Sunset acrylic painting

Easy Step-by-Step Sunset Acrylic Painting for Beginners

Have you ever just stood and watched a sunset? I mean, really watched it? I’ve always been in love with sunsets, the sky with a mix of rainbow colors and this time, I decided to paint a cool sunset acrylic painting. Although, it has been a while since I painted anything because of my inner perfectionist. I’d start a piece but never finish it, thinking that each stroke could be better, neater, perfect. And because of that, I have stacks of canvases gathering dust with many cool ideas I want to do. 

But this time, I just picked up the brush, turned off the perfectionist and decided to just paint. No rules, no expectations, just pure, uninhibited joy of painting.

I started with the sky, splashing it with blues, yellows and reds and blending them all together. Then, I added these cute little mountains along a line. For the river below, I added more reds and maroons to mirror the colors of the sunset and darkness. The finishing touch? A small boat with a teeny tiny light.

Anyway, I was so caught up in my painting that I didn’t take step-by-step pictures. But don’t worry, I’ll walk you through it, helping you create your own version of this sunset acrylic painting. And remember, it doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be your version!

Tools for Sunset Acrylic Painting

Though a lot of little art stuff is required to have a whole painting experience, however, some items without which following tasks are impossible to accomplish are the following. 

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watercolor paint set

Any acrylic paints.

Canvas board or pad.

paint brushes

Different sizes of brushes.

Masking tape

Masking tape for the messy peeps and to get a crisp border!

Gesso (optional)

watercolor palette

Palette for mixing the paints.

How to paint a sunset

Gather all of your tools, and let’s start the sunset acrylic painting!

First, I stick a masking tape around the corners, it helps to get the clean borders at the end. I am a messy person, and I sometimes even mix the colors on the tape so it is important to get some help and keep things neat and clean!

I started with a thin layer of white paint, not sure why I did it (as the canvas is already prepared) or if it going to make any difference, but I just felt like doing it. It made the background a bit smoother, though and helped with blending. Then, I used a blue color on the top right side. I added more to the right because I wanted to capture the colors of the sunset rather than the sun part.

You can also darken the blue on the corners to give it more depth and a darker appearance, but I wanted it more vibrant, so I didn’t. I proceeded to add a bit of red along the blue and blended them, which created a bit of a purplish hue on the border. As you move to the left, add a bit of orange color (by mixing red and yellow).

Sunset painting step by step

And then, I proceeded with yellow on the left to give it a sunny appearance. Blending these colors gives a smoother transition.

Sunset painting step by step

To paint the river, I’ll repeat the same process in the reverse direction. So, starting with yellow and leading it to red. I didn’t add blue in the reflection to make it appear dark and vibrant.

Sunset painting step by step

After blending the base shades, we now need to add some drama! So, I started adding a bit of yellow and red color for clouds. They don’t have to cover the entire sky, and could be on one side for an asymmetrical look and don’t need any details as they are pretty far away. So, any random strokes of color will do the job.

Sunset painting step by step

Using a smaller brush with black and grey paint, create a thin line of tiny mountains along the division between the sky and the river. These mountains are small to give an impression of distance and stretched from one side of the canvas to the other. Add some grey areas to these mountains for depth and texture.

Sunset painting step by step

To give the sky a more dramatic effect, use a small brush to layer more red on top of the blue area on the right side (clouds again). Try to maintain a natural transition of colors to intensify your sky and add more depth.

Sunset painting step by step

Repeating the same process for the river, except I am using more maroon here to give more darker appearance. Add random strokes of yellow, red and maroon, yellow for the brightest area and vice versa. If you want to create a sense of depth, add a few darker (you could mix a tiny bit of black or blue with your red) and lighter (add a little white or yellow) clouds as well. I have also added some more clouds on the sky, which I don’t really like, honestly, but they turned out to be okay at the end.

Sunset painting step by step

And, for the finishing effect, I am using my smallest detail brush and black paint to paint a tiny silhouette of a boat on the river. You can choose to place it anywhere, but preferably, it should be on the area where the color of the water is brightest. This will help the silhouette stand out. For an added effect, use the yellow or white paint to add a small dot on the boat to represent a light.

And, our sunset acrylic painting is ready! Just wait for it to dry and remove the masking tape to reveal the crisp border, which makes it look so much better!

Sunset acrylic painting

FAQs for Sunset Acrylic Painting

 What colors will I need for this Sunset acrylic painting?

You’ll primarily need blue, red, orange, yellow, maroon, black, and grey. You can also use additional colors like purple, dark blue etc. if you want to customize your sunset.

2. Do I need to have prior painting experience to create this?

Not at all! It is an easy-peasy painting, perfect for beginners.

3. What brushes are recommended for this painting?

A medium brush for the broader strokes in the sky and river reflection, and a small brush for detailing like the boat and light should do the job.

4. Can I use another type of paint instead of acrylic?

While this tutorial focuses on acrylics, you can certainly adapt the techniques for oils or watercolors. Just keep in mind the drying times and blending techniques for each medium.

5. How long will it take for the painting to dry?

Acrylic paint dries relatively quickly. In a room with standard ventilation, it should be dry to the touch within an hour or so. But, if you’ve used thick layers, give it up to 24 hours to dry completely.

6. My sunset colors aren’t blending smoothly. Any tips?

Make sure both colors you’re blending are still wet. Acrylics dry fast, so you might need to work quickly or use a retarder to help. It helps to slow down the drying process so you can blend better. And I would recommend using a softer brush.

7. Can I add other elements to the painting?

Absolutely! While the Sunset acrylic painting is made easy-peasy and minimal, feel free to add birds, trees, or any other elements that speak to you.

8. The river reflection isn’t looking right. What can I do?

Reflections can be tricky. Make sure you’re mirroring the colors from the sky, and use horizontal strokes to give a watery effect. If needed, you can always let the paint dry and paint over to adjust.

9. Can I varnish the painting?

Yes, after ensuring the acrylic paint is completely dry, you can apply a varnish to protect the painting and give it a glossy or matte finish, based on your preference.

10. Do I need to prepare my canvas before painting?

Most canvases you buy from stores come pre-primed, so you can start painting straight away. However, if you’re using raw canvas, you’d want to prime it with gesso first.

11. Do you have any other beginner-friendly ideas to paint?

Sure, here are easy-peasy aesthetic painting ideas you can try as a beginner. You can also check out my Youtube to watch some more beginner-friendly tutorials!

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