Sunset Palms



Painting Techniques

Original Art

Here in South Florida I’m struck by the brilliant color of the sunsets. I wanted to paint a rather quick, fun painting this morning after working on a large detailed painting over the past few days. So decided to get out my bright, intense colors from my paintbox. Sunset Palms is the completed watercolor that I will show you step by step painting techniques and tips on how to paint a sunset.

After soaking 140lb cold press Arches watercolor paper for 3 minutes I stapled it to a thin board and let it dry. Starting right in with colorful washes in the sky there is no need to draw anything at this stage.

Work in progress of a sunset sky.

At this stage everything is painted wet into wet.


  • ultramarine blue
  • new gamboge yellow or similar intense warm yellow
  • cadmium red orange
  • thalo green or windsor green
  • rose madder genuine

Background Painting Technique

Thoroughly wet the paper a few times. Start with ultramarine blue at the top of the paper, lay in a wet into wet wash about 1/3 down. I put in the sun next with new gamboge. Paint in intense color for the sun in a circular motion about 4 inch diameter. immediately paint around that yellow with intense cadmium red orange. Paint almost up to the blue. Tilt your board in different directions to get the paint to move around and blend without letting it run. This takes a little practice and you may need to do it a second time to get it right. Look at the image above to see where I applied the paint.

While the paper is still wet lay in darker foliage in the cad red orange color. This can be seen around the sun area above. As the paper is drying take a brush and pull out the yellow for the sun. Clean your brush and dab most of the water out on a paper towel and remove the yellow paint again for the sun. Continue doing this until you like the value for the sun.

Let the paper dry and then draw in the trees with pencil.

Mix the cad red orange, windsor green and rose madder genuine in a darker value. Start painting the trees. Any area closest to the sun has more of the cad red orange color for a glow from the sun. As you move away from the sun use more of the green and rose color to get a cooler, darker color.



Colors I see during a Florida Sunset.

Sunset Palms original painting 8x12 watercolor on paper ©2016 PJ Cook

Foreground Painting Technique

Following the image above finish painting the trees in dark values with more green as you finish. Scape some branches and grass out of the wet paint with a palette knife or pocket knife. There are times when you need to move right along before the paper dries. After everything is dry add smaller details of twigs with a rigger brush. Add spatter for some texture.

This may take some practice but it is fun to paint. These are all the steps I took to paint this Sunset Palms watercolor painting. Try these watercolor techniques and tips described here step by step. If you have any questions send an email or comment below and be sure to have fun!