Learn How to Paint a Colorful Sunset in Easy to Follow Steps

Sunset Painting

Photo: Fantom_rd / Shutterstock.com
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You don't have to go far to see a stunning natural phenomenon—just watch the sunset each day! With clear skies and a good view, you can witness awe-inspiring color just as the bright star dips beneath the horizon. And it never gets old. No matter how many times you've watched the sunset, it's still sure to make you stop in your tracks and marvel at its intense beauty.

If you're someone who enjoys capturing life through art, sunsets are a great subject. Paint, particularly acrylic pigments, are perfect for imitating the deep purples, pinks, and oranges seen in the sky. They can be simple swirling gradients or you can add in silhouette elements along the horizon line. Whichever direction you use, be sure to include vibrant hues.

Materials for Sunset Painting

Before you begin, here are the supplies you'll need.

Sunset Painting Art Supplies

Stock Photos from Santiago Cornejo/Shutterstock

  • Canvas or durable paper — You'll be mixing and apply a lot of color in a sunset painting, so make sure you use primed canvas. You can also paint on thick paper, but you'll want to treat it with gesso or matte medium prior to brushing on any pigment.
  • Acrylic paintsAcrylic paint is ideal for this subject because the material is opaque, but it can be applied in glazing, or thin layers to build multifaceted color. If you prefer watercolor paint, try the vibrant hues of one of our favorite sets, the revolutionary Viviva Colorsheets.
  • Palette — Grab a palette (or two) for organizing pigments and mixing them.
  • Palette knife — Although you can mix paint with your brush, it's best to use it for pre-mixed paint only. Use a palette knife to ensure you have smooth, even color to work with.
  • Brushes — You'll want a variety of brushes for sunset painting. When recreating the sky, it's helpful to have at least one big flat brush because it will evenly spread paint over your surface—unlike a rounded brush, which is harder to make the pigment appear uniform.


Sunset Inspiration

Your work will always be stronger if it has a photographic reference. Whether you're creating an imaginary scene or documenting a dazzling sunset, a photograph will capture the nuances in color and swirl in the clouds.

Instagram has a popular hashtag for sunsets appropriately called #sunsets; it's a great place to start. Some of the most beautiful shots, however, come from a long-standing Flickr community called Sunrises and Sunsets. There are over 440,000 thousand photographs captured since 2006. Here is some inspiration to get you started.

Fog & wires at sunrise, Mozhaysk, Russia

Follow The Gulls

Cascades New Year's Sunset

Mysterious fog, Mozhaysk, Russia

Fire in the Sky

Sonnenuntergang & Betonwerk - Wankendorf - Schleswig-Holstein - Deutschland

Sea Gulls


Next: Learn how to paint a sunset step by step.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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