How to Paint a Rainy Forest Drive: Step-By-Step Acrylic Painting Tutorial
This acrylic painting of a car driving through a rainy forest at night will make a perfectly moody and atmospheric addition to any wall in your home or a friend’s home. It’s also a great way to explore painting light and shadow and finer details! There’s a little something for everyone to learn here, and painting this will absolutely level up your acrylic painting skills.
This will be the first of many masterclasses I am offering for free in written form on this blog. The free version covers everything you need to paint this landscape, but if you would like the video version with over 2 hours of content, you can buy it and all my other video masterclasses here.
As usual, let’s start with our materials list and dive in!
9 Easy Steps to Paint a Rainy Drive
We’ll start with some acrylic color mixing. You’ll want to mix a gradient going from light seafoam green to a medium seafoam to a light blue to a medium blue. These will be our background colors.
As usual, don’t get caught up at any part of this tutorial with trying to duplicate the exact colors I’m mixing here. It’s always going to be hard to get an exact match, and besides: art gives you the freedom to go in any direction you want!
Like most of my paintings, this next step will be about how to blend acrylic paints. We’ll take our wet M1 large round blending brush and start with the light seafoam green towards the bottom of the canvas, then get darker as we work upward. Right now we’re just laying down the colors, not blending them.
Now take your dry M1 blending brush (this is why it’s great to have two of them– one wet and one dry– if you can swing it) and use it to blend the colors you just laid down. Use a very light swirling motion that comes from the wrist, and blend in an upward shape. Do not worry if you see some brush hairs come out on the canvas while you’re painting; this is common and they are much easier to remove from the canvas if you wait until it dries.
After blending, let your canvas dry. You can use a blowdryer to speed up this process. Clean your brushes off and dry them while you’re waiting for the canvas to dry. Once the canvas is dry, you can easily pick out any stray hairs from the blending process, as the drying paint shrinks and forces them up and off the canvas.
Now we’re going to add some trees to our acrylic landscape. Mix some white into the leftover green or blue you have from the background and grab your #4 (small filbert) brush. Use it to dab in some tree shapes.
We’re going for softer shapes because these trees are being seen through the mist. If you find your dabs leaving edges that are too sharp, use a press-and-slight-swirl brushstroke at the end of your dabs to soften the edges and create a semi-blend.
Remember that the trees further in the distance will appear lighter, since they are behind more mist. Add several rows of trees going from light to dark as you see above. For the darker ones, you can mix some viridian, black, and white.
Next, we’ll use our classic paint blending techniques to paint a road for our car to drive on. Mix a gradient of three reddish browns (light, medium, and dark) on your palette using scarlet, yellow, black, and white in varying amounts. Again: these don’t have to perfectly match my shades!
Use your #8 brush (medium filbert brush) to layout your light brown in the center of the road where the car’s headlights will be shining, then medium brown to either side of it, and finally dark brown on the edges of the road. Use your M2 medium blending brush to blend the edges of those colors you just laid out.
Now I’m going to give you a quick tree painting tutorial. Mix an even darker brown by adding black to your leftover dark brown and use your ½” flat brush to draw in sketches of the larger parts of the trees like the trunks and larger branches. These can go on both sides of the road and take any shape you’d like. Now we’ll use a detail brush to add some smaller branches with the same color. Again, let the branches follow any shape you’d like.
Now it’s time for the leaves. Play around with viridian, blue, and white on your palette to create a dark grey-green and a light grey-green as well. Then dab the end of your #8 brush and make dabbing shapes for leaves, following the path of the branches. Do light first and then dark. There's no real pattern to where the light and dark leaves go.
Add some white to the light grey-green and use your #4 (small filbert) brush to add shading and detail to the bark so the tree won't be flat. Do the same thing on the trees on the other side of the road. Have fun with it and get creative with the shape of the bark details!
Now we’ll add some more details to flesh out our atmospheric landscape painting. Grab your super dark brown color with a detail brush and paint in the telephone poles and cables. Make sure you're working wet for the cables so your lines are nice and smooth.
Now we’ll paint some bushes. Grab some light grey-green and use #4 to paint in some bushes on the roadside with dabs just like you did with the leaves. Using the same brush, grab some very dark brown and use dabs to add pockets of shadow behind the light parts of the bushes you just painted. Swirl a little as you dab to drag the paint and blend it with the light parts of the bushes a little. Finally, use the same dark brown color and brush to add a rail to the roadside on the left.
Now it's time to add a car to our nighttime forest painting! Remember as you do this step that your car can take any shape you'd like! Add yellow, orange, scarlet, white, and black to your palette, straight from the tubes. We'll use these colors to draw in the details of our car. Mix a light grey and use your 1/2" flat brush to sketch out the shape of the car with that grey.
Mix a light yellow and draw in headlights with your detail brush. Use an even lighter yellow for the windshield. Go back to grey with your detail brush to add more shape to the car. Use black straight out of the tube with your detail brush to put a shadow under the car. Add white to the center of your car's headlights where they are brightest. After that, just use white, grey, and black with your detail brush to add more shape to the car until you're satisfied.
Now we're going to have fun painting lights and learning about gradients! With water and yellow on your detail brush, paint the trail of the lights going out in front of the car, then fade the headlights' trail to orange, then to red where the path of the lights are furthest from the car. Use your #4 brush and light yellow to add squiggly reflections of the lights on the wet pavement. These light reflections will also fade from yellow to orange to red.
With your 1/2" flat brush, do the same exact gradient a third time, this time where the light hits the guardrail: yellow>orange>red. Finally, do the same gradient on the left and right edges of the headlights' path of light.
As usual, we will wrap up our landscape painting with the detail step. Grab some light yellow on your wet detail brush and use it to add little details like rocks and divots in the road that are being hit by the light.
Do the same thing with the really dark brown. Remember, you can spend as much time on the details as you’d like! More detail equals more realism, but some prefer to leave their paintings more soft and impressionistic. It’s up to you!
I hope you enjoyed this easy step-by-step painting tutorial! This tutorial was full of different skill sets, including a new introduction to light and gradients. Light and shadow seemed to be the main focuses and skills you can take away from this. Hopefully you now understand how easy it is to add depth, perspective, and mood to your paintings with light and shadow.
Please leave a comment if you tried this tutorial or just learned something new from reading it. Also, be sure to send me your results @colorbyfeliks.community on Instagram if you recreate this tutorial, so I can share your work! I’ll see you next week!
And remember, you can buy all the products I used in this tutorial below:
- 4-Piece brush value pack
- Set of 5 basic color acrylic paints
- Round blending brushes
- 24 set of paints