Artist Rachel Levitas takes us through a couple of techniques that she uses to create depth in her watercolour landscapes – from colour blending to gradients. Rachel is a graduate of the Royal Academy schools where she was awarded the Turner Gold Medal for Painting, and in 2010 was awarded first prize at the prestigious Lynne Painter-Stainers.

 Thanks for taking the time to take us through some of your tips Rachel, now over to you! 

Thanks! Here are a couple of techniques that I use to create depth in my watercolour landscapes, if you want to follow along you will need: 


The first technique is to paint a gradient wash as the base for your landscape. This creates the illusion of space. The way I do this is to mix up two colours, this time I’m using Payne’s Gray and Opera Rose, but you can use any colours; and I’m mixing up plenty of each colour in my steep sided daisy palette. I’ve got a clean brush for each colour, which is particularly important if you’re using yellow which at the touch of a blue brush will turn green!

I’m using my Payne’s Gray wash at the top of my image, and painting my Opera Rose below it.


Payne’s Grey and Opera Rose


Using a clean brush I can then blend the two colours together. If you find this very difficult add some blending medium to your paint, this will make the paint more viscous, more like a glaze, and is slower drying so you have more time to manipulate and blend it. If you want your Opera Rose to fade out, blend the bottom edge with clean water, or you could have clear band of water in the middle of the gradient and blend both your colours into that.


Blend the two colours together



Once you have painted your gradient allow it to dry then paint your landscape over the top of your gradient; this avoids that cut out edge of the sky effect that can look jarring in a watercolour landscape. I have painted this scene using the same Payne’s Gray I use in the gradient; the mountains are painted with a same colour as the foreground only diluted to create the effect of distance.


Paint your landscape over the top of your gradient

Gradients like these are used extensively in Art; I use them in my oil painting too – good luck! 

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