10 Tips for Painting Mountains

mountain paintingMountains have always been appreciated for their majesty. Whether it is to paint them, climb them, hike them or simply gaze upon them, people are drawn to a mountain landscape. Their visual and inspiration splendor makes mountain scenes a very popular feature for artists to include in their landscape paintings. Mountains are also popular with art buyers. So much so that many top art galleries prefer to display oil paintings of landscapes featuring some very popular mountain ranges.


Holy Lands wall art“Sea of Galilee at Capernaum”
Landscape by Teresa Bernard
20″ x 16″
Oils on stretched canvas

>> More info


With so many mountain ranges in the world artists will never run out of subjects for their mountain landscapes. Some famous mountain ranges you might want to consider painting are:

  • Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Canadian Rockies
  • Grand Tetons
  • Himalayas
  • Matterhorn
  • Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Rocky Mountains
  • Smokey Mountains
  • Swiss Alps
  • and numerous others

Or you might just want to design a mountain range from your own imagination. There is no hard and fast rule that says it has to be an actual mountain that exists somewhere on earth. You could even paint a mountain range that is on some distant moon or planet. For example Olympus Mons, the highest mountain on Mars. Of course you would have to rely on reference photos for something like this.

See Land Rover Tracks of Mars as an example of an off world landscape with a mountain range made up from the artist’s imagination.

Things to Consider When Painting Mountains

Tip #1 — Pay special attention to the profile of the mountain or mountain range you are painting. Especially if it is one that is a recognizable landmark. Every mountain has a unique feature and specific shape to it. Those who view your painting will recognize the scenery and will want to buy your painting as a result because it has some special meaning for them.

Tips #2 — As you are sketching the mountain onto your canvas, consider making it the dominating feature to show off its majesty. This can easily be done by giving it the most space on the real estate of your canvas surface. This will entail having to reduce the size of the surrounding supporting elements such as the trees, lakes, sky, grass, wildlife, etc.

Tip #3 — As the distance between you and the mountain range increases, everything gets lighter in value. As the landscape hits the horizon line the color is less saturated as it disappears into the distance and becomes closer in value to the sky color.

Tip #4 — When painting mountains that are off in a distance be sure to employ the use of atmospheric or aerial perspective to create a sense of depth. A faraway mountain range will usually appear lighter, hazier and bluer as it gets further away.

Tip #5 —  The further away a mountain is, the less detail it will have. That means crevasses in the mountain side will become less defined and you probably will not see any trees either.

Tip #6 — Tone is very important when painting mountains. The mountain will be a pale tone near the top and will have a deeper tone at its base. This will help to give the mountain depth.

Tip #7 — As a general rule try to arrange the shape of your mountains so they slope into the picture and not out. This will help direct the viewers eye into the painting as they follow the outline of the mountain.

Tips #8 — Try to blur the outline of the furthest mountain into the sky. You can blur it more than you would initially think as the viewer will “create” the shape of the mountain in their mind’s eye.

Tips #9 — To create a sense of depth in your landscape painting, paint your mountain ranges in layers going from those that are the furthest away to those that are the closest. The mountains that are furthest away should be painted in first. They should be the lightest, haziest and possess the least amount of detail. Next add in another range of mountains closer to you. These would be placed in front of the first mountain range. They would be more intense in color and have a more details than the previous range, but not as much as the next range to be added. Continue doing this until you have all your mountains in place. By layering various additional elements in your paintings foreground will help to give distance and perspective to the mountain range in the background.

Tips #10 — Not all mountains resemble inverted cones, many are lopsided, pyramidal, or even flat on top. Some have snow caps, while others do not. Add interest to your mountains by varying its contour, texture and color.

Additional Reading

The Rules of Perspective

Scaling Mt. Kilimanjaro

snow mountain painting

© Copyright 2011 – Present

Size: 24″ x 18″
Support: Gallery wrap stretched canvas
Description: A snow painting of a hiker scaling up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa. This painting was commissioned by an art collector in New Jersey. It did not require framing as the painting extended around the edges of the canvas.

Commissions: This particular painting was a commission, however, if you desire to have a similar one painted for you contact us. For more information on how to commission a painting select Art Commissions Info.


Artist Comments: This was a commission painting done for a client who had hiked up Mt. Kilimanjaro one year. The client supplied the photo from her trip for this painting. Since this was a memorable trip for my client, I kept the painting as close to the photograph as possible. My client loved the finished painting and proudly displays it in her living room where it receives many favorable comments from her guests.

About Mt. Kilimanjaro

Located in Tanzania Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro is actually a dormant volcano and also happens to be the highest mountain in Africa at 19,340 feet above sea level. Its three volcanic cones are named Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira. It isn’t certain where the name Kilimanjaro originates from, but there are several theories about that. A few possible meanings could be Mountain of Light, Mountain of Greatness, or Mountain of Caravans. Or it might not be any of these.

This mountain is a popular attraction for hikers and mountain climbers from all over the globe. Some estimate that more people have died trekking up Mt. Kilimanjaro than Mount Everest. However, it needs to be pointed out that Everest is attempted by significantly fewer climbers than Kilimanjaro.


The Grand Teton Mountains

mountain painting

© Copyright 2003 – Present

Size: 18″ x 14″
Support: Stretched canvas

Artist Comments: The Grand Teton Mountains is one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the U.S. Located in northwestern Wyoming, this mountain range is the central feature of Grand Teton National Park. Several years ago I had opportunity to visit this park and was awed by the stunning mountain scenery.

For more information visit the Grand Teton National Park website.

Note: This painting sold to a private art collector in Georgia.