How To Paint A Sunset & Hot Air Balloon Silhouettes

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Hot Air Balloon Silhouette Sunset

Learn how to paint a sunset with hot air balloon silhouettes afloat in the sky over a tree line. This is a very easy acrylic painting for an absolute beginner!

The painting was done on both an 11″ x 14″ stretched canvas (I painted the sides too) and an 8″ x 10″ canvas. This design can work on any size, even a 16″ x 20″ if that is what you prefer.

I get a lot of requests for sunsets! While I do have a few tutorials with sunsets, I think this one will be the most versatile because you can take the concepts and apply it to other paintings.

When I do sunsets, I select a few “analogous colors” and blend them horizontally down the canvas. I always like to start with blue (in this case “cerulean blue”) for my top color. The trick is getting the blue to fade into orange without it turning “brown”. The color “medium magenta” in between the blue and the orange hues helps with this transition.

Then the bottom of the sunset along the horizon line is the brightest. That is where I used titanium white and cadmium yellow. Finally, the sun was done using the sponge foam pouncer! I absolutely love those things and use them any time I need to paint a circle. The largest pouncer in this set made the perfect sun!

After painting the sunset, then you do all the silhouettes! You may notice that some of the balloons in the distance look lighter. That is to create the illusion of depth! All I did was paint the smaller balloons with different shades of gray. Easy peasy!

Unfortunately, this tutorial leaves out the clouds that you see in the smaller version of this painting. I decide to simplify the final design. If you like the clouds, you can try to add them! I’m sure I’ll be doing a cloud tutorial soon. Anyhow, I know you will enjoy painting this beautiful hot air balloon painting! I can’t wait to see your painting. Enjoy and happy painting!

This post contains affiliate links to the products that I used and recommend!

Materials: 

Brushes:

*I got new brushes!!! I am NOW using the Royal & Langnickel Zen line of brushes! They are readily available in almost all arts and crafts stores, Michaels, Blick, Amazon, etc. so you’ll be able to get the EXACT brushes I’m using. If you’re interested, I linked the brushes above.

This set has the 3/4″ Wash and 20/0 Liner .
To paint the sun, I used the largest circle in this pack!

 

Color Palette:

Directions At A Glance:

Video:

 

Step By Step Directions:

1. Start with the color cerulean blue & titanium white.

Dip your 3/4″ flat brush in the water and pat dry. Load with the cerulean blue. Paint the top 2-3 inches of the canvas with a nice, smooth long horizontal stroke layer. 

As you work your way down with the cerulean blue, about 2-3 inches, add titanium white to the brush (without rinsing). Now your brush is double loaded with cerulean blue and titanium white. Continue painting the same horizontal strokes as you work your way down the canvas. That blue will turn lighter and blend to a light blue. 

2. Load the brush with medium magenta and continue to blend down the canvas.

Next add medium magenta to the brush (unrinsed). Blend the medium magenta into the blue-white. You will get a light purple from this. Continue painting horizontal strokes. At this point, I reached about the half way point down the canvas.

 

3. Rinse brush completely. Next add cadmium red light hue and blend into the purple and then down the canvas. 

You might get an area where the color looks kind of “muddy”. This is because the cadmium red light hue is an “orange tone” and the medium magenta is a “blue tone”. The blue and orange don’t mesh well so it might look kind of brown. You may not mind! But I offer a solution to fix this later…

Continue painting the cadmium red light hue until you’re about 2/3 a way down the canvas. 

 

4. Add cadmium yellow medium to the not rinsed brush. 

The cadmium yellow medium will easily blend with the cadmium red light hue. Continue down the canvas. The color should be getting nice and solid yellow with little orange left in it. 

 

5. Finish the rest of the sky with cadmium yellow medium + titanium white. 

Load the brush with both cadmium yellow medium and titanium white (about equal parts). This combo should create a very light yellow that will blend nicely with the cadmium yellow medium. Fill the rest of the canvas all the way down. 

 

6. Optional: blend the magenta/cad red light hue transistion.

To do this, I used titanium white and medium magenta and slightly painted over that “muddy” area where the orange and blue hue meet. 

 

7. Paint the sun.

The sun was painted using the largest circle in this pouncer set.  Dip it completely in pure titanium white. Then firmly press and turn to form a solid circle. The position of the sun was approximately two fingers from the bottom edge of the canvas. 

The sun was painted with a round pouncer sponge. Easy peasy!!

If your yellow-white in the sky isn’t dry all the way, that is fine! The pure titanium white circle might blend slightly and look yellow. That is what happened with my sun and it turned out nice!

8. Use a #6 round brush to paint the bottom ground line mars black. 

Sketch the ground line lightly with the brush and then fill it in with solid mars black. 

My ground line was higher on the left and right sides and dipped lower under the sun. 

9. Paint the trees.

There are a few ways you can paint silhouette trees. I even have a post about How To Paint Silhouette Trees With A Fan Brush.  I did not choose to use a fan brush for this painting because this area was too small for that technique. So I opted for using the #10/0 liner and the #6 round brush. 

First paint a vertical line with the 10/0 liner. Then use the #6 round brush to paint the branches stemming out on the left and right sides. Start from the top and then go to the bottom for the branches. 

Continue painting the trees. I purposely made the trees taller on the left and right sides. Then as they got closer to the middle, the trees were shorter. 

Some trees were shorter on the left and right as well. 

The trees under the sun were the shortest trees and they did overlap the sun. 

Then the trees on the right gradually got larger. 

The trees on the right were the tallest! 

10. Paint birds. 

Use a 10/0 liner brush to paint the birds. They are smallest towards the bottom of the sun and gradually get larger as they go up. I only put birds in this area of the painting. 

11. Draw the hot air balloons with chalk. 

You can technically just start painting the balloons, if you feel confident! But I recommend drawing the balloons out with chalk first so you can figure out the placements. 

Drawing a hot air balloon is almost like drawing a “heart” but the top doesn’t have the “bumps”. Then the little basket is like an upside down semi-circle. I only drew the large balloons. All the tiny balloons in the painting were painted without drawing them first. 

12. Paint the balloons black. 

I used a combo of the #6 round brush and the #4 bright to fill in the balloons. You can use any brush you feel comfortable with to fill these balloons in. Just paint them solid mars black! 

For the smaller areas, like the strings and the baskets, use that 10/0 liner brush. 

13. Paint the tiny balloons with different shades of gray. 

You can mix different shades of gray on your palette by mixing titanium white and mars black. To get a lighter gray, use more titanium white and a tiny bit of black. 

Each balloon is actually a different shade of gray. The tiny balloons were only painted closer to the sun.

14. Optional: Paint subtle white highlight on the bottom area of all the larger balloons. 

Use a 10/0 liner to paint some slight highlight on the bottom of the baskets and a little bit on the bottom left and right sides of the balloons. 

Finished! 

Don’t forget to sign your name and then show it off!

 

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How To Paint A Sunset - Hot Air Balloon Silhouettes

Yield: 11" x 14" Acrylic On Canvas
Active Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Easy
This super simple acrylic painting is of a sunset over a treeline and several hot air balloon silhouettes.

Instructions

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