2 Wondrous Ways to Paint a Night Sky

Night skies are glorious to behold! They leave you with a sense of wonder and make you want to capture the beauty of the stars and the calmness of night clouds. Learn how to paint a night sky with these two watercolor tutorials.

How to Paint a Night Sky in Watercolor: A Bluprint Tutorial

Read on to learn how to paint a night sky in two different styles

My top tip for how to paint a night sky that’s as wondrous as the real thing:

The key to painting a night sky is to work quickly without letting the paint dry, except when adding in the trees and details at the end. The sky needs to stay wet throughout the painting so that the paint can blend and form beautiful textures.


  • Watercolor paper
  • Masking tape
  • Pencil
  • Round dish or object to trace a circle with
  • Watercolor paints
  • Watercolor brushes
  • Waper towel
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton swab
  • Epsom salts or rock salt

How to paint a starry night sky

Step 1: Tape down and sketch.

Circle Traced in Pencil on White Paper

Tape your paper down to a table or drawing board. Then, using a round object such as a bowl, trace a circle in the center of your watercolor paper. Then toward the bottom third of the circle, lightly sketch a horizon line. It can have jagged peaks or soft curvy mountains.  Just make it interesting!

Step 2: Create an under-painting.

Start by adding a watercolor wash to paint your starry night sky

Staying within the lines of your circle, lay down a light wash of varying colors over the sky section for your under painting. This gives a colorful base for the rest of the night sky. I used pinks, purples and blues for this under painting. Remember to keep the paint wet and fluid.

Step 3: Darken the sky.

Painting a night sky in watercolor

Add some black and darker, more saturated colors to your sky using the wet-on-wet technique. This way the colors blend easily into one another. Make the top of the sky darker and leave the portion of the sky nearest the horizon line lighter. 

Step 4: Create texture.

Learn creative ways to add texture to a watercolor night sky

Using a cotton swab, dab some rubbing alcohol onto the wet paint of the sky in little dots all over. Rubbing alcohol pushes the paint away and resists it, creating light spots.

Then, sprinkle some salt onto the wet paint. Let this dry completely, then gently rub the salt off with your fingers. The salt absorbs the water and some pigment, leaving crystal-like textures. 

Step 5: Paint in the horizon and trees.

Painting the Foreground in Front of a Watercolor Night Sky

With heavy black paint, fill in the land area underneath the horizon line. Then with a fine-tipped brush, create tree silhouettes along the horizon line.  

To create pine trees, make a small straight line for the trunk with heavy black paint. Then paint branch sections coming out horizontally from the trunk.  Be creative with this part and have fun. You can paint any variety of trees, even palm trees! 

Let your painting dry completely and then carefully pull the tape off. Admire your wonderful work!

starry night sky landscape

How to paint a cloudy night sky

signed artwork

Step 1: Tape down and sketch.

Tape your paper to a board, trace a circle, and draw a horizon line as in the previous tutorial. 

Step 2: Create an under-painting.

Sunset Watercolor Underpainting

Staying within the lines of the circle, apply watery and light washes of color to the sky. I used colors of a sunset: yellow, orange, pink and purple. Then with a clean paper towel, gently dab in a few places to lift the paint off of the paper and leave soft white cloud shapes.

Step 3:  Darken the clouds.

Watercolor Cloudy Sky

Mix a little black paint with some pink and purple, then apply this wet paint to the edges and top of the circle. Work in some dark paint around your existing cloud shapes and paint additional cloud shapes with the dark paint. Dab spots with a paper towel to lift paint and give highlights to more clouds.

Then, with heavier black paint, fill in the edges again and give more definition to the clouds. Use your paper towel again to soften the edges of the clouds.

Step 4: Fill in the horizon and trees.

Learn how to paint a cloudy night sky with this Bluprint tutorial

Fill in the land section under the horizon line with heavy black paint.  Then paint little trees along the horizon line, as in the previous tutorial. It’s your little world. Be creative with it!

Let your painting dry and then peel off the tape.  You can sign these along the bottom edge of the circle with pen for a final touch.  Enjoy!

Signed Artwork

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