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.

Drawing Layout

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


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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.

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