Have you ever felt as if you were walking into the painting you were viewing?

The artist used a few, simple guidelines to help the viewer meander through.

I can share a couple of those tips with you.


impressionist watercolor landscape, plein air painting, cobalt blue pb28 watercolor, limited palette watercolors, debiriley.com
Sunlit Watercolor HIlls


As a beginner, it can get frustrating when our paintings seem flat.  When the objects, the shapes don’t seem to have adequate ‘form.’

When the transitions are too stiff.

When the Foregrounds should (but do not) ease their way back gently into the distance, receding in nice and easy, slow progressive steps.

When “Walking into the painting” is only a dream, and its just not happening for you.

That. Is frustrating!




5 TIPS For Improved Depth



Where possible,  do Graded Washes.  They’re the most successful at creating smooth, slow, transitions from front to back.

The Sky, Meadows,  Lakes, Roads…  are excellent examples in which the Graded Wash is perfect for.




Start, your paintings from the back first.  Backgrounds, then middlegrounds, then foregrounds. Last is the focal point.  You have a better chance of getting your tonal values and your edges applied correctly when you paint in this sequence.




The backgrounds..…… are lovely and soft, more blurred. Filled with haze and atmospheric blurring of edges.  Cooler colors prevail, greys and blues.




The middlegrounds….. are still soft, yet firming up in those edges, a wee bit.  Certainly not loosey – goosey, but not rigidly sharp. Color temperatures are slowly warming, like …Spring.  Gradual progression, not a big sudden leap.

I like to warm the color mix by adding a touch of warmer paint, with each and every, forward oncoming stroke.  This way it is a slow, perfect and gradual transition.




The foregrounds….. are very much more.

More defined, more contrasts, more textured, more strength.  The edges are now harder, crisp and sharp. For our eyes, in real life, can always see things with more clarity and definition up close.

The tonal values in the foreground are deeper, darker. As is the white lights, much whiter, much brighter as well.

The colors now in the foreground are Warmest.  Rich earthy reds, oranges, terracotta golden browns.  The foliage greenery warm olive and earthy.    In the foregrounds, remember – it is here, we touch the ground, the earth.  Here we see it in its deep rich colors, fully saturated vibrancy.




impressionist landscape watercolor, color study, prussian blue pb27, ultramarine blue pb29, loose landscapes, debiriley.com
Impressionist Watercolor Landscape, color study


The  main 3 Keys:

Colors cooler in back (recede),  warmer in front (advance);

soft edges, blurrier in back (recede) and becoming sharper edged towards the front (advance);

paler lighter tones in the back (recede), becoming stronger darker tones in the foregrounds (advance).



painting watercolor landscapes, watercolour tips, landscape techniques in watercolor, get better faster in watercolors, debiriley.com
Blue Hills, Watercolor Landscape, debiriley.com




We are Artists – Creators

We don’t have to, follow each and every guideline, with every painting we create.


Sometimes, using 2-3 of the tips will be enough.


Sometimes, we want…. a specific response from the viewer that following the guidelines will fail to achieve.

So we will then need to plan, which guidelines to go against, while still creating an image with sufficient depth to it for the purpose we intend.   



pale sky, watercolor landscape blue mountain painting, debiriley.com
Against The Rules…….