlights and shadows.

This can save time when starting off because it’s already there so all you have to do is add white gouache for lighter shades or dark paint for darker ones instead! Not only does this make things much easier but makes sure everything looks cohesive together since they are the exact same color after all once finished.

3. Pay Attention to Your Perspective

Pay attention to how perspective works so your sunset isn’t directly in front of you but more towards the edges instead.

This will make it look like a sphere and not just a circle which can be quite helpful when painting since everything looks natural this way – if too close, things might end up looking off while distorted from being viewed at such an angle that may cause unwanted errors during the process!

It’s also a good idea to add some reflections on top of the water along with them for extra effects.

4. Keep Your Colors Clean

When painting in watercolors, make sure to keep your colors clean by either swirling around in circles or dabbing them on using a paper towel instead.

This helps prevent any unwanted marks that can ruin the effect of it – if too much comes off onto the brush/paint itself then this will get into places you don’t want.

5. Use Glazes to Add Color and Shine

Using glazes/transparent layers is a great way to add in extra details and effects that can make your painting stand out.

This usually works best when they are light colors such as yellow which helps everything blend together more easily than darker ones since it doesn’t cover up so much of what’s underneath – but if there isn’t anything else, don’t be afraid to do whatever will look good!

Only use this for small areas though because overdoing it can cause problems later down the line like making things appear too bright or even just looking off altogether.

6. Use Contrast

Contrasting colors like yellow and red make your sunset stand out more which is something you definitely want to keep in mind.

Adding these into the mix helps everything look even better than before, especially since they are contrasting with each other so it makes sure that things aren’t too bland or boring – plus if either one of them ends up looking off then at least there’s another color to balance it all out!

7. Make Your Clouds Light and Fluffy

Clouds usually look best when they are painted in white and fluffy looking because this makes them stand out more than usual.

If you want to add some extra effects into the mix, then try adding these in with either a glaze or just by painting over top using another color that will contrast enough so it’s easy to see – just be careful not to cover up too much of what’s underneath if your picture is already starting off fairly simple like most drawings tend to do!

8. Don’t Overwork the Foreground to Avoid Oversaturation

There’s no need to overwork the foreground of your sunset, especially if it already looks fine on its own. This helps prevent things from looking too distorted or messy which can look bad so just keep this in mind!

9. Add Reflections to the Water for an Extra Touch of Class

Adding reflections to the water is another great way that can help make it look more realistic.

10. Consider Yourself an Impressionist, Not a Photographer

This might sound a little bit odd, but the more you think as an impressionist does then the easier it will be to make things look as good as they possibly can!

An example of this is by making sure every brushstroke remains visible. This helps ensure that everything looks right because if there are too many blurry or messy parts – then there isn’t going to be anything at all that makes sense about what’s being shown overall which means it just won’t work out well in the long run.

Another one would be how light and shadow both have their own purposes so remember not to overdo either of them unless necessary or else things could start looking worse than before instead!

Thanks for Reading!

Thank you for reading our blog post! We hope this has been helpful to read and we definitely recommend trying out these tips yourself because it’s a quick way that anyone can do so don’t hesitate – start painting away right now! Remember, practice makes perfect!

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