How to colour a sunset sky with watercolour pencils

Is there anything more beautiful than a watercolour sunset sky? Dreamy purples, deep blues and a hint of pink can create a stunning sunset background for your colouring pages. Using Derwent watercolour pencils, colouring artist Jo Barber reveals how to colour a sunset sky.

In this tutorial, Jo is colouring a page from our Colouring Heaven Collection Percy The Park Keeper™ issue (now sold out). For more detailed instructions, click the video below and colour along with Jo!

How to colour a watercolour sunset sky

Practice using watercolour pencils

1 – Practice first

To start off, we recommend colouring your watercolour sky as the first part of your design. Because watercolour techniques can be a bit tricky, you don’t want to do a lot of detailed colouring, then have to start from scratch if the sunset sky doesn’t go to plan.

You could also practise using and blending watercolour pencils on similar paper, before giving it a go on your colouring page. We have a whole article about how to use watercolour pencils, which you can read here.

As well as practising using watercolour pencils, you can test the colours you want to use in your sunset design, and see how they blend together. Jo uses mostly blues and purples for her colouring, but your sunset could include pink, orange, yellow or red. It may be helpful to look at some reference photos or colour palettes to plan your sunset.

Use masking fluid

2 – Use masking fluid

If you are colouring a page with extra details in the foreground, you may want to use something like masking fluid or tape to keep these details clean while you add your sky. For example, Jo uses masking fluid for spots of snow in the sky, and the edges of trees and animals on her page.

For straight edges, it may be easier to mask them with masking tape, which keeps your edges nice and crisp without needing to be precious with your watercolours.

Top tip: Press masking tape against your clothes a couple of times before sticking it to your page. This will remove some of the stickiness of the tap, and prevent your paper ripping when you remove it later.

Start with the darkest colour

3 – Start with the darkest colour

You may find it easier to colour your background with the design on its side. Start by layering your darkest colour at the top of your sky, furthest from where the sun has set beneath the horizon. Do be careful where you go over masking fluid, as it can sometimes catch on your pencil and pull away.

Keep adding gentle layers of paper, focusing on darkening the top of the sky, and leaving the opportunity for blending further down.

Blend your colours

4 – Blend into your next colour

Now you can start to blend in your next colour, again starting with a light layer and blending it up into the sky. Continue blending gently into different colours as you get closer to the horizon, finishing with your lightest colour, which will usually be a light yellow, pink, or purple.

Apply the water

5 – Apply the water

Using an appropriate brush or sponge, apply water to your design in fluid movements, working your way from the lightest colour to the darkest. Be sure to add enough water to fully blend your colours, without damaging the paper.

After you have added your water, you can use a hairdryer to dry your page more quickly.

Don’t forget, if you’re using these pencils on an issue of Colouring Heaven, you might want to add a sheet of paper beneath your design to protect the pages underneath. We also recommend working with limited amounts of water to avoid over-saturating the pages.

Add more colour

6 – Add more colour

Sometimes after water has been added, your colours can look a bit washed out or patchy. If this has happened to your colouring page, there’s no need to panic. Simply add more pigment to the design with your watercolour pencils, then add another layer of water over the top.

7 – Finishing touches

Use your watercolour pencils to even out streaks and fill in lighter patches. Make sure your colour goes all the way up to the edge of your masking fluid or tape.

Remove masking fluid and masking tape

8 – Remove masking fluid

Once your colouring page is completely dry, it’s time to remove your masking fluid and masking tape. Masking fluid should just peel away when you apply some pressure with your finger.

Be sure to remove your masking tape slowly and gently to avoid ripping or damaging your paper, even if you have used our top tip from earlier in the article.

Now these masked areas are ready to have detail and shading added to them, just like any other part of your colouring page! For white details like the snow on Jo’s colouring page, it can help to use a white pen to add some crisp detail.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this tutorial all about how to colour a sunset sky with watercolour pencils – don’t forget to watch our video tutorial for a more in depth guide by our colourist Jo!

PS Take a look at our previous tutorial about how to colour realistic tree bark!

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