10 Tips for Painting Mountains

tips for Painting Mountains
The Grand Teton Mountains by Teresa Bernard

Mountains have always been admired for their grandeur, which is one reason why they are a popular feature for artists to include in their landscape paintings.

If you’re an artist who wants to paint mountains, then these ten simple tips are for you.

Mountain Ranges You Can Paint

Mountains are popular with art buyers from all over the world. So much so that many top art galleries prefer to display oil paintings of landscapes featuring some popular mountain ranges.  With so many mountain ranges globally, artists will never run out of subjects for their mountain landscapes. Some famous mountain ranges you might want to consider painting are:

Mount Kilimanjaro Africa painting
Mount Kilimanjaro Rising by Teresa Bernard
    • Blue Ridge Mountains
    • The Canadian Rockies
    • Grand Tetons
    • Himalayas
    • Matterhorn
    • Mount Kilimanjaro
    • Rocky Mountains
    • Smokey Mountains
    • Swiss Alps
    • and numerous others

Painting Mountains From Your Imagination

mars landscape oil painting
Land Rover Tracks of Mars by Teresa Bernard

Or you might want to design a mountain range from your imagination. No hard and fast rule 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. Olympus Mons, the highest mountain on Mars, for example. Of course, you would have to rely on some reference photos from NASA’s image gallery for something like that.

Here is a painting of an off-world landscape with a mountain range made up entirely from the artist’s imagination.

Tips for Painting Mountains

Tip #1 — Pay special attention to the mountain or mountain range profile you are painting. Especially if it is a recognizable landmark, every mountain has a unique feature and specific shape. 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.

Tip #2 — As you are sketching the mountain onto your canvas, consider making it the dominating feature to show off its majesty. This can quickly be done by giving it the most space on the real estate of your canvas surface. This will reduce the surrounding supporting elements such as 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 the distance, be sure to employ 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 mountainside will become less defined, and you probably will not see any trees either.

Tip #6 — Tone is essential 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 viewer’s eye into the painting as they follow the outline of the mountain.

Tip #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.

Tip #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 closest. The mountains that are furthest away should be painted first. They should be the lightest, haziest, and possess the least amount of detail. Next, add 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 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. Layering various additional elements in your painting’s foreground will help give distance and perspective to the mountain range in the background.

Tip #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 their contour, texture, and color.

Additional Reading

The Rules of Perspective Drawing

Using Atmospheric Perspective to Create Depth in Your Paintings

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