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Embrace the Beauty of Simplicity

Loose Watercolor Landscape

By Robert Joyner | Posted 8/12/23 | Updated 10/8/23

Watercolor painting is a captivating medium that allows artists to explore the beauty of landscapes in a unique way. While traditional watercolor paintings often require meticulous detailing and precision, painting in a loose and free style offers an exciting challenge.

Embracing the unpredictable nature of watercolors can lead to stunning results, capturing the essence of a landscape in a simple yet powerful manner. In this demo, we will explore valuable tips for creating loose watercolor landscapes, recommend essential materials, offer guidance on finding photo references, and share four of the best ideas for painting in this expressive style.

Let's have a look at an inspirational watercolor landscape demo to get things started. Then be sure to browse more tips below if you enjoyed it.

Here are the finished art and inspiration image photos.




Recommended Materials:

  • Watercolor Paper: Choose a good quality, heavyweight watercolor paper that can handle a lot of water without buckling. Cold-pressed or rough paper textures work best for creating a loose look. I prefer Fabriano Artistico 140 lb. Bright white cold press. The size I'm working on is 11 x 15".
  • Watercolor Paints: Opt for professional-grade watercolor paints for vibrant and transparent colors. A basic palette comprising warm and cool versions of primary colors, along with earth tones, can provide a versatile range. My preferred brand is Holbein and I use a 6 primary palette with the addition of neutral tint and burnt sienna.
  • Watercolor Brushes: You don't need to spend a fortune these days on brushes. In the past 5 years manufacturers have made a lot of progress with synthetic blends that rival natural hair options. Invest in a small and medium pointed round along with one large mop brush. In addition to that, always have a dagger and a small liner for details such as telephone wires, tree branches and such. My preferred brand is Princeton Neptune and Silver brushes. Can't beat them!
  • Palette: A spacious palette with wells for mixing colors is essential to create harmonious blends. There are many good options and I use Masterson Watercolor Palette Pro.
  • Water Containers: Have two water containers — one for rinsing brushes and another for clean water.
  • Masking Tape or Clips: These will help you secure the paper to a board, preventing it from warping while painting. This is only necessary if you like the clean white edges, or want the paper to lay flat when wet. I use it sometimes but not always.
  • Paper Towels or Sponges: These are useful for lifting or softening colors.

Tips for Finding the Right Inspiration Photo

Simplified Scene
Look for landscapes with a clear focal point and uncomplicated elements. Avoid overwhelming compositions that might be challenging to capture loosely. If it's not there be sure to spend some extra time and design it! The common mistake for beginners is to not understand why they are painting a scene and end up painting in circles.

Strong Contrasts
Seek images with distinct contrasts of light and shadow, as they add depth and interest to the painting. You can always change the value structure of a scene. Things like make areas darker, or lighter depending on the situation. Of course the same can be done with colors, you can desaturate them and well as make them more vibrant than the image indicates.

Natural Elements
Nature provides endless inspiration. Choose references with interesting elements like trees, water bodies, mountains, or fields. You can also opt for places that speak to you, or vacation photos that have a special meaning. The main thing is to make connections and paint landscapes that are personal.

Three More Ideas for Painting Loose Watercolor Landscapes


Busy Urban Scene
Craft a serene urban landscape of a sunrise casting its warm glow over a distant cityscape. Utilize gentle washes of soft yellows, oranges, and pinks for the sky, while cool blues and greens define the buildings and foreground.

Embrace the simplicity of the scene, keeping the architectural details minimal, and capture the essence of the tranquil moment as the city slowly awakens to the new day. Let the interplay of light and shadows in the urban jungle create a captivating atmosphere, evoking a sense of calm and wonder in the midst of the bustling city.


Harbor Scene with Docked Sailboats
Immerse yourself in the beauty of a harbor scene, where sailboats rest peacefully at the dock amidst crashing waves. Employ wet-on-wet techniques to create a dreamy blend of colors in the sky, capturing the glow of the horizon as the sun sets.

Embrace the magic of watercolor by using salt or splatter techniques to add texture to the sand and rocks, infusing the scene with an organic feel. The setting sun takes center stage as it casts a warm, golden light, while the distant trees and sailboats' silhouettes add depth and a touch of mystery to this enchanting composition. Let the harmony of colors and play of light evoke a sense of tranquility and wonder in this picturesque harbor setting.

Red Barns

Enchanting Rural Scene with Red Barns
Painting an enchanting rural scene with red barns using watercolors is an experience filled with pure joy. As the brush dances across the paper, vibrant hues of red, green, and blue come alive, capturing the rustic charm of the countryside.

The warm sunlight filters through the trees, creating dappled shadows that add depth and life to the scene. You can even add a loosely painted corn field for an added pop of golden yellows.


Painting loose watercolor landscapes is an exciting and liberating experience for artists. Embrace the unpredictable nature of watercolors, celebrate simplicity, and let your creativity flow. Remember to choose high-quality materials, find a compelling photo reference, and try out our four best ideas to embark on a journey of creating stunning loose watercolor landscapes that express the beauty of the natural world with a fresh and unbridled perspective. Happy painting!

Next: Mastering Watercolors: 4 Drawing Skills

©2023 by Robert Joyner. All rights reserved.

Robert JoynerRobert Joyner is a full-time artist and instructor from Goochland, Virginia. He specializes in blending quality fundamentals with unconventional painting techniques. Robert has a home studio where he creates art and online teaching courses.