Street Scene At Night In Watercolor
This lesson shows how to paint a night time scene
Night scenes don’t have to be daunting or difficult. Like any other painting, it pays to simplify by organizing large shapes and to dis-regard most details. We’ll learn how in this lesson.
Convincing Night Scenes
Night scenes are a challenge. Two aspects make them especially so: multiple sources of light and the overall dominance of values at the darker end of the scale. Artificial light sources are relatively weak at night and one of the subtle visual effects at night is transition between pools of artificial light and areas of darkness.
The good news is that, like any other scene, you can help yourself and the process by simplifying. In this regard, night scenes actually help since the lack of light in a night scene means that many elements and details are swallowed up in large areas of dark value – so some simplification is accomplished for you!
It is always a good idea to create a value composition . With a night scene, it is just as important since it will help organize the shapes and space, and also give you practice in creating good dark values and managing transistions between light and dark.
The Value Sketch
Value compositions often start out as simple value sketches. In fact, value sketching and value sketches are the best way to start any painting. Generally, they are small, postcard size or even smaller. The size forces you to plan the large simple shapes that form the compositional structure. This is true no matter the subject, scene or time of day.
This lesson painting lesson uses a value sketch created in this lesson. You can download a copy of the completed value sketch. But, if you haven’t already, I recommend working through the value sketch lesson first.
This value sketch is like all others in that it helps determine light and dark areas in the painting. More importantly, it was also a process of exploration which allows combining our knowledge and imaginations into a believable representation of night on a city street. It also gives you the chance to practice creating really dark darks and the techniques needed to represent the subtle changes from light to dark that are so common to night scenes.
One last thing – you really should have a value scale handy for this lesson. If you don’t have one watch this short lesson to make your own simple 5-step value scale.
The lines on the drawing layouts are generally quite dark. It is best to keep the lines light on your paper, even for a scene like this which will have a lot of dark values.
What you’ll need
- Brushes – 1 1/2″ Flat, Medium Round, Small Round, and Cotman #3 Rigger .
- Colors – Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet, Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Winsor Newton French Ultramarine Blue , Sepia – if you don’t have Burnt Scarlet, Permanent Alizarin Crimson mixed with Burnt Sienna is a good approximation.
- Watercolor paper – preferably Arches 140lb Cold Press cut to about 7″ x 11″ or so
Value Sketch For The Night Scene
Try the value composition sketch process for the color study lesson above.
Night scenes are ‘low-key’ value compositions that include a lot of darker values – darks, and dark middle values.
It is particularly difficult to create darker values in watercolor that also retain fluidity and transparency. Creating value composition sketches in watercolor is a great way to practice value sketching while also working on the balance of water and color it takes to get consistent dark, fluid, transparent washes.
This scene is a challenge but is also simplified and really accessible to anyone.
It’ll be good practice creating a low-key value composition which are very necessary for night scenes.
Dramatic Winter Night Scene
This watercolor lesson shows you how to paint a dramatic moonlit winter landscape scene. The key to any night scene is in balancing the dark and light areas. Learn how in this lesson.
If you’ve ever had the good fortune to witness bright full-moon light on snow, you know the magic wonder of winter nights.
The most difficult thing about painting a winter night scene is balancing the bright light values of the snow, with the deep darks in the surrounding landscape. For the most part, night scenes are based on low-key value arrangements. But, with moonlight on snow, there is a good bit of very light value as well. Too much contrast and the painting can fall apart.
Other Lesson Subjects
FREE Lessons For Beginners!
A group of fourteen FREE watercolor painting lessons that will get you started. Learn the techniques and paint some simple scenes to put them into practice.
Landscape Painting Lessons
Our largest group of lessons – 24 in all – includes easy, intermediate and advanced lessons covering important techniques and composition ideas. Click To See All Landscape Painting Lessons
Seascape Painting Lessons
The ocean is a continual source of inspiration for artists. It’s constant movement and change is compelling and intimidating. This series of lessons will teach you to handle seascapes with confidence and ease.
Flower and Still Life Painting Lessons
This set of lessons include a range of subjects, techniques and methods as well as everything from quick sketches to longer, more finished floral and still life paintings.
Quick Sketches and Unusual Subjects
In this group of lessons you’ll find a lot of unusual subjects and quick sketching projects. Unusual subjects are those we don’t normally think of painting – often everyday objects that are ‘invisible’ most of the time. Quick sketching is a way to build many important watercolor painting skills. The sketches can also be developed into finished paintings.
Skill Building Learning Tracks
Tips and Tricks For Watercolor Painting
Video tutorials with easy how to’s and other tips to make watercolor painting easier and more convenient. Most of these are FREE lessons – watch without a Premium Membership.
How To Paint Elements Of The Landscape
How to paint trees, skies, clouds, rocks, weeds and more. These lessons focus on individual objects that are common in landscape and seascapes. Every lesson covers ideas and techniques specific to each.
How To Paint Water
Water shows up in landscapes and seascapes in many different ways. Adding water in any form – puddles to open ocean – requires some special considerations and techniques. These lessons show how.
Value is arguably the most important characteristic of color to learn and use in painting. It has two primary functions for the artist – as a fundamental component of Composition and as a way to create a sense of light and form. These lessons cover both functions.
Color is an aspect of painting that can take a lifetime of study to really understand. The 25 lessons in this group are is meant to introduce you to the various aspects of color and simple ways to explore color schemes, color choices and color combinations for your paintings.
Value To Color
Value Composition Sketches are extremely valuable tools for creating solid and dynamic paintings. It can be difficult to maintain the values as designed in the composition once you begin working in color. There are 20 lessons in this group that work through the process of creating a value sketches and then converting it to color while maintaining the values as designed.
Light And Form
Recreating the effect of real world light on objects in a painting means creating the changes in color and value that simulate the real-world effect. Although the effect of light has many different visual impacts, there are certain, tried and true ways of creating patterns of light and shadow in our paintings. This group of 14 lessons will get you started.
Basic Practical Linear Perspective
All linear perspective systems are based on the simple idea that objects that are farther from you appear to be smaller. Perspective, or linear perspective, is a system for representing the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface. There are 9 lessons in this section that will introduce basic linear perspective and show practical ways to use it in your paintings.