How to Paint Watercolor Mists & Fogs


Many landscape paintings depict scenes made more interesting by the presence of mist or deep fog. These weather features provide add depth and a feeling of mystery or distance to the painting. An approaching storm may contain dark rolling clouds in the background and a misty cloud formation where the storm is near. Fog reveals only portions of the landscape, drawing the viewer in to see what is partially obscured. Studying successful paintings can help you understand how these effects are made and how to master them yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • Watercolor paint
  • Water
  • Watercolor paper
  • Gauche
  • Pencil
  • Paper towel
  • Draw your landscape lightly on watercolor paper.

  • Wash the area where you want to depict mist or fog with clear water.

  • Remove water with a paper towel so that the paper is wet but water is not beading up.

  • Use a wet brush and pick up watery drops of blue or gray as needed from your palette.

  • Drop a thinned or watery bit of your color onto the darkest edge of your mist or fog. Choose the shading that matches your desired effect. Allow the color to bleed into the moistened paper.

  • Use the paper towel to blot any misty or foggy areas that have too much color.

  • Continue painting areas around the fog or mist after the water and pigment have dried completely. Painting adjacent areas while the mist or fog area is still wet can cause bleeding into your finished weather effect. Paint hints of the area behind the mist or fog, such as a tree trunk extending above or below, or a hill that might be barely visible.

  • Mix white gauche and thinned pigment to paint over some areas to depict very thick areas of mist or fog. Use a toothbrush and a fine wire screen to add spatters if you want a very damp or dewy effect. Simply dip the toothbrush in thinned media and scrape it across the screen above the painting. Try this on an area of your palette first if you are not sure how it will look.

Tips & Warnings

  • View artwork depicting the scenic effect you want to portray. If you look at the painting "Piemonte" by Michael Reardon, you can see how the background mountain is shrouded in mist, making it recede into the background. This effect was created by using a water wash and likely by removing pigment with a rag or paper towel as well.
  • "Delaware Dawn" by Mark Workman shows morning mists blending into still water. This effect can be created by wetting paper and smoothing very thin layers of pigment into the wet area.

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