Sunlit Trees - Samuel Earp - oil painting.JPG

In this step-by-step painting tutorial, I will show you how to paint this landscape that features a stand of trees that is backlit by the evening sun. This produces a beautiful translucency in the leaves.

Suitable for oils and acrylics.

Reference Photo

Here is a reference photo I took and used in this painting. Please feel free to use or copy this photo if you would like to have a go at painting this artwork.



The poplar tree is the main focal area in the composition and the stream provides rhythm, leading the eye towards the stand of trees. I’ve made sure the poplar tree is not in the middle of the painting as centred objects cause a displeasing static in the composition. The poplar tree is to the right of the centre.

Sunlit Trees - Samuel Earp - oil painting composition.JPG


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 ochre
  4. Cadmium yellow
  5. Cadmium orange
  6. Alizarin crimson
  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.0 round

Painting Demonstration

Stage 1 – Blocking in the Painting

I am painting on a 12” 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 and it also has the advantage of speeding up the drying time.


I paint my dark values and shadows first whenever I start a painting. Value refers to how light or dark a subject and I find it easiest to create atmospheric depth in a painting by establishing the main areas of shadows first.

Here I paint the trees in the background with a mix of ultramarine blue, yellow ochre, alizarin crimson and titanium white.

The tree and grass shadows are a mix of mainly ultramarine blue and yellow ochre to create a dark low chroma green and I have adjusted the values by mixing in titanium white.

I mark-in the stems and branches of the trees with a mix of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna.


I paint a warm sky with a mix of titanium white, yellow ochre and a very small amount of alizarin crimson.

I add the areas of the tree foliage that is in full sunlight with a mix of yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, ultramarine blue, titanium white and a little alizarin crimson. I am mainly using No.5 flat brushes.

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I paint the grass using the same colours I used for the poplar trees however I have used more titanium white in my mix so the value is lighter than the trees. In general, trees are some of the darkest values to be found in the landscape whereas grass is much lighter, so I always keep this in mind when I paint grass.

I paint the halftones in the grass with a mix of yellow ochre, a little cadmium yellow, ultramarine blue, alizarin crimson and titanium white. I have also used a little phthalo green in the grass overall to increase the saturation and this I mix into the existing green I have made on my palette.

The tree’s reflection in the water is a mix of yellow ochre, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and titanium white.

Overall I have kept my brushwork loose and gestural so I can create an aliveness and painterly feel in this artwork. At this point, I let the painting dry and then I worked on it over a few sessions as I built up the detail in the painting.


Stage 2 – Adding Details

Once my painting was dry I spent time adding details to it. In general, I use the same colours as I used during the blocking-in stage but as I add more details I built up lighter layers, especially in the grass. This helps to create more depth and realism in the painting.


Stage 3 – Final Details

It is at this stage that I have saved my lightest values until the end of this painting. I add some highlights to the leaves which were a mix of yellow ochre, cadmium yellow, phthalo green and titanium white.

I paint a few sparkles on the water with a mix of titanium white and a little burnt sienna. I apply the paint with a No.0 synthetic round brush.

Sunlit Trees - Samuel Earp - oil painting.JPG

Thanks for reading 😊