Painting a White Barn

Materials Used:


  • 1 1/2" (381mm) Flat Winsor & Newton Series 965
  • 1" Grumbacher Aquarelle Flat Red Sable
  • #12 Winsor & Newton Series 7 Red Sable
  • #10 Winsor & Newton Series 820 Red Sable
  • #6 Grumbacher Watercolor Classic Red Sable
  • #4 Round Red Sable


  • Sap Green
  • Hooker's Green Dark
  • Phthalocyanine Blue
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Dioxazine Purple
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Permanent Rose
  • Raw Sienna
  • Burnt Umber


  • Spiral Pad (11" x 14") by Canson: 140lb cold press watercolor paper


  • #2 Pencil
  • Kneaded Eraser
  • Palette - Your choice. Mine is an old Robert E. Wood model.
  • Water container (x2) with clean water
  • Hair dryer (optional)


  • Photo or sketch big enough for you to see reasonably well

Step 1: Do the Work


Although not necessary, usually a light drawing is done to block in the shapes and arrange the composition. NOTE: For a bit of fun and challenge, skip the drawing and start painting right away. It's a great visual skill builder, especially when it turns out well.

Step 2: First Washes

wbstep2 Using my 1 1/2" flat brush, I dampened the sky area of the paper, taking care to cut in the edges of the barn correctly. I used a mix of Cerulean and Cobalt Blue for the initial wash. I made a darker mix of Burnt Umber and Cobalt, and darkened the sky towards the lower left. I carried the same tone to a few foliage areas in the foreground. I then took a 1/2" flat brush with the Cobalt/Cerulean mix plus some Dioxazine Purple, squeezed it fairly dry, and pulled texture into the face and sides of the barn. This is called the "dry brush" technique.

Step 3: Laying the Groundwork

wbstep3 Using washes of Sap Green, Hooker's Green Dark, Raw Sienna, and Burnt Umber, I painted in the rolling fields. I varied this tone to darken and gray down the background hills and woodsy areas.

Step 4: A Lot Has Happened...

wbstep4 ...since the last picture. I became so frustrated I forgot to take an intermediate picture. I've added trees using Hooker's Green Dark and Burnt Sienna. I made an attempt at the background bare trees. The intriguing angle of the cast shadow was important to the composition and drama of this barn, so I took some time getting the color and shape right. I then added a few building details to the rest of the barn using a #4 round sable. Other fore- and middle-ground details were built up, such as the fence to the right and the drainage trough in the foreground.

Step 5: Building the Details

wbstep5 Using a combination of Pthalocycnine Blue, Cobalt Blue, and Burnt Umber, I added the windows and open door details as well as picking out shadows on the rough surfaces. I flicked in the lightning rods with the same mixture.

Step 6: Working the Foreground

wbstep6 The painting was looking too cool (i.e. in terms of color temperature) with all the blue in the shadows of the barn so I bumped up the warmth of the surrounding fields using Raw Sienna, Cadmium Orange, and Sap Green. To break it up the foreground and add a little interest, I added indications of grasses and a rolling hill.

Step 7: Final Touches

wbstep7 Using a dark mixing of Phthalocyanine Blue and Burnt Umber and my 1/2" flat brush I added the texture of bare branches against the sky and over that nasty area to the right of the barn that gave me trouble. I called it done at this point!

Step 8: What Happened Back There?

wbstep8 In step 3.5, I painted the woods to the right of the barn...but I drew them poorly. I wasn't paying attention, and by the time I realized I needed another element in that area, the paint was already down. I used a stiff #6 nylon acrylic painting brush and a piece of tissue to lift the paint with clear water and dabbing.

Step 9: A Little Patchwork

wbstep9 With a blend of Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Orange, and Cobalt Blue, I quickly plugged a little red building to hide behind the trees. Using some of my sap green mixture, I darkened the hill behind the building. I then added some blue to the same brown mixture I used for the branches and re-painted the trunks and branches over the brand new building. Accenting around the bottom I added bits of a fence using a warm gray cobalt/umber mix of paint

Step 10: A Final Touch...Again

wbstep10 When I added the far-tree texture, most remnants of my lapses in judgement had been obliterated...close enough!

Step 11: Finished Painting

"White Barn" 11"x14" watercolor © 2002 Gregory Conley"White Barn" 11"x14" watercolor © 2002 Gregory Conley Another one bites the dust. Now that wasn't too bad was it. Not a masterpiece, but a learning experience nonetheless.
by Greg Conley

September 6th, 2015