How to paint a Marsh Painting

Today I am going to show you how to paint a beautiful Marsh Painting.

By the end of this tutorial you will have a beautiful marsh painting. First of all, you will need some materials. I like to use Georgian paint because it is not as thick as others, and it is very easy to work with. Below are the colors I used to paint this marsh scene:

Art materials

  • Ultramarine Blue or French Ultramarine
  • Manganese Blue – M. Graham
  • Titanium White
  • Any type of Red
  • Cadmium Yellow

My favorite brand of brushes to use is Princeton. Princeton brushes are very easy to use, and they last a long time, presuming you take care of them. For this painting I used the Filbert Summit 6100 FB Series’ number 6 and 8, 2 Round, and 12 Bright 6100B.
I am using a 20 x 20 inch Fredrix Red Label Canvas, but you can use any size canvas you like.
Now that we have gone through the materials, it is time to get to the painting.

First of all I decide where my horizon line is going to be on the canvas. I usually like to have more sky than marshland, but you can do whatever you like better. So I draw the horizon with thin paint mix with paint thinner so it is not that visible but a reference point. You then start drawing your composition. If you have done fieldwork and you would like to use that composition that is fine or if you would like to make it up as you go along that is fine too. So just start drawing your composition very lightly. Once you feel like you are done and are satisfied with it, you are going to want to decide how dark or how light the sky will be. I like to leave it a little bit in between. So I usually mix 60% white, 30% ultramarine blue, and 10% manganese blue. The manganese blue gives it a little bit of a green tone, and of course the ultramarine blue has more of a red tone. You also should make a fair amount of paint because keep in mind that you have the reflection of the water to complete also. So I usually start painting around the edges of the canvas, but not putting too much paint. Leave about 2 inches blank from where the horizon is located. Barely put any pressure on the paintbrush but enough that the paint covers the white. I do this because if I just pour a lot of paint into the canvas it would be very difficult to control all of the tones of blue and later add detail to the clouds.


After you have completed that, you are going to want to mix more paint, about 75% white, 15% manganese blue, 10% ultramarine blue. Test the color out in a small spot comparing it to the other blue. Make sure it is lighter because remember we are working from dark to light towards the middle where eventually our moon will be located. If you are satisfied with the color, paint to fill in almost all the way to the middle. Again remember to try and not put too much paint on the canvas. After you have done that, with the same blue, fill in most of the water that you have drawn earlier. Now, after you have done that, with the same blue, try to mix it in or add some definition to the darker blue in the sky. Just add strokes to some of the areas randomly. Next what you want to do is clean out your brush. This time I mix 90% white and 10% manganese blue. Mix in the rest of the white area in the sky with this new blue color. Also you want to remember to add the reflection of that in the water, doing straight horizontal strokes. Also mix it in randomly with the color around it in the sky. After you had done that, blend the colors in the sky, starting with the lighter and working your way out to the darker color. After you have done some blending with the number 8 brush, switch to the number 12 brush. And blend it even more with a crisscross stroke, barely putting pressure so you do not lose all of the interesting things that are going on. Next thing you want to do is make a light pink, and add 5% blue. This step is critical. Paint a straight line where you stopped painting above the horizon, but touching the sky, not the actual horizon line. Blend it a little bit with the blue.

The next step you want to complete is to grab the ultramarine blue purely and draw a straight line on the horizon line. After you have done that, dab a little bit of white paint – 20% into the ultramarine blue to fill in the rest of the horizon up to the pink. At this point you should be able to see the three lines of the horizon which would be pink, and the two blues, one being darker than the other. You are going to want to blend in the pink with the sky. Again I use a crisscross pattern without touching the dark blue in the horizon. After you have completed that, you are going to want to blend in the dark blue to the pink. I first do straight strokes from one side of the canvas to the other about seven times. Then I start going up with the same straight strokes higher and higher. Now I use crisscross strokes pretty high and pretty long. You are going to feel like you lost the pink, but it is still there. You are going to make the corners on the right and left darker. Put more of the dark blue from the horizon line into the corners. Do not do this in the middle. After you have mixed everything and you are satisfied with how the horizon looks, you are ready to start the clouds. Before you are ready you should blend the whole sky one more time. With the same pink that you had mixed before, start defining where your clouds are going to be. I usually start making the highlights of the clouds around the moon area with it a little bit more intense towards the bottom and the horizon.

I usually make the bigger clouds towards the top while mixing the pink with the blue so you can barely see the clouds. Blend in the highlights of the clouds with the rest of the paint. After you have completed that you will want to switch to the number 12 brush and blend the clouds using the crisscross strokes, barely putting any pressure on the paintbrush. Take a few steps back and look at your clouds and see if you are satisfied. If you are, it is time to add shadows to the clouds. With the same blue that you used to paint around the canvas at first, start making shadows under clouds. After you have done that, blend them together. It is time to paint the moon. Define where you are going to put the moon. Make a white spot and blend it in. Try not to use too much pressure on the brush. Now you are done with the sky. Now you are going to want to finish the reflection of the water. Try to align the reflection of the moonlight to the water. Do the water with a number 12 brush. In the water add more highlights of the moonlight. We are done with the water. Now it is time to paint the grass.

We are going to mix some green. I like to use the leftover paint. For example the first blue that we made, add some yellow to it and more ultramarine blue. Add a little bit of red, like 2% or enough red where you can tell that it is there. It all depends on how dark or light you want the grass. I’ll let you decide that. Draw a straight line close to the horizon with the green you just mixed. Just fill in all of the marsh and try to make different tones of greens because grass is not one color but variations. Remember to leave a space for where the shadows will be. It will be a lot easier to add a dark color to the shadows then having paint on top of the lighter color. After you have done that, clean your number 12 brush and do a straight line in the horizon and the grass. You are doing this so that both sky and marsh will have a foggy and vanishing effect in order to have a feel of depth.

Now fill in the rest of the marsh with a darker green. After you have done that, add some detail to it. Just go up and down with the brush, making the effect of grass. Remember that marsh grass is not always straight, somake variations in the marsh grass. Do not only do straight lines. Also remember that the reflection of the water should have some detail of the grass. Try to blend in the shadow of the grass into the rest of the grass on the left. After you have done that, make some grass detail on the water borders of the rest of the grass on the right. Try to add the same dark color that you used for the shadow and the body of the grass so that it gives it that effect of grass and that it has different tones. Now define the main body of the grass with highlights. Try not to use too many. It all depends on how much detail in the grass you want to make. Make an even darker color than the shadow and define where the water and grass meet by making a line and adding detail to it. We are now done with this painting. Hopefully you have a beautiful marsh painting at the end of this blog post, and hopefully you learned some tricks that will help you create a beautiful marshland painting.marsh painting


Remember to check my finish marsh paintings in the portfolio page.



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