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How to paint a rainy cityscape with watercolors and salt

Watercolor cityscape tutorial : How to paint a rainy cityscape with watercolors

I like how the bright lights of the traffic are visually interesting in Vancouver when it is raining. Here is a watercolor cityscape tutorial that will give you at least a reason to like the rain here 🙂

Watercolor is a great media to convey anything related to water, including rain. Here are a few techniques that you can use to paint a rainy cityscape.

Watercolor cityscape tutorial : How to paint a rainy cityscape

You will need:

  • Watercolor paper, I used Arched hot press
  • a stretching board
  • Watercolors, I used Yarka watercolors
  • Masking fluid
  • Coarse salt.



rough outline-Watercolor cityscape tutorial

Start by stretching your paper and draw a rough pencil outline of the buildings, cars and lights.

Click here to see a post showing you how to build your own light box to transfer your drawings on watercolor paper.


masking fluid- Watercolor cityscape tutorial

The first step, often when painting with watercolors is to preserve a few white areas with masking fluid, so you can paint fast and confidently around those shapes while preserving the white of the paper.

masking fluid on top of painted area

Masking fluid can also be applied on top of an already painted area, like here on the sign. It would be tricky to paint around the letters.

preserving the letters on the sign with masking fluid.

The lighter green seen here will be the green of the letters, a darker shade of green will be painted on top.

start to apply washes of paint

Apply washes of paint on the various elements of the cityscape. Try to add variation by painting some washes flat, some wet on dry as on this picture and some  painted wet on wet, letting the colors mix on the paper.

building texture- Watercolor cityscape tutorial

You can also layer several washes in some places starting from light to dark. Like here on the buildings, you can see the first lighter layer.

painting one section at a time

Paint one section at a time moving onto the painting.

upper part is completed

To paint the sidewalk, I am going to lay a wet into wet wash, paying attention to the colors of the reflections on the road and  then add some coarse salt for texture.

coarse salt on wet wash

The salt is applied when the wash is still wet but has lost most of its shininess.

remove masking fluid

When the painting had time to dry, take off most of the masking fluid with an eraser and all the salt on the surface of the painting. You can soften most of the edges left by the masking fluid as those are often too sharp and unnatural looking.

smoothing out some edges

A stiff brush and water are working well to soften the hard edges left by the masking fluid.

colored pencils

If you want to spray your painting with water to get the effect of a rainy cityscape, you can try adding a bit of watercolor pencils in some places, this will make colors a bit brighter and add a bit more contrast on the painting.

adding crayons

Splashing water will cause some of the colors on the painting to move but not too many, so adding watercolor pencils before splashing is a way to accentuate that effect.

splashing with water

Now the fun begins, you can spray the painting generously with water.

spray with water and lay flat

Leave the painting to lay flat as the water will cause some of the pigments to move on the paper.

adding colors with a dropper

You can also add a bit more colors with a dropper. Any effect that you don’t like can be either removed now with a tissue paper or later when the paint has dried with a stiff brush and water.

Vancouver blues Watercolor on paper 15 x 25 inches

The finished painting.Vancouver Blues

Watercolor cityscape tutorial : How to paint a rainy cityscape with watercolors
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