How to complete a drawing of the sunset in 7 easy steps

For me, few sights are more comforting than a glimmering sun setting over the ocean. Follow the steps below to complete your own drawing of the sunset and recreate that moment of serenity any time you like. 

  1. Finding inspiration.
    It can be difficult beginning a drawing when the blank page that stares back at you offers no helpful suggestions. It’s best to keep a folder of your own photography, but if you're not accustomed to taking pictures, or don't quite have the image you want, I highly recommend the free online resource Pexels. Here you can access thousands of free stock images to use as a reference image without getting into trouble over copyright issues. For this drawing of the sunset I typed the word ‘sunset’ into the search bar and scrolled down until I found one I like. I won't copy it exactly - that's the beauty of artistic license - but I will use it as a reference.

  2. Choosing colours
    Look closely at your image - what colours do you see?
    Refrain from using all the colours in the rainbow, a limited palette is best.

  3. Initial sketch.
    Start by sketching with the lightest colour first. In my image it is yellow. Rough out an initial sketch with a light tone that will blend in later on, this saves the need to rub anything out.
    Top tip: If your hand gets a little shaky when it comes to drawing circles, you can find a round object to trace around to draw the sun.

  4. Filling in colour
    Still using yellow, put the pencil on a slight angle which allows more surface area to drag across the paper. This covers a wider area while avoiding harsh lines. Starting at the edge of the sun, drag outwards in a horizontal direction, lifting the pencil as you go. This softens the finishing point of each stroke as you’ll want the edges to blend in with the next colour.

  5. Building up layers
    Keep looking at your reference image. Wherever you see yellow in the picture, softly build up layers to replicate it on your drawing of the sunset. Refrain from filling it across the whole page. My pencil strokes alternate between horizontal dashes and small circular scribbles depending whether I want a gradient of sky or fluffy clouds. The harder you press down on the pencil, the more colour will transfer onto the page. Building it up in layers allows for a more realistic blend.

  6. Progress through the colours
    Repeat steps 4 and 5 working through each colour from lightest to dark.

  7. Make it pop
    Once you have filled in the page with soft tones and are happy with the colour placement, repeat the process but press a little harder, making the tones appear more bold and vibrant, and filling in any white on your drawing of the sunset, except for the sun itself.
    In the second layer, I've added a bit of black over the blue of the mountains at the bottom to bring the land forward and ground the image.

    First layer:

    Second layer, pressing down harder with the pencils to make the colours more vibrant:


I hope you enjoyed this exercise, please feel free to share your images with me on social media. 


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