Paint a striking spotlight effect for a sunset in your next painting. This watercolor background sets the stage for your focal point or area of interest in your painting. The watercolor tutorial video below demonstrates how to paint one of these spotlight backgrounds. With a little practice you can master this technique and bring your paintings to another level.


In the video I describe how to paint the background in the painting above. Below is the steps to paint this watercolor background.

Start with your painting on a flat table.

  1. Wet your watercolor paper thoroughly.
  2. Mix any dark color, I used french ultramarine blue with light red or burnt umber.
  3. Paint this dark color around the edges of the painting.
  4. Work your way toward your spotlight area with circular strokes.
  5. As you get towards the center mix a lighter color with a little permanent rose and ultramarine blue.
  6. Leave the spotlight area white paper.
  7. Mix a strong, bright color for the spotlight. I used winsor yellow and cadmium red. Apply to the spotlight area.
  8. Leave painting flat until it is dry.

Just leave painting to dry, do not dab or try to correct anything. This is important. Let the paint mingle on its own. When this dries it will look different and further painting will create an overworked painting.

After the painting is dry I painted the palm trees and foliage. Notice how I left the path the colors from the background layer or glaze. I painted the ocean first with some of the colors on my palette from the background layer. Moving right into the left foliage with a good dark mixed with the same colors just more paint. Move down the painting leaving the path unpainted. Using a rigger brush paint the palm trees.

Move over to the other side of the path and repeat foliage and palm trees except modify the shapes so they are not repeated from the left side of the path. Use color from your palette. The green is from adding the yellow from the spotlight to the ultramarine dark. Finish up with small strokes of grass and rocks.

This spotlight effect can be used for any subject matter. Try different colors. With practice you will be more confident with your paint application. The results can be stunning and very effective. If you have any comments or questions leave them below. Please share this post with any other artists that may enjoy learning this watercolor technique.

Stunning spotlight effect in this palm tree path watercolor tutorial.