Video: Landscape Value Painting

I’ve posted a few times with progress photos but this time I’ve filmed the whole process!

I don’t want to be one of those artists where I show you some beginning images and then BAM!! here is my finished piece. How did I get from horrible sketch to completed magic you ask? Well ask no more! While I sped up the video for time and attention purposes I filmed from start to finish. I am also more than happy to answer any questions you have for me after watching the video.

To watch click this Youtube link Landscape Value Study in Oil Paint
or copy and paste the link in your browser

I talk about some simple tricks and useful rules during the video but I’ll list them again here for you guys, because I like you.

Materials List:

Reference Photo/Camera
Oil Paint/Paint Pallet (I use a glass one for easy cleaning)
Brushes (sizes 8,6,4 Flat, Bright, or Filbert)
Cleaning Supplies (Paper Towels, Mineral Spirits, and Conditioner (use this to lengthen the life of your brushes when not in use).

Understanding Landscape Values:

  1. The sky is the lightest value.
  2. The ground is the second lightest value unless you are painting roads or rivers.
  3. Mountains or other objects which are at an angle to the sun are third lightest.
  4. Vertical objects such as trees are usually the darkest value.

When I do value studies I start out simple, using only 2 values if I can. I then do a larger value sketch using maybe 4 or 5 max.


A recommended read if you want to really start into landscape painting is a book titled Carlson’s Guide To Landscape Painting by John F. Carlson.

To get started first prep your canvas. The more smooth the easier it is to work in your details and not fight your texture on the canvas or board. I usually just gesso my canvas and use a palette knife to scrape off any extras. I just want the grooves filled in. I also like to tape off the edges of my canvas. This way I don’t paint to the edges and then have nowhere to hold my canvas. If I store my painting in a painter’s box I don’t mess up the edges of my painting when I slide it into the box.

Once the board has been prepped and the gesso is dry it’s time for some painting. I start out with my basic shapes and block in the values for each area of my painting. To help you have a nice range of values and to make sure the value separation is noticeable enough I like to pre-mix my paints onto my palette. I’m not too worried about filing in every little detail yet so I thin out my paints using mineral spirits or linseed oil. Mineral spirits can dry out your painting and produce cracks over time so other mediums are recommended when doing a professional painting.

As you paint your subjects remember they have a three dimensional form. The sides of the objects will darken as they turn away from the light source. The light source will be lighter or stronger the closer the object is so the leaves lower down on the tree shouldn’t be as bright as the ones at the top and so on for every object in your painting.

It is useful to notice that as subjects recede toward your horizon line they become lighter. So while your mountains should be darker than the ground they may only be slightly so as the atmospheric perspective causes their value to diminish or become hazy the farther they are from the camera or painter’s point of view.

While you are blocking in your basic values and shaping values this is the time where you should be fixing any drawing mistakes or value mistakes. Fixing errors right at the end of a painting will take a lot more time to correct.

Once you feel things are well blocked in you can start to work on details. Keep moving around your painting and make sure you don’t let yourself focus too much on any one area quite yet. This keeps your piece consistent and match throughout.

I talk about sky holes in my video. These are places where you can see past an object such as a break in the leaves or trunks of a tree or bush. Start by painting in a color darker than your background behind the object and slowly lighten the value as you move in to specific details. This helps make the appearance of light coming through the object much more believable. It takes a long time to get this technique figured out so don’t go kicking yourself if you don’t get it your first few attempts.

Put in any last little details at this point and you’re done. I usually wait for the paint to dry before removing the tape from around the edges. Once it’s done you can use your value study as a reference for your color studies or even glaze over it with color.

I hope you found this post useful and interesting and as always thanks for reading. Let me know if you liked my video and I can do more about different projects.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s