Sunset - Lake Wanaka - Samuel Earp - Oil Painting.jpeg

In this painting tutorial I will show you how to paint a mountain lake sunset inspired by Lake Wanaka in New Zealand. This painting features autumn trees, mountains, a lake and the evening sunset as it peers through the clouds.

Throughout this painting tutorial I give you tips on painting autumn colours, sunsets and clouds as well as how to create colour harmony.

This painting is suitable for oils and acrylics.

Reference Photos

Here are the reference photos I took and used in this painting. Please feel free to use or copy these photos if you would like to have a go at painting this art work.



I painted this artwork using oil paint and the colours I used in this painting are as follows:

  1. Titanium white
  2. Burnt sienna
  3. Yellow oxide (you can also use yellow ochre instead)
  4. Cadmium yellow
  5. Cadmium orange
  6. Quinacridone crimson (you can also use alizarin crimson instead)
  7. Ultramarine blue
  8. Phthalo green


Here is a list of the brushes I used in this painting:

  • No.5 flat
  • No.3 flat
  • No.2 flat 
  • No.3 filbert
  • No.1 round 
  • No.0 round

Stage One – Blocking in the Painting

I am painting on a 10” x 12” linen panel. The panel is pre made with a medium weave linen that is oil primed.

I sketch the composition using a No.1 round brush with burnt sienna mixed with Liquin Original (Liquin). I am using Liquin as a medium to thin the paint, it also has the advantage of speeding up the drying time.


Paint Your Dark Values and Shadows First

Whenever I begin a painting I have always found it easiest to paint my darks values and shadows first. Value refers to how light or dark a subject is and by establishing your darks first it will make it much easier to create atmospheric depth in your painting.

When observing the landscape keep in mind we will find our darkest shadows and lightest lights in the foreground, whereas when landforms recede into the distance darks are not as dark and lights are not as light as the value range narrows.

Here I have established the shadows in the distant mountains using a mix of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna to desaturate the blue and titanium white to adjust the value. I have also mixed in some quinacridone crimson to give the mix a violet tint.

The dark shadows in the bushes in the foreground are a mix of ultramarine blue and a little yellow oxide.

For the rusty autumn foliage of the Lombardy poplar tree I have used a mix of yellow oxide, quinacridone crimson and ultramarine blue.


I have established a tonal dynamic in this painting and I am blocking-in the major zones in this painting. I also keep in mind to use similar colours throughout the painting in order to achieve colour harmony. This means your painting will read well to the viewer.

I paint the straw coloured grass in the foreground with a mix of yellow oxide, quinacridone crimson, ultramarine blue and titanium white. These are the same colours I used for the trees which ties these two zones together. Keep in mind that the value of grass is usually a lot lighter than the much darker values found in tree foliage.

I was able to use the same colour combination for the mid ground mountains, but keeping the value of the colour a little darker.

I paint the rocks and stones with a mix of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna, a little quinacridone crimson and titanium white.


I paint the sun and the orange glow in the clouds with a mix of yellow oxide, quinacridone crimson and titanium white. Initially I also used a little cadmium yellow but I found it was too saturated so I painted over it later on in the painting.

The lake is largely reflecting the sky and is also light in value. For this I used a simple mix of ultramarine blue, yellow oxide and titanium white.


I complete the blocking-in stage by painting the orange glow in the water using a mix of yellow oxide, quinacridone crimson and titanium white.

At this point I allowed the painting to dry so I could begin adding details to it.


Stage Two – Modelling and Adding Details

In this stage of the painting I am adding more details and refining the various zones. I am essentially using the same colours that I used during the blocking-in stage but building up my lighter values to create a three dimensional effect and atmospheric depth in the painting.

Here I made a value adjustment to the trees and the grass in the foreground as they were a little light. The tree foliage is still the same mix of yellow oxide, quinacridone crimson and ultramarine blue.

I add more layers to the sunlight and glow in the clouds making sure to paint over the cadmium yellow which I was unhappy with. The lightest area where the sun is shining through the clouds is a mix of titanium white and yellow oxide.


I add more details to the trees using the same colours as before but adding more titanium white into the mix to make the values lighter. I will be adding my lightest values at the end of the painting.

I paint the green foliage in the bushes by the rocks and the Lombardy poplars using a mix of ultramarine blue, yellow oxide, cadmium yellow, cadmium orange and titanium white. I can even shift the hue of the green using a little phthalo green.

For the trees and grass I have been mainly using flat brushes. I have also been using filbert brushes for the foliage in the trees as you can get some great marks with the rounded edge of the brush.


Stage Three – Final Details

I have let my painting dry again and it is here where I add the final details to my painting. This is where I will be using my lightest values as well. I finish the bright sunlight with a thick layer of titanium white and a small amount of yellow oxide.

I add some highlights to the Lombardy poplar trees using a mix of titanium white with yellow oxide and a little quinacridone crimson. I also paint the suggestion of a network of main stems and branches using a mix of ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and a little titanium white.

I complete the painting by adding small details to the grass and vegetation.

Sunset - Lake Wanaka - Samuel Earp - Oil Painting.jpeg

Thanks for reading. 😊