how to paint a sunset with acrylics

How To Paint A Sunset With Acrylics

Learn how to paint a sunset with acrylics. And here’s a bonus, it’s a two-for-one. That’s because sunrises are created with this same techniques.

Sunset and sunrise landscape paintings are some of the most beautiful pieces an artist can create. They are also a great way to learn about color theory and value hierarchy. In this article, we will cover many ideas that will help you create beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Remember, Mother Nature creates the same scene twice. But you can use this as a general model and compare your scenery to it. This is much better than starting with nothing.

In this article we will cover the following steps:

Step-by-step process for painting amazing sunsets and sunrises

Below you will discover a complete detailed breakdown with supporting images. This will help with any questions you may have and hopefully bring more clarity to creating amazing landscape paintings. Check out how I use my palette and materials if you have questions brushes, paints, etc.

  1. Create a basic value hierarchy chart
  2. Create a sky color gradation chart
  3. Use the rainbow method for the sky
  4. Block-in the ground plane using appropriate values
  5. Use atmospheric perspective
  6. Block-in sky using color gradation model
  7. Refine values and colors
  8. Add finishing touches
how to paint a sunset with acrylics
– Finished acrylic sunset painting; Source Landscape Painting Fundamentals
Basic value hierarchy structure

Creating a basic value hierarchy for sunset and sunrises is the first step

The sky is usually the lightest area in these scenes, so it is important to get your values correct from the beginning. You will also want to start with the sky and work your way down to the ground plane. This will help create a sense of depth and realism in your painting.

sky gradation color chart

Create a sky color gradation chart

This helps them organize their game plan so they can create a sunset that works on the canvas. Starting at the very bottom the first color is violet. However, unless you are doing a scene where the sky meets the horizon this color never shows up. That’s because it’s hidden behind trees, hills, mountains, and things like that. The next hues working from bottom to top are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and back to violet if there’s room.

Sky gradations have a rainbow shape in the sky

Use the rainbow method for painting sky color gradations

The colors are a guide for horizontal placements and a series of half circles that look like a rainbow. The colors will illuminate from the sun’s location outwards.

Block in the ground plane using appropriate values

The ground plane is usually the darkest area in a sunset or sunrise painting. This is because it’s usually the closest object to the viewer. You will want to use a dark value for your block-in and then lighten the values as you move towards the sky.

Blocking in ground plane

Use atmospheric perspective for applying ground plane hues

Colors are slightly darker and more saturated in the foreground. They become lighter and more desaturated as they move back. This is due to the atmosphere scattering light.

Painting red and orange sunset hues

Block in the sky using a color gradation model

The sky is usually the lightest area in these scenes, so it is important to get your values correct from the beginning. You will also want to start with the sky and work your way down to the ground plane. This will help create a sense of depth and realism in your painting.

Painting dark cloud tops

Refining values and colors

This is where you will start to see your sunset or sunrise come to life. You will want to adjust any values that are too light or too dark and make sure the colors are consistent throughout the painting.

Adding final values

Add finishing touches

This may include things like highlights, shadows, clouds, and trees. Make sure everything looks cohesive and accurate!

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed this landscape tutorial on how to paint a sunset or sunrise with acrylics! We would love to hear your feedback in the comments below. Happy painting!

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