How to Paint a Water Colour Sunset

Learning how to paint a sunset with water colours is easy, fun and rewarding. You can create a dazzling, multi-hued water colour wash that mimics the vibrant colours of a sunset with minimal supplies.

Once you’ve mastered this easy tutorial, you can tailor the process and colours to your liking to create truly spectacular skies in your artwork, whether you’re creating a collage or a water colour painting of a landscape.



  • Water colour paint in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet (can be from a tube/cake or mixed by hand)
  • Water
  • Round paintbrush in a size manageable to you
  • A second brush for cleaning up or brushing over areas with water (optional)
  • Paper
  • Paper towels for drying brushes
  • Scrap paper for testing colours (optional)


Get your supplies in place. You’ll want to have everything on hand so that you can proceed without any pauses to grab supplies. Grab the painting on which you’ll be painting a sunset.


Decide where you want to start: violet or red.

Author’s note: I find that it’s easiest to work in colour order, but it doesn’t matter which end of the spectrum you start on. For the purposes of this tutorial, I will guide using red as the starting colour.


Start by painting a line of red. You can paint it horizontally, or align the painting vertically if you find it easier to “draw” up and down with the paintbrush. If you have not used masking fluid, give the areas that you don’t want to cover a fairly wide berth. If desired, you can “test” the consistency of your paint on a nearby scrap of paper.


Clean your brush to wash off the red, and dry it with a paper towel. Then, paint a line of orange directly adjacent to the red, very slightly touching it. The paint will begin to bleed; that is OK. If it bleeds too much, you can clean your brush (or use a second brush) to delicately graze over the area with water to smooth out the bleeding.

If you prefer the colours more separate, give each colour a few moments to lightly dry before adding the next colour. On the opposite note, if it doesn’t bleed enough, you can clean your brush, add some water, and gently “smudge” (technical term, there) the painting so that the colours combine to your liking.


Continue with the remaining colours until you’ve added all of the colours of the rainbow. You can paint evenly sized lines of each colour, or you can paint thicker lines of the more famous sunset colours: red, orange, yellow. Or you can give it a nighttime look by augmenting the violet portion.


Once you’ve mastered a simple sunset in water colour wash, you can get creative with your colours. You can adjust the ratio of the colours you use, add a splash of red in the violet portion or paint clouds on top. Sunsets are like snowflakes: no two are alike!


You’re already educated on it once you master this tutorial! It’s just a different ratio of the colours. Accent the colours at the horizon to a greater degree to create a sunrise, and make the darker colours higher up in the sky and put less emphasis on them.


Are you painting a sunset on a water colour piece with other elements that you don’t want to accidentally paint over? You can apply masking fluid to the portions of the painting you don’t want your sunset colours to tint. Check out these tips on how to use masking fluid. Or, you can paint around such elements.