Step-by-step painting tutorial

Step-By-Step Tutorial: Paint An Acrylic Landscape

In this step-by-step painting tutorial with acrylics, we will be learning how to paint a simple landscape. This is a great lesson for beginners and those that want to have a reliable process that gets results. We will be starting with a photo reference and breaking it down into easy steps. So grab your paints and let’s get started!

In this article we will cover the following topics;

  • How to pick a good photo reference
  • Developing a point of interest
  • Deciding on medium and techniques
  • Step-by-step tutorial
  • How to learn more
  • Conclusion
Step-by-step painting tutorial
Step-by-step painting tutorial

How to paint amazing landscape art

It’s a process! Of course, experience plays a huge factor, but so does the approach. And by approach I mean what steps you take once you find a subject worth painting. It’s that in-between stuff that matters and very few teachers work with this. They all teach the end product but this doesn’t help you in becoming independent.

Anyone can copy what an artist is doing and have some success. But how well do you do on your own? That’s the BIG question. I hope this step-by-step tutorial fills in some of the voids you may have in your learning and forever change the way you paint your subjects.

Choose good photo reference
Find good photo reference

How to pick a good photo reference

When choosing a photo reference, it is important to find an image that has good lighting and contrast. You also want to make sure that the subject matter is something that you are interested in painting. For this tutorial, we will be using a reference to a landscape discovered on Pixabay.

Develop point of interest
Develop point of interest

Developing a point of interest & composition

The first step in painting a landscape is to develop a point of interest. This will be the focal point of your painting and everything else in the scene should lead the eye towards it.

In our reference image, we have a few options for points of interest. We could choose to focus on the water in the distance, or we could choose to focus on the red house or tree in the foreground. For this tutorial, we will be focusing on the red house.

To make a better design I moved the house and tree over to the right. This will allow me to add some distant boats as well.

Create a value sketch
Create a value sketch

Create a value sketch

Create a quick value sketch by determining where the lightest lights and darkest darks will be placed. Everything else is mid-tone values.

It’s very helpful to do this before painting the final piece. It will help guide your color choices and eliminate guessing later on.

Avoid sticking to the values of the original photo. Shuffle them around until you have something that works aesthetically.

Decide on paint medium
Decide on paint medium

Deciding on medium and techniques

Now that we have our point of interest picked out, it’s time to decide on the medium and techniques that we will be using. For this painting, we will be using acrylic paint and some collaging. We will also be using Bristol paper that is sized at 12″ x 12″.

Collaging and acrylics go well together if you prefer to create more expressively. Nothing wrong with traditional methods, but it’s fun to mix it up once in a while so creating art doesn’t become a boring routine.

Step-by-step guide to painting a landscape with acrylic

Now that we have our supplies gathered, and have worked out the preliminary details such as focal point, values, and mediums, it’s time to start painting!

Keep in mind you can use any medium you prefer. The main takeaway from the previous steps is to plan! Avoid painting photos as they are because you’re missing out on making them unique, personalized!

Add contour drawing
Add contour drawing

Step one

We will begin by sketching out the landscape onto the paper. We will be using a light pencil to do this so that it can be easily erased if needed.

Since I’m going for a more abstract painting, I’ll only draw the contours and major shapes. The more detail you add here the tighter the painting becomes later on.

Add collage to some shapes & areas
Add collage to some shapes & areas

Step two

I’ll introduce collaging at this stage. With a huge drawer of collage paper, it’s easy to shuffle through and find some hues that will work.

I’m not locked in on anything in particular. Instead, I try to find interesting colors and patterns to put together. But if you are collaging, don’t get too fussy. Much of this may get painted over later on.

Start adding acrylic paint
Start adding acrylic paint

Step three

Having added some collaging, I can now break out the acrylics and start painting. I’ll focus on darker values for the red house first since this is the star of the show.

Work slow! Try not to paint too much detail and, or get ahead of yourself at this stage. This is a block-in and shouldn’t be judged until all areas are filled in.

Paint distant hills
Paint distant hills

Step four

Now I’ll add the distant hills using a neutralized hue. It’s so useful to have done the value study because it guides me in choosing colors.

Since the hills are the middle ground, they’re mid-tone and less saturated. That’s just using a good atmosphere perspective!

Paint tree
Paint the tree

Step five

Next, I’ll start adding the tree using more saturated and darker values. Trees are usually the darkest element in a landscape, so mix colors accordingly.

I’m using a variety of green hues that are mixed with Viridian green. To create lighter values, try adding a little yellow ochre, and a touch of white.

I also have green collage paper which I’ll try to leave unpainted in some areas.

Paint cast shadows
Paint cast shadows

Step six

The ground plane and cast shadows are up next. The ground plane is the second lightest value in a landscape, second only to the sky.

I used viridian with plenty of cadmium yellow lemon and titanium white. Again, I’m sticking with my value sketch here so it’s pretty easy to get the colors picked, mixed, and applied to the paper.

Paint sky plane & clouds
Paint sky plane & clouds

Step seven

Now I’ll add the sky and clouds using the lightest values. Be sure to add some gradation qualities here, after all, you don’t want a flat sky.

Color vibrations will make it visually interesting. Mix hues that are lighter and more yellow towards the horizon, and darker blue as the head up towards the top of the paper.

Add darkest values & details
Add darkest values & details

Step eight

Finish it off with some darker values and details. Maybe even add some highlights and pops of color if needed.

The piece was painted before paint hit the paper. That’s the step-by-step that you should take away from this tutorial. Yes, the painting itself is step-by-step, too. But not as important as the first half of the article.

If you do this over and over, you will start to change the way you approach your subjects. And the payoffs will be huge!

How to learn more

If you’re interested in learning more about painting with acrylics, be sure to check out our other blog posts and tutorials. We also offer several courses which you can browse using the links below;


Thank you for following along with this tutorial! We hope that you found it helpful and that you are now feeling confident in your ability to paint a landscape using acrylics. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below and we will be happy to help!

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