Master the Basics of Monochrome Oil Painting with This Step-by-Step Tutorial

This art lesson is dedicated to the painting in monochrome. Today we are going to paint the picture using only one color – blue. The different tonal gradations of this color will help us paint the shadows and the lightened areas.

We will give a certain shape to the objects showing the light and the shadow. Ignore the color of these objects.

I have taken a photo as an example depicting the eastern landscape, the mountains of unusual beauty, the river, and the float with a fisherman.


  • Phthalocyanine Blue
  • White
  • a few brushes
  • the paint thinner for the oil paints
  • you can use any other color according to your taste and desire.

So let`s come over to the initial stage of our lesson and apply the background paint. Take the mix of the Phthalocyanine Blue and the White and add quite a lot of the paint thinner. You should thoroughly rub the paint with the flat paintbrush so that there are no strokes and traces left from the work with the smaller brush.

Painting in monochrome. Watch the free video tutorial

Now we are coming to the next stage of our landscape painting lesson and outline the skyline. In my case, it is located in the middle of the canvas.

This disposition is not accidental and I want the audience to feel as the observers of the painting depicted on the canvas. The skyline is more often located in the middle for the observer-contemplator and the object, where the attention is focused, is also placed in the center. In our case, the main hero – the fisherman (his head) – is outlined at the intersection of diagonals in the center of the canvas.

After you have outlined the skyline, you should paint the mountains, which are far away, with the small dipping brushstrokes of the lighter shade of the blue color. Pain the mountain, which is located a bit closer, with the darker blue. Then mark the relief of these mountains and show that they are fully covered with some kind of greenery and have peaks and hollows. For this purpose add the darker brushstrokes in some places or, on the contrary, the lighter colors – the blue with the white.

Make the color of the water on the sides of the canvas more intense and darker. Apply several imperceptible brushstrokes with the Phthalocyanine Blue using a flat paintbrush; you can also add a bit of the Cobalt Violet.

Outline the reflection of the entire landscape in the calm water.

Draw the mirror image of the mountains, dark bushes, and trees at the skyline and try to comply with the shape, color, and tone of these objects.

To make the river expanse more convincing, transparent, and resembling the real water, apply several calm waves over it. For this purpose take a palette knife, dip its rib into the rare mix of white and blue and make several gentle and slightly zigzag horizontal strokes. After using this oil painting technique, the water becomes really clear, calm, wet, and convincing.

Then we come over to the next stage of our oil painting lesson and paint our main hero on the boat. Outline the shape of the boat with the dense blue paint using a thin brush. In fact, it is not a boat but afloat where the fisherman is standing on

He holds a long pole in his hands which apparently serves as a paddle. There is a large piece of the plate near him, which resembles a large bowl or a basket. Apparently, it is designed to take the haul. It is quite dark on the street – the twilight – and the lantern, which is fixed under the float, illuminates the way for our hero.

All these objects – the figure of our hero, the hat on his hat, the float of the slightly curved shape, the paddle, the bowl and its shadow, the arch where the lantern is hanging on – are painted with the different shades of blue with the help of a thin brush.

And here – in this quite cold «blue» environment – we should show the bright light of the lantern which is fixed on the boat. In this case, it can be done very easily. Slightly rub off the blue background color in the place where the lantern should light. Apply a few brushstrokes of the white mixed with a bit of Cadmium Lemon. Thus you get a very bright luminous lantern.

If we had used this oil painting technique on the coloristic canvas or the picture painted with the warm colors, the lantern would have been almost imperceptible and the bright light could have lost in a completely different environment.

If you want to show very bright light, you should create a suitable «darkness» where it gets the opportunity to shine.

Well, at this stage of our monochromatic painting lesson, the painting is considered to be finished, it looks quite good, but I would like to finalize and improve some details…
That is all…





3 responses to “Master the Basics of Monochrome Oil Painting with This Step-by-Step Tutorial”

  1. Steve Avatar

    The article mentions a tutorial video. Where do I find it?

  2. Emily Avatar

    What kind of brushes do you recommend for monochrome oil painting?

    1. admin Avatar

      I recommend using bristle brushes for most of the painting, and then switching to softer brushes for blending and details. It’s also important to keep your brushes clean and well-maintained to ensure the best results.