Paint Light on Cliffs

It's All About The Frosting

To effectively paint light on cliffs, it's crucial to understand how light interacts with the rocky surface. Studying this in Nature is vitally important.

Painting light on cliffs is adding the frosting. It's one of the most fun and enjoyable parts for me.  

Cliffs, with their rugged textures and jutting angles, create a dynamic interplay of light and shadow that make using a knife ideal.

The direction of light, whether it's the warm glow of the setting sun like the video below or the cool light of dawn, dramatically affects the appearance of cliffs. 

I've created a video demonstrating me painting light on cliffs with a knife and some brush work as well. Take a moment to watch the video! ENJOY! 

Learn how to mix beautiful earth colors for painting landscapes.

Painting light on cliffs is a challenging but rewarding endeavor. By understanding how light interacts with cliffs, honing your observational skills, and employing the right painting techniques and color palette, you can create stunning landscape paintings. Listed below are three important key elements to remember that will be a great resource for you. 

Listed below are three important key elements to remember that will help you learn how to paint light on cliffs. 

Three Important Keys

Observational Skills: Observation is key. Spend time studying cliffs in different lighting conditions. Notice how light hits the rocks, creating highlights and casting shadows. Pay attention to the colors that emerge in these areas - the warm oranges and yellows of sunlight, the cool blues and purples of shadows. 
Painting Techniques:
When painting light on cliffs, consider using techniques such as dry brushing or scumbling to create the texture of the rocks. These techniques can help to mimic the rough, uneven surface of cliffs, adding to their realism. Followed by using a knife to create bright sparkle along the edges creates exciting variety of paint textures. 
Choosing a Palette:
Your choice of colors can greatly influence the mood and atmosphere of your cliff painting. For cliffs in sunlight, warm earth tones like sienna, ochre, and umbers can be used to capture the warmth of the sun. For cliffs in shadow, cooler tones like blues, purples, including my "Air" color along with grays can be used to convey the coolness of the shadows.

My Favorite Supplies and Tools


Here is a list of my favorite supplies from this lesson and where you can find them. These are affiliate links, which means I will receive a small commission. Thank YOU for your support! 

Spray Fixatif: Use this product to protect your charcoal drawing before you beginning to paint, as seen in the video above.  Krylon Workable Matte Fixatif. Get it here!

There are several types of Vine Charcoal. I prefer the soft to draw with. I use this brand: Grumbacher Soft Vine Charcoal. Get it here!

My Favorite Roll of Linen Canvas for stretched canvas. Fredrix Linen Canvas Roll - 54" x 6 yards, Oil Single Primed: Get It here!

Small painting knife I use for painting light on cliffs. Blick Painting Knife - Small Spade 44: Get It here!

I suggest this type of knife for mixing colors, they are nice and flexible and easy to use: Blick Painting Knife - Small Long Spade 52. Get it here!

Grab This Free Guide On Step-By-Step Color Mixtures For Plein Air Study

Some Great Creative Resources for You!

Below is a video filmed by Voice of America, shot at the Grand Canyon during the GC Celebration of Art. If you love plein air, you might enjoy watching this video. I hope it inspires you to get outside and paint plein air. Mother Nature will teach you about painting light on cliffs. 


Linda Glover Gooch
Linda Glover Gooch

I hope you enjoyed this post. Besides being a Professional Painter, my Creative Journey has taken on a life of teaching, inspiring and helping others find their voice, grow and become skillful with their craft. Watching others gain the knowledge through practice and detailed instruction is a great reward. For the Collectors: My goal is to capture their vision, their imagination and take them to a place, a moment in time that touches their heart and soul.

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