How to Paint a Field of Tulips at Sunset with Acrylic Paints
Today I’m continuing my classic tutorials series with this gorgeous field of yellow tulips at sunset!
This one is a small step up in difficulty from the colorful acrylic paintings we’ve done the past two weeks, but I think you’ll still find it easy to follow along and end up with your own beautiful painting for sale or for your wall.
This one strikes a personal note with me, as I grew up in a small rural town in northern Washington State.
Every April, the tulip fields would be in full bloom and I saw a scene much like this one while driving around the area.
I hope this nature painting will give you the same warm feelings when you paint it yourself!
Now let’s get started!
You’ll need the following painting materials; follow the links to purchase these art supplies if needed.
10 Steps to Painting a Field of Tulips
As always, we’ll start off our sunset acrylic painting by mixing colors for the sky.
You’ll want a dark-medium blue, a lighter medium blue, a medium green, and a light yellow.
Use the above photos for reference, but don’t get frustrated if your colors don’t match exactly; it’s your painting after all!
Just use small amounts of paint until you get a color you’re happy with.
(IMPORTANT NOTE: In this tutorial, I was painting over an old river painting that I wasn’t happy with, so throughout this tutorial, please ignore the river part of the canvas, which will eventually be covered up.)
We’ll begin our acrylic sunset by applying the background colors of the sky.
Dampen the tip of the paintbrush in your water cup between colors for smooth application, and remember to re-dampen your paintbrush whenever you notice that it’s not running smooth across the canvas.
Without blending the colors together on the canvas yet, use your M1 blending brush and start with yellow about halfway down the canvas, then work your way up; applying green, then medium blue, and finally your darker blue at the top.
Clean off your brush and use our typical paint blending technique of light, gentle swirls to smoothly blend the colors together.
Let the canvas dry.
Now, we’ll go back to the palette and mix a dark bluish-grey (blue, black, and a little white) and a pinkish orange (yellow, red, white).
These colors will be used for our cloud painting.
Let’s paint some clouds!
Cloud painting is my favorite part about painting a sunset, as you have so much freedom to explore and create whatever you want!
Use your ½” flat brush and grab some of the orange paint you just mixed.
Start to add clouds about halfway up the sky, making them whatever shape and size you want.
Just remember that as always, the clouds closer to the horizon will be smallest and lightest (since they’re picking up more sun rays and further away), and the clouds closer to the top of the canvas will be bigger and darker.
With that in mind, grab the dark grey-blue and add some larger clouds higher up.
Let the orange blend into the bottom of some of these clouds.
Finally, mix some more yellow into your orange and add some light, skinny clouds right at the horizon.
Now, mix some yellow and white together and use your flat brush to paint some highlights on the underside of your clouds.
This will add a nice aesthetic touch to your sunset painting; it’s a good trick to remember when you’re painting an original!
After applying your highlights, grab your M2 medium blending brush, dampen it, and blend the areas where you added highlights.
Start with the darker parts of the clouds and don’t press too hard; we want that yellow to stand out and not be too blended!
Now, we’ll do some quick color mixing again.
Mix a grey-blue that’s a shade lighter than the color you used for the clouds and use that new color to add some low mountains to the horizon with your ½” flat brush.
Then go back to the darker grey you used for the clouds and use your #0 detail brush to add some tree trunks at the horizon; you can place these wherever you’d like.
Remember to keep your brush damp.
Now use the ½” flat brush with that same dark grey and and gently dab over the tree trunks to add pine needles to the trees.
Make the pine needles wider towards the bottom of the tree trunks.
Now we’re going to add the hint of civilization to our nature painting.
Grab some white with your detail brush and paint rough outlines of houses and barns in the distance behind the trees.
These are far away and don’t have to be clearly defined; just sort of suggest the outlines quickly and don’t get caught up in making them perfect.
You can also paint hints of smoke rising from chimneys.
Go back with your detail brush and paint some windows, then do the same with your orange.
Now we’ve got the tulip farmers’ town, all ready for your stay!
Go back to your palette and mix yellow, red, and black to get a really, really dark brown.
I’ll call it black from here on since it’ll look more black.
Then mix yellow and white into the lighter grey-blue that you already used for the mountains to get a lighter grey color with the slightest hint of green (again, this doesn’t have to be perfect!).
Use your ½” flat brush and starting in the middle of the horizon, use the grey color to paint a row of dirt for your beautiful flower garden to grow in.
Make sure it gets wider as it approaches the bottom of the canvas.
Now, starting from that same middle point, grab some black on your brush and paint a row on either side of the grey row.
Make more rows with black, going all the way out to the horizon.
Remember that each row should start from the same center point.
You can just paint this by eye; again it doesn’t have to be perfect!
I think that’s a big lesson this painting can teach us about painting in general; the imperfections make it special.
Now fill in the empty spaces with the grey you just mixed. Let the canvas dry.
Now for the fun part: we’re going to use our brush to plant an acrylic flower garden of gorgeous yellow tulips!
Mix yellow and white together and grab your #4 flat brush.
Use the brush to dot in the tulips on the black strips.
Now for a perspective lesson: remember that towards the horizon, the flowers will look more clumped-together and almost solid yellow on the rows.
As you get closer to the bottom of the canvas, the flowers will look more spaced-out and you can spend more time giving them an actual tulip shape.
Do the same thing on all the black rows.
Now mix some yellow and ultramarine blue to get a dark green.
Grab your #0 detail brush and add leaves and stems to the tulips closer to the bottom of the canvas.
Do the same thing with the black color on your palette to create leaves and stems that are in shadow.
For our final step, we’ll be adding shadows and highlights to really make our flower painting pop.
Grab your ½” flat brush with some of the black/brown that we mixed and use it to dab in some shadows at the edges of our rows of flowers.
Don’t cover up too much of the grey rows of dirt, though.
Now mix some yellow and white into the grey that we used for the dirt rows and add highlights to the middle of those grey rows, working dry.
Finally, wet your #0 detail brush and add some pure carbon black (this wet style is called working transparent).
Swirl the bristles to get an extra sharp tip.
Now we’ll use that black to add fine details to the garden flowers closer to the foreground.
Outline some of the tulips and add little lines where the petals overlap.
You can get as detailed as you want with this step; it’s up to you to leave the flower shapes more undefined or to really spend a lot of time making them sharp and clear.
Now finish off the whole thing by getting some titanium white on your detail brush and highlighting the tips of some of the closer flowers.
I hope you enjoyed taking a small step up in difficulty and learning some new techniques!
This one featured lots of paint mixing and also introduced some concepts about perspective, shadow, highlights, and detailing.
My goal is to give you a solid foundation of acrylic painting techniques that you can use for the rest of your life in your original works!
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If you’d like to watch the original tutorial video, you can view it here.
And remember, you can buy all the products I used in this tutorial below:
- M1 blending brush
- M2 blending brush
- 4-Piece brush value pack
- Set of 5 basic color acrylic paints
Let me know if you enjoyed this written tutorial in the comments below, and stay tuned for more coming soon.
Until then, keep creating!