There’s nothing better to paint than a landscape for a chill gouache painting session. Artist Katrin Trost shares a few techniques with us, too, so if you’re down for a quick, creative practice, feel free to follow along!

Step 1: Sketch and Sky

Though Katrin usually prefers trying new techniques and dramatic colour combos, she starts off easy, as this is a short demo.

Even the tools are pretty simple: an A5 watercolour sketchbook (hot or cold press), gouache paint, a palette, 2 containers of water, a flat brush and a size 0-1 round brush, paper towels or old linen rag, washi (or artist’s) tape, and a pencil (optional). 

Colours are your basic primaries: cadmium yellow, primary red, ultramarine blue, and white.

The first thing to draw is a simple sketch, which you can do with just the horizon line and the outline for the dirt path. You can also take a look at the reference photo, but Katrin doesn’t like being constrained by the photo. Instead, it’s more of a source of inspiration, so you can do the same! 

Tip: Katrin also says that she treats her paintings almost like a drawing, too, and she rarely sketches in pencil before painting. This gives her more creative freedom, so don’t feel like you have to draw a sketch either.

Next, mix a sky blue using white and a little ultramarine, then paint the sky using a flat brush. Work your way from top to bottom, gradually adding more white as you near the horizon line to get a smooth gradient.

Once you get to the horizon line, you can also paint the river using the same light blue colour you used for the sky. Don’t worry about making it too big, either, as the great thing about gouache is that it’s opaque and can cover the layers underneath.

Step 2: Greens and Trees

Next, pre-mix the greens you’ll need for the trees and grass. The darkest greens will be primarily blue, while the lightest greens will have more yellow and a little white. It’s best to have at least 3 different shades of green, but no more than 5.

Paint the trees along the horizon line using your darkest green, which should look a little blue. This is fine, as the trees in the distance will look a little blue due to the atmosphere.

Use the corner of your flat brush to dab in some foliage, and make sure to vary the trees’ heights and shapes for a more natural look.

Here is a bonus tip: Katrin uses an old flat brush where the bristles don’t align anymore. She mentions that she’s thinking of switching to a newer brush soon, but I actually think the old brush gives her trees more texture than a new brush! So if you have an old brush, paint away.

Switch to your mid-green tone, and paint a second layer of trees before the previous ones. They don’t have to be as big, nor do they need to align with the other trees. You’re aiming to build depth here, so remember to leave some darker areas!

Tip: The riverbank doesn’t have to be perfectly curved. In fact, a slight irregularity will help make your painting look more organic, so if you do find that you’ve made a “happy mistake”, keep it!

Switch to your lighter green and do the same before painting the meadow.

Step 3: Meandering Meadow

Paint in the meadow with the same mid-green while avoiding the dirt path. You can blend in slight variations of your green paint to give your meadow a little more depth.

Add more yellow to your green, then paint the highlights in the grass and your trees. You can get that “grassy” texture for the grass by using the edge of your flat brush and gently flicking it upwards to get a patch of grass blades.

Then, to make the meadow look grassier, use your mid-green tone and the same flicking technique to paint along the edge of the meadow area.

If you want to add even more depth to the meadow, you can add darker patches of grass near the foreground of your painting and use pure yellow paint and a small round brush to dot in some yellow flowers.

Tip: For a different kind of dark green, add a touch of red to your green mixture. Since red and green are complementary colours, mixing them will produce brown. This means adding red to green will naturally darken your green!

Step 4: Dirt Path 

Mix a light brown colour by adding white and red to your green mixture, then paint the dirt path. It’s okay if your brown leans a little on the green side! If you’re not sure what the paint will look like when dry, you can test it on a piece of scrap paper and see if you like it or not once it’s dry. 

While you have this brown colour, you can mix a darker version by not adding white, then use your round brush to paint some of the tree trunks in the background. You can also touch it onto some riverbank areas or into the meadow for dirt patches. 

Once you’re done, let your whole painting dry. But if you’re raring to go, you can move on to the next step! Just be careful not to touch the wet paint, and make sure that the sky area is dry.

Step 5: Wispy Clouds

This next part is a tiny bit tricky, so you’ll need all your confidence for this! You’ll be painting some wispy clouds, so make sure that both your brushes and your water are clean.

Then, using pure white paint with little to no water mixed in, paint one curve from the cloud’s top to its wispy tail. Use your flat brush for this, and adjust the pressure you put on your brush (while painting) so that the top part is broad while the tail is pointed.

Add a few clouds like this, varying each one’s size and length. In general, though, the clouds near the bottom should be smaller and less visible.

Tip: To make some clouds less visible, either dilute your white paint a little more or mix in some of the blue paint you used for the sky.

Step 6: Finishing Touches

You’re almost there! To complete the painting, take a step back and see where you need to enhance the details. For instance, add back the blades of grass in the meadow using the round brush and your mid-green tone. 

You can also use the brown paint from before to add some texture and shadow to the path, then switch to your yellow paint to add flowers to the grassy area on the right. Other details include enhancing the trees in the background or adding waves to the river using a slightly darker blue shade.

Fix or tweak anything else that you think needs it, and when you’re done, sign your painting!  

I hope you had a good time relaxing with us in this painting session. And for the complete experience, you can check out Katrin’s FREE demo, where you can watch how she performs each technique!

If you want to try your hand at a more dramatic landscape, I highly suggest that you check out her 90-minute art class!

Want more ideas or lessons to kindle your creativity? Then feel free to subscribe to our email newsletter! Whether you’re following along with our blog, workshops, or live demos, we’ll notify you of all the latest happenings with Etchr.

Nicola Tsoi is a practising graphic designer and illustrator based in Hong Kong. She likes to watch birds do funny things, search for stories, and bake up a storm during her downtime. She keeps a pet sourdough starter named Doughy. 

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