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Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour Sunrise Tutorial

30 June 2020

Level: Hard

Paint yourself or someone special a beautiful sunrise in the vibrant hues of Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colours using this step-by-step project by artist Glyn Macey

Click here for a PDF version of this project.


  • Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour Sable Brush No 6 Round
  • Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour Sable Rigger
  • Winsor & Newton Cold Pressed 140lb 300gsm 9” x 12”
  • Cadmium Free Yellow
  • Cadmium Free Orange
  • Cadmium Free Red Deep
  • Cadmium Free Lemon
  • Smalt Dumont’s Blue
  • Indigo

How to do it - a step by step guide by Glyn Macey

  1. Working flat, I begin by adding a brush load of clean water to the sky area, deliberately leaving a sun shape dry around two thirds of the way down the paper towards the left-hand side. I also leave a streak below the ‘sun’ as dry paper. Next, I add a wash of Cadmium Free Yellow to the wet paper, letting the colour find its own way around the sky, sun and sea. I am looking for an overall variance of tone so I’m happy to leave some paint as the mass tone (colour from the tube) and some areas as the undertone (colour when diluted).
  2. While the sky area is still wet, I add a loose wash of Cadmium Free Orange to just a couple of areas in the sky above the sun and a line below the sun creating the beginnings of a soft horizon line. Note the colours blending wet in wet, this is a key technique for soft edges.
  3. Next, while the paint and paper are still wet, I add a generous streak of Cadmium Free Red Deep to the sky and another across the horizon. These red streaks will help to draw the eye to points of interest and add richness to the tonal balance.
  4. I let the painting dry completely before adding a wash of Cadmium Free Lemon over most of the sky and sea. This creates a ‘glaze’, which adds luminosity and depth to a water colour, allowing the underlying colours and tints to glow through. At this stage I also bolster up the red areas with a touch more paint. The red combines with the newly applied lemon creating soft edges where it meets wet paint and a crisp edge where it meets dry paint. The combination of both soft and hard edges is key.
  5. Let the painting dry fully, before using the point of the round water colour brush to add a few touches of Smalt Dumont’s Blue to the right hand side of the sky, sea and horizon line. Again, the blue wash will act as a glaze creating in turn a range of tones over the dry colours below. In this case, yellows and reds.
  6. I use a touch of Indigo as a rich dark to ramp up the foreground ripple shadows and horizon interest. Using the point of a good quality water colour brush, it is easy to add surprisingly crisp lines.
  7. Next, after letting the painting dry completely, I go back in with the Cadmium Free Red Deep. A simple tint this time to ramp up the richness and detail of a summer sunrise. Note how the newly added red areas retain their crisp outlines against the soft reds beneath.
  8. The same process is used to add a tint of Cadmium Free Orange to the left side of the sky and sea. I use the brush to describe simple ‘cloud’ shapes to add interest and depth.
  9. Using the tip of my Rigger brush I am able to add in just a few touches of rich Indigo to give the impression of the masts of ships and yachts. I carry the lines down into the sea for added reflections.
  10. A few dark, thin lines can be used to add depth to the sea area by describing ripple shadows. Note how the Rigger brush lines differ in size from the No 6 Round brush lines.
  11. Let the painting dry completely before using the tip of a craft knife to scrape a few highlight details to the sea and boats. No need to overdo this stage, less is definitely more.
  12. Finally, I decide that my sun is really too big and bright for the painting so a damp brush with a touch of Cadmium Free Lemon is used to soften the edges of the sun shape, making the sun appear smaller and slightly hazy. Perfect for a warm Summer Sunrise.

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