Create a Starry Night Masterpiece! Learn the Skills to Paint like Van Gogh with a Step-by-Step Oil Painting Lesson

  • By: Michael Smith
  • Date: September 26, 2023
  • Time to read: 5 min.
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Today we are going to paint a free copy of Vincent Van Gogh’s painting called «Starlight night». This is one of the most famous and recognizable paintings ever created by a man. Van Gogh’s «Starlight night» is a symbol of human`s imaginative power – it is one of the most incredible and amazing landscapes that one can imagine.
Since there are always the most interesting and unusual things learnt in our art lessons, we really have to learn to paint at least something similar to Van Gogh’s «Starlight night». During the work on the painting we will try to feature the technique as high as possible in which this picture is written, the dynamics, rhythmical recurrence and the pastosity of the brush strokes. We will try to catch the spirit and the energy of the painting.

It seems to me that one night Vincent Van Gogh, armed with the canvas, brushes and paints, left his house and had a completely convincing intention to paint the most incredible landscape with the most incredible stars, moon, light, sky, wind…
We will look at Van Gogh`s painting, feast our eyes on it, examine it adequately and start painting our own Starlight night.

So let`s start our landscape painting lesson.

Prepare your palette. You will need:

  • White
  • Cadmium Yellow Medium
  • Raw Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Viridian Green
  • Lamp Black

and various shades of blue :

  • Phthalocyanine Blue
  • Sky Blue
  • Ceruleum
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Ultramarine Light
  • Chisel brushes from №3 to №10, synthetic brushes of different hair length and rigidity degree.

The peculiarity of Van Gogh`s oil painting technique is a strongly marked pastosity of brush strokes. This effect is reached due to the minimal use of the paint thinner. This means you should not use the paint thinner at all when mixing the paints and applying them onto a canvas.

You need the paint thinner only in order to wash the brushes. Then you should wipe the brush with a cloth and take a necessary paint with already dry and clean brush.

Use the paint thinner only in order to apply an underpainting – the blue background. Make a mix of the rare sour cream consistency:

  • Phthalocyanine Blue + White and Ultramarine + White. Use a thick brush and apply these mixes on a canvas alternately and chaotically, covering the whole canvas.

In order to apply the background paint, you can add the dammar varnish into the paint thinner – thus the paint will dry up faster.

The next stage of our landscape oil painting lesson is marking the basic elements of the painting: the skyline, hills, bushes, cypress, houses in the village, direction of the vortex in the sky, location of the stars and the moon.
Do the marking of a sketch using the dense White and Phthalocyanine Blue with the help of a thin brush.

If you cannot manage to draw a sketch clearly and adequately and to keep to the proper proportions and location of the basic objects, you should measure each of the objects (or the distance between them) with the help of a brush and immediately carry over this measuring proportionally on a canvas. Use your brush as a ruler.

After you have marked the main details of your composition, let`s come over to the most interesting stage of our landscape painting tutorial – you will learn to «hatch» with the help of a brush and the oil paints.

Van Gogh was a real expert in this; he used to produce the beautiful pictures with a pencil using various unusual kinds of strokes. Pulsating pastous brush stroke-hatches is the main technique you should learn during you work on this painting.


In order to set a proper rhythm to this unusual composition, first you should look carefully and observe the direction of the strokes. This applies especially to the part of the painting where the sky is. Mark the shape and the direction of the vortexual streams on the starry sky and apply the paint with the pastous brush strokes.

You should also pay your careful attention to the stars and the moon, the way the center of these celestial bodies is shown and the way the light coming from them is painted. We see very pastous pulsating strokes of Cadmium Yellow or Cadmium Yellow + White around the night celestial bodies; and a bit of the Raw Sienna is used for the clear outlines. There are some places where the green is added to these yellow strokes; this green is the mix of the yellow + the blue color of the lining.

There are the hills, trees, bushes and a small village under the starry sky. When painting these objects first you should clearly mark its shapes and sizes. Do this with the Phthalocyanine Blue mixed with the Lamp Black using a thin brush. After you have clearly marked everything, paint in all the houses with the necessary colors and shades. Paint the light coming from the windows of the houses with a pastous layer of White + Cadmium Yellow.

Pay attention to the hills, they also feature the eurhythmy of the brush strokes. Give the hills color and shape making the «hatchy» strokes of the dark blue, light blue and the white.

Use the Viridian Green, Cadmium Yellow and the Burnt Umber in order to paint the bushes.

The next stage of our oil painting class is painting the cypress. Paint the big branching cypress on the foreground using the mix of several paints which give the different shades and a little dust. First make the darker underpainting with pure Viridian Green in the place where the cypress will be painted. Then in order to paint the branches, use the mix of:

  • Viridian Green + Burnt Umber + Phthalocyanine Blue + Raw Sienna.
    At the last stage of our oil painting lesson online you should finalize all the objects, their shapes and clear outlines (if necessary), add the pastous bright light to the stars and the moon and improve the color of the strokes in the sky.

In this painting the main attention is compelled to the sky. It is impossible to look away from the «Starlight night» due to the mosaic pastous strokes which create the unusual texture, wealth, roulades of the color, the light and the shades. It seems as if the image is moving somewhere and changing all the time.

How to draw landscape of starry night step by step
How to draw landscape of starry night

You can paint this picture in one session (as Van Gogh did) or do this work in several sessions. I started to paint this picture in the evening and finished the next day in the morning – it was quite convenient because the paint of the underpainting and the initial sketch had managed to dry up a bit.

I wish all of you good luck and new success in your creative work!

If you have any questions, write them in your comments.

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