Lessons with an art tutor is the best way to learn but I hope the following 'step by step' guides will be useful as a reminder and help you achieve better results.  These are quick guides are all based on demonstrations at my watercolour classes.

You will find 'step by step' guides on the following topics by scrolling down this page:

  • Two-point linear perspective.
  • A Simple Landscape: Dunwich Heath.
  • Loose and Washy Fish.
  • Fungi.
  • Still Life with Reflections in Glass and Steel.
  • Misty Landscape: painting mist and fog.
  • White Flowers: painting in negative space.
  • Painting a Sky.
  • Still Life: Passionfruit / Figs in the style of a Dutch Master.
  • Heron by a Riverside.
  • A Bluebell Wood.

Two Point

Linear Perspective


Step 1.


This is a fairly straightforward way of tackling perspective. Please note that all vertical lines remain vertical and will, therefore, be parallel to one another. Place your vanishing points at each edge of your paper. With your ruler, draw a horizontal line across the middle of your paper (here shown in pink). This is your eye level or horizon line. Draw a cross at each edge of your paper (here in green). These are your two vanishing points: it will help if you name your left-hand vanishing point A and the right-hand side vanishing point B as I will refer to them as A or B over the next few steps. If the vanishing points are too close to your drawing it will look distorted. Just off centre (not too much) draw a vertical line one and a half inches above and two inches below (here shown in blue).

Step 2.


Draw a faint line from the left-hand vanishing point (A) to the top of your vertical line and back down to the right-hand side vanishing point (B). Repeat this but to the bottom of the vertical line both sides (here shown in green).

Draw two more vertical lines, on the right-hand side and on the left-hand side until they meet the green line. Make one side closer to the middle line than the other as seen here. This will give you a 'short side' and a 'long side' to your building.

Step 3.


Remove the eye level line (pink on my drawing) within your building and the other lines (in green) on the outside of the building keeping the eye level line outside and of course your two vanishing points A and B. You can make your box shape a little stronger.

It is important to remove these lines once they have done their job so as to avoid confusion in the next few steps.

Step 4.


Draw a diagonal line from each corner of the short side of your building as here in green.

Draw a vertical line where these lines meet. The higher the line the higher the roof.

Draw a line to each corner of your building to create the gable end of your house.

Step 5.


Remove the (green) lines within the building, that you used to find where the pitch of the roof is, then draw a line from the tip of the roof to the left-hand vanishing point (A) here in green.

Step 6.


Draw a line from the left-hand vanishing point (A) to the bottom right corner of your building. Then draw a line from the right hand vanishing point (B) to the bottom left corner of your building. The lines cross at (C).

Step 7.


Next take a line from vanishing point (A) to the top right-hand corner of your building. Then take a line from vanishing point (B) to the top left-hand side of your building. These lines should cross at the same point directly above. (C and D) if slightly out of line do not worry draw a vertical line from C to D. The slight discrepancy could have arisen by not putting your ruler exactly on the vanishing points....as mine here! (Do not draw a sloping line it has to be vertical!)

Step 8.


Now draw a diagonal line from F to C and E to D. Where these lines cross draw a vertical line up to roof line. Join this to the corner (F) this gives you the roof in perspective!

Erase all your construction lines (here in green) within the house and outside of it retaining your eye level line (here in pink).

Step 9.


Now you can have fun!

The green constructural lines show how to create windows, doors, chimneys, window recesses, etc.

Above your eye level you will see the top of the window recess, whereas below eye level you will see the bottom of the recess, as the window below and in the front door.

The chimney is composed of three vertical lines and all vanishing points show how to get it in perspective. The only line that does not go to a vanishing point is

The line at (C) which follows the same angle as the sloping roof.

You now know how to find the middle of a door or window as in (D)

I have also shown in green how you can extend the roof so that it overhangs.

Once you have grasped this you can add extensions, put in a person (judge the size with your door) a fence, trees, roads, mountains etc.

Step 10.


And here is my finished demonstration house.

I have used a tonal wash to create light and shade. Please think about which direction the sun is coming from. If we get some sunshine, observe where the shadows fall from objects like trees and railings etc. Also, have a look at houses in the street and see if you can see the perspective lines going away to a vanishing point.

I hope you have enjoyed this quick guide: a better understanding of perspective and shadows will help you produce better landscapes.



A Simple Landscape

Dunwich Heath

Colours we will be using:

  • cobalt blue or thalo blue
  • ultramarine
  • purple/mauve
  • lemon yellow
  • sap green/ hookers green
  • burnt umber
  • burnt sienna
  • pink/red ie. alizarin crimson, crimson lake or permanent rose
  1. Sketch without too much detail.
  2. Use masking fluid for any tree trunks.
  3. Paint in the sky using large flat wash brush with water first then your blue colour. Use a tissue to pull out the clouds while still damp.
  4. While the sky is drying, lay in first light washes for the lovely purple heather. Use broad strokes with a large wash brush. Mix up a darker colour of the same hue and use your stipple brush to create texture. ( try to increase pigment at the front of the picture and decrease pigment as you go into the distance. You can mix Ultramarine to darken the colour or add pinkish red to warm it up.
  5. Mix up two or three shades of green starting with the lightest for the foliage on the birch trees or any other shrub. Again...lighten the colours for the distant trees and strengthen those that are closest to you. You can use a mixture of stipple brush and a round number three for the foliage. Remember to retain the light areas where the sun is shining.
  6. Use these mixtures of green to create texture and tone to the purple heather. Lighter shades in the distance.
  7. Mix some burnt umber burnt sienna Ultramarine to create shadow pockets giving the heather clumps solidity.
  8. When your painting is dry, rub off masking fluid carefully (use your finger or putty rubber).
  9. Shade one side of the birch trunk and add a few marks on the trunks closest to you. For distant trunks add a very pale wash of ultramarine not too dark!
  10. Touch up any areas that need attention but don't overdo it... Keep it simple!

First Rough 



Not too much detail, just eye level (horizon) and a few indications as to where things are. Don't press too hard with your pencil! I used a 'B' grade pencil. 





Lay in a water wash with a flat brush approx one and a half inches. Use same brush to lay in the blue, nice even strokes left to right, paler on the horizon. Immediately take out the blue with a crumpled tissue to create clouds. You can use some masking tape as here on the horizon but it is not really necessary.



Apply masking fluid to the bracken. Do not use good brushes as it will ruin them. Use an old brush or mask fluid applicator (as here) and clean immediately when finished. Leave to dry.



With your large flat brush, lay in a wash of Violet mixed with permanent rose or qiunacridone rose. Use your colour mixing skills and remember to test first on a separate strip of watercolour paper.



This is where you can have some fun! Use your stipple brush to give texture and form to the heather clumps. Remember to leave the light at the top and to shade into the dips. It is particularly dark just above the bracken. Use a smaller dry brush to make the smaller hummocks in the distance.


Strengthen Shapes


Build up the 'dome' shapes of the heather, remember to make them smaller in the distance. Really darken up those shadows as here bottom right. The initial colour is Sap Green mixed with a little Paynes Grey but make your own experiments with colour and use your 'test strip'.




Up until now, the picture looked almost abstract but as soon as something recognisable is put into the picture (in this case, trees) the brain starts to make sense of everything else!


Remove Mask Fluid



Remove the dry mask fluid carefully with a clean finger. Paint lightest colour first say a mix of cadmium yellow and lemon yellow. Mix other green shades for foliage effect. You are not looking for botanical detail here, just a hint of feathery ferns in the sunlight.


Strengthen Shadows and Colours 


Strengthen up the shadows and colours. Don't be afraid to play around with it a bit. In my painting, I have left the left-hand side to demonstrate in class.



Loose & Washy Fish

After glazing the area with water, drop the paint onto the paper with a brush and/or a pipette. Let the colours mix naturally but also you can manipulate by tipping the paper in different directions.



Place a very wet brush into the end of the fish to get the tail shape. Let the colour flow down. (You really do need to make this as wet as possible or it will not work).



Showing the colour flowing down the tail.



Using a very wet brush encourage the paint to flow into the upper fin shape. You can tip the paper or add more colour if you wish.



The first stage completed, showing tail, dorsal and ventral fins. Note how the colour has flowed into the shapes you have created.

If you have not achieved this, you may have 'held back' or been too sparing with your water. This class is about letting go ... experimenting, letting the paint do its own thing rather than you controlling everything. Expect to get through quite a lot of paper and don't anticipate that everything you do will be framed up and put on the wall!



I have started another fish, just drawing the eye with a pencil and creating the body shape with a water wash, then dropping in the colour.

The thin thread like ventral fins on the first fish look too deliberate. Unfortunately, the head had dried too much and I could not drag the colour down. I am hoping to make these look better when I add the background.
Mistakes happen but you should be able to overcome them!



This is coming together, creating ventral and dorsal fins on the second fish.



The fish will start to have character as soon as you paint in the eyes. Start with a bright yellow for the iris and whilst still damp, drop in a warm Orange lower right. When dry paint in the pupil with black, using the white of the paper to create a highlight. Use a dark brownish colour for the outside of the eye and soften with a damp brush at the edges. Add the fins at this stage but as soon as you have painted the line for this, lay a damp brush on the underside of the line to make it less deliberate and washier. The mouth of the fish can be treated in the same way.



Once the fish are fully dry, start by painting in a dark stripe at a time with your black. Immediately, soften both sides with a damp brush. Continue each stripe in this way. If you paint all four stripes first, they will be too dry to soften and you will end up with hard edges which will not suit the style of painting. Do the same with the fins.



I have reinstated the lost fins under the eyes, lifting some paint out and using a little white gouache. I also dropped some Ultramarine, Indigo and black into the background, adding a hint of flowing seaweed and splattering some colour with an old toothbrush or stipple brush. Try using a straw to blow the paint into seaweed shapes. You can also try flicking water onto already wet areas which will give an effect similar to rock salt on wet paint.
If you end up with a bit of a confused mess, do not feel deflated...learn from it and have another go.
I hope you have enjoyed playing around with colour and experiencing the freedom of experimentation in this 'step by step'.





1. My studio setup


2. My drawing of the parasol mushrooms



3. Lay in a water glaze ( not wet in wet! ) It should look like a slight sheen on the paper, just enough to make your base colour flow evenly without hard lines. As it dries, add a few colour variations for the pattern on the stem and lift out the lighter areas. I used a combination of burnt umber and burnt sienna.



4. Here you can see I have added more detail but just dry brush technique: this is working on what you have done previously (which should now be dry) without glazing with water first, keeping your brush on the dry side and not loaded to the gunnels with paint! You can add lots of detail and have total control over how much work you want to put into this.


5. Put a light water glaze on the head of the fungi and add the lightest colour you see, followed by different shades as it dries.



6. Now add the dark flaking on the top with dry brush technique making the left-hand side slightly lighter. Continue with the other two in the same way.



7. Start painting the moss using bright under colours such as lemon yellow cadmium yellow and some bright greens. Use a tipple technique to imitate the fine feathering of the moss. By all means, use coloured pencils at this stage if you wish. I have included fine blades of grass and leaves etc which would be part of the undergrowth where these beautiful fungi are found. Happy painting!




Still Life

with Reflections


My studio set up. 



This is a close-up of the cocktail shaker. I have used masking fluid for this although l do not think that it is needed. It should be easy enough to avoid the highlights because you will be controlling very small areas of paint without having to wet the paper first. I have approached this in the manner of 'painting by numbers' mixing all the colours l can see and painting the shapes separately.

The images you see reflected will be distorted eg the wine glass and doorway. Try to use transparent colours doing tests as necessary.



Here further on l have started to paint the tiles. I think that the distressed look enhances the painting. Try not to paint flat colour, making the blue shapes on the tile vary slightly. I have continued with the cocktail shaker as before.


    Moving on to the wine glass, I painted a bright pink under colour first, then glazing with a water wash ( just damp, not too wet) and adding deeper colour in the places where it is needed. The rim of the glass is probably the hardest part and you will need a very steady hand! 



    The colours on the stem of the glass are very subtle, so soft washes and not too dark. Pay particular attention to the first part of the stem with that bright pink highlight and the curvy shapes created by reflection. The large area of light in the glass has a small amount of cerulean blue in it. And soon the wine glass is finished.....phew! I have also worked on the reflection in the cocktail shaker. You don't have to paint this as accurately as l have, you could go more washy and loose. It is still very important to remember those highlights! These can be achieved by using masking fluid, using the white paper, or using white gouache.

    A Misty Landscape

    how to paint mist and fog


    We will also be painting figures in the landscape using techniques we learned previously. Stretched paper (or paper block) at the ready as this involved wet paper). At classes, I will take you through this step by step from my easel at front of class and I hope the following will act as a reminder and also be of help to other painters visiting my website.















    and here are a couple more of my 'misty' demonstration paintings (unfinished):





    White Flowers

    painting in negative space












    Painting a Sky


    This cannot practice this enough as it is something so many have difficulty with. Stretched paper on your boards required for this one: if you do not know how to stretch your watercolour paper, look up a tutorial on YouTube.  I will add my own on this page in due course.















    Still Life

    watercolour in the style of oil paintings

    by 17c Dutch masters


    "I don't believe that is a watercolour" is something I often hear when people first view my still life paintings with a nod to the 17C Dutch masters. Below are two photographs were taken for this exercise and have been kept simple but not easy!

    First, let's look at a beautiful example by Adriaen Coorte.  We are not looking to copy but to emulate style and depth he obtained with his oils.



    You have a choice of two photographs, figs and passionfruit, taken by and used by courtesy of, Andrew Mott.




    Choose either of these still life pictures. The passionfruit is easier, so I suggest beginners try that one. The figs and bowl are a little harder to draw up with the ellipse on the bowl being something to watch out for. The dark background can be painted first on the passion fruit painting, whereas I would suggest painting the wooden table first on the fig painting. The reason for this is because the dark areas gently fade into the table. (It is logical to paint dark over light.)


    To achieve an interesting dark background, I suggest you first paint the background with something like an alizarin crimson. There is no need to paint this smoothly, in fact, the more variation and texture you get on it the better. This needs to be quite dark...no shrinking violets here! Dry the paint thoroughly, then mix a nice big amount of indigo. Make sure you mix enough. Start painting the indigo over the alizarin crimson making it really dark nearest to the fruit. Paint the whole page with the indigo making it slightly paler towards the top( but still quite dark.) You can turn your painting upside down for this. Dry completely with hairdryer. Now, this is the interesting bit.....use a soft wash brush, dampened slightly, either a flat one or a rounded goat hair brush and make light brushing movements over the surface of the paint gently lifting off some of the indigo. If you vary the direction of your brush strokes it makes a softer result. This effect looks more painterly than just a flat dark wash (as in the photograph). When happy with your work, dry with the hairdryer.




    Start by using a very bright yellow, leaving the white of the paper for the highlights on the little seeds. Introduce some greenish/ blue tones but leaving much of the bright yellow. It is important to keep this looking bright. Avoid a 'dirty' colour, keep it fresh.



    1. Painting the table. Choose a light golden colour for the first wash on the table. Hold your test strip right against the photograph to make sure you have the right colour and that it is dark enough.

    I am using raw sienna with a touch of burnt sienna. I firstly painted a water wash so that the colour is softly vignetted.


    2. As this is my demonstration painting, I went straight in with the indigo...however that has not stopped me from going over it again with Carmine, a colour I have in my St Petersburg paints, ( Alizarin crimson, permanent rose or any pinkish red will do). I then painted over the top again with indigo, let it dry, then carefully lift off the indigo very gently with a soft brush (a sponge or damp tissue will do the same) to reveal some of this lovely colour underneath.


    3. After you have completed your background, you can paint the figs on the wood. The fig lower left was firstly covered with a water glaze, then I mixed cobalt blue with Payne's grey giving it some form but not worrying too much as this will be done when adding the white gouache over the top once that layer is totally dry.


    4. I would paint the bowl first, before the figs that are sitting in it. Paint in some gentle shading and keep it clean looking before painting the blue pattern on top. Don't forget to curve the images with the curve of the bowl. Once you are happy with the bowl, you can paint the rest of the figs.

    5.The shadows need the red first, followed by indigo. Soften the edges of the shadows with a damp brush and tidy up any ragged edges. Finish the stalks and sign your painting!



    Martlesham Creek at Sunrise 

    A sunrise at Martlesham Creek. Friends Steve and Sandra are building a home on a boat. It's a big job and the many hours of hard work are compensated by the views, especially at the start and end of the day. From many spectacular photographs, I have chosen this one for us to paint. You will need stretched paper for this one. A lovely atmospheric local scene that I hope you will all enjoy painting. Many thanks to Steve and Sandra. 

    Martlesham Creek Sunrise by Steve Adcock

    Mix a soft lilac/grey using your existing blue, pink and adding some Payne's grey.  You can either paint the trees in the background straight onto dry paper or lay in a water wash first and then put in your trees with a no 6 or no 8 brush. If you make the paper too wet, the trees will look too fuzzy, so just dampen it enough to give it a soft finish.  This first layer should be paler than the next layer as it is further away.  Make your mix the same but a deeper colour for the next layer including the two trees on the right. This will be painted directly onto the dry paper as it needs more definition as the trees are closer.The idea is to get a nice silhouette effect. Don't make this layer as dark as the masts on the boats.

    Mix the yellow/orange colour as you did for the sky above (yellow ochre or raw sienna mixed with a brighter yellow such as cadmium yellow or aureolin yellow). You can make this more orange if you like by adding some cad orange or burnt sienna, it really depends on how bright or pale your sky is and what colours you used.  Next lay in a water wash from the horizon line to the bottom of the picture. Lay in your colour mainly concentrating on the left-hand side and fading off on the right-hand side as your picture ref. 

    Immediately with your tissue, dab out the reflection from the sun. You can make thin strips with your tissue if you fold it thinly but also take out larger areas as on the ref. It is important to make sure you do this directly underneath your sun!. Continue with the pink and then the blue as you did for the sky, taking out the highlights as you go........you should be getting used to this by now!  You can paint straight over the boats as they are much darker than the water.

    After you have painted the three layers of colour for the water and pulled out the colour for the sun, you can dry brush details or darker colours without wetting the paper first.  Use white gouache, titanium white, Chinese white (opaque)or zinc white (semi-opaque) to form a layer at the base of the horizon line about 4mm deep. Use a clean damp brush to 'pull' up the paint in thin wisps to represent the morning mist. When this is dry, you can add a warmer colour to it.  You can faintly paint in a few ripples but keep it simple.

    When painting the boats, put in a few details such as coloured bands of paint/ doors windows, then when dry, mix a warm shadow colour from your pink, blue and some Payne's grey. Paint this shadow colour over the whole boat.  The mast is pretty much the same width all the way up, you may use coloured pencils for this and the rigging. It is important to keep the rigging faint as per the ref.

    The reflections can be painted in the same warm shadow colours, don't forget it is a mirror image, not a shadow. At all times, test your colours, hold the test paper against the photograph you have.

    Good luck! 


    A Heron


    A heron as the main subject and an opportunity perhaps for a soft, atmospheric interpretation. 

    photograph taken by and used with kind permission of John Bexfield


    Start by making a simple sketch. Lay in a water wash, followed by light wash of permanent blue with bands of indigo towards the bottom. Define the beak using, cad orange, pale yellow, Violet and some cerulean near the eye. Pick out the darker Ares on the head using different shades of indigo.


    Add in soft washes of Violet mixed with pale yellow, washy indigo (not full strength!). Colour in the iris is orangey yellow and beak colours are vermilion, cadmium orange, lilac/ purple, permanent magenta.




    Lay in light washes of Violet mixed with small amount of indigo on the back and sides, then paint negatively the feather shapes, leaving it still soft and not too detailed.


    Start laying in washes for the wood, the lichen and long brush strokes for the reeds. Don't forget light and shade.




    Here I have upped the contrast on the feathers and side of the head. No white paint has been used so far, just the white of the paper and painting negatively,  gradually building up a depth of colour. 



    A Bluebell Wood 

    Draw different sized trunks and branches with those closest to you larger than the ones in the distance. Paint dark marks on the trunk with a mixture of paynes grey and burnt umber or sepia. When dry, paint a strong bluish grey shadow on the right-hand side.



    Use wax relief for the trunks of the tree. Leave the odd area to allow you to paint leaves in front of the branches. Make sure you press hard enough, do a practice run on spare paper first.  You should always use a piece of kitchen roll/clean paper to rest your hand on as oils from your skin can prevent watercolour taking to your paper and as we are using wax on this painting it is important it is only on your painting where it is supposed to be!




    Lay in a rosy\purple wash, lighter at the back, stronger at the front. 



    Mix your bluebell colour and dab shapes with your brush, adding water to soften the effect occasionally.


    Use a stipple brush to indicate flowers in the distance.


    Use Aureolin yellow for in between the trees making it darker towards the bottom. If you do not have Aureolin, mix lemon yellow with a little Cadmium yellow. 



    Mix many greens and dab leaf shapes using different shades and intensity of colour.



    Loosely and freely, add indication of strap like leaves for the bluebells. Make it less distinct and paler the further away they appear in the painting.



    Add a few darker branches at the tops of the trees, a mix of burnt sienna and burnt umber will do. Another project complete!

























    © sandra pond 2018