Realistic Canyon Watercolor Tutorial in Procreate

painting procreate Apr 04, 2021
Realistic Canyon Watercolor Tutorial in Procreate

Hey everybody! I can't stop (and won't stop) creating the lushest realistic landscapes, plants, people, things, places, pretty much anything that you hand me, with this new brush set that's even better (sorry but it's true) than the other watercolor set I mentioned last year. So there should be zero surprises that today I'm back with another Procreate watercolor art tutorial. This time we're doing the majestic-ness of canyons. The first time I looked over a canyon, I felt like my world was rocked (pun intended). If you haven't had that fear, have you ever REALLY leaned over and seen down into the depths of a majestic canyon?

I have been obsessing over this brush pack recently: AquaReal Watercolour Brush Pack. The watercolor brushes are so dreamy and don't forget about the three canvases this pack provides. Yes, you heard that right, THREE canvases that take your digital watercolor experience to a whole new level.

Of course, you're welcome to use whatever you have on hand, it doesn't have to be this brush pack but I highly recommend it!


If you prefer moving visuals, I've provided a video for you as well. Find it by scrolling allll the way to the bottom of this page.








Step 1: Sketch a Canyon in Procreate



Grab a sketching brush. Start by drawing a curvy horizontal line that dips up and down. Notice that the downward dips of my line also bends outward to create more of a C-curve. 



In the spaces that dip down, create a connecting line and lightly shade the spaces in to start the depth of your canyon. Those few shadows really help make your canyon look like you're walking up to it. Magic! 




Like I said before, this brush pack comes with three watercolor canvases to really make you feel like you're watercolor painting. The chiffon is my tried-and-true so that's the canvas I'm going with today. It also comes with a TON of different color palettes.



For this tutorial, I'm using the Fired Earth palette to really hone in that burnt-orange-bronzey-goodness that comes with canyons. 



Make some wonky, shallow circles with similar movement to your original curvy canyon line. Bring the sides of these shallow circles down at an angle connecting to your OG canyon line. Make sure the lines you're bringing down have some movement so it doesn't look like it's a cliff that drops off. 



Then, draw connecting lines on any area of your ovally wonky circles that dip or curve. If you're confused as to how this looks, check the video at the bottom of this page. 

Don't worry too much about the shading. Again, this is just a rough sketch so lightly shade for reference. There is more shading to be done later!



Draw another curvy line above what used to be your weird shallow circles, but for this line, only make the dips go up, not down. Make these really reallllly shallow because it's more in the distance. From there, lightly fill in the shadows where needed. Finally, add your horizon line (where the ground meets the sky).



Feel free to add mountain silhouettes in the background, but nothing too crazy because our main focus is the canyons.



Step 2: Grab the all-rounder brush to start painting



First and foremost, create a new layer. You might notice in the video below, I almost forgot to do this and would've been a MAJOR mess up on my part. Do not be me! If it helps to label your layers, please do! I want my sketch layer to be the top layer so I can see everything as I'm working. Sometimes I like to keep the sketch layer in, even in the final piece, because it can make the piece look more like I actually did it on paper. (Is that cheating? Nah.) 



If you're naming layers, I named my new layer "surface wash". Grab the all-rounder brush and line and fill the curvy lines of your canyons. If you aren't familiar with this brush pack, you'll probably notice that once you lift your pencil up, it'll create a seam if you continue shading. If you like that look, awesome! If you don't, there are a few options. To get rid of that seam you could use the wet blending brush within the brush pack itself, or you can use your smudge tool.

I like to leave some white space in the filling-in process because I think it holds true to how I watercolor in real life. 



Now go in with the wet blending brush, and utilize the pressure sensitivity to lightly blend the space that might have a hard edge, like at the base of your canyon. This will help give that "I'm just minding my business and WOAH, I just walked up to a canyon!" feel. If you aren't using this brush pack, you can use the smudge tool to play around with your piece.



Step 3: Color in the tops of your canyons



Continuing with the same all-rounder brush, make sure the brush is small enough that it nicely lines the tops of your canyons. BUT, not so small that it gets annoying to fill in. Don't be afraid of overlapping here, it just makes it feel more like watercolor and more realistic. Utilize your smudge tool if you have too much overlap! Continue on to the other side and stay close to those edges. 



Fill 'er in and move on to the last squiggly line before the horizon, then connect it back to your horizon line. From there, fill that space in as well. If you find that some of your overlappings feel too harsh, grab that wet blending brush or the smudge tool to smooth it out. Personally, I love the way that hot spots work in watercolor. Even though it's against the rules, aren't rules learned to be broken?! 



I decided to blend the edges of my canyon to give it that fade-out look. Because I'm indecisive,  I also lightened my ambery brown. If you'd like to do this as well, you have a few options. You can color drop your new color in and pull it the whole way. You can also use your recolor tool and change it live, which I prefer. 



Step 4: Fill in your canyons



Create a new layer, drag it underneath your surface wash and rename it something like "interior boulders." Grab the all-rounder brush and a darker color to start filling in your new layer. Start by outlining your canyons with the darker color then fill that in. If you need to recolor because the two browns are looking too similar, do it! 



Working in layers can be a lot sometimes, but it definitely pays off when we're able to go back and change the little things that bug us (like color!). 



Step 5:  Define the interior wall of your canyon with a darker color



Create a new layer, drag it underneath your "interior boulders" layer and call it "interior wall".  Make this color even darker, but not as rich. Outline your final line before the horizon point and fill it in. Blend out the edges of your canyons (if you want!). 



Fill in any interior spots you forgot to shadow, if you've already filled yours in, you're perfect, and just keep being you. 



Step 6: Apply shadows to the interior wall



Create a new layer, drag it on top of your interior wall layer and apply a clipping mask. Grab a really, really dark brown for this layer. Still on the all-rounder brush because it's so versatile. Using your super dark brown, paint over the interior wall. 



Keep doing this to all of the interior wall areas. On the same layer, get even darker and grab the bloom accents brush. Adjust the brush size as needed to get the tight spots. What I like to do is fill in the area that needs shading, then use your eraser in the same brush to remove any shading that went too far. This also helps achieve a sharp shadow, which makes it look deeper.  Reminder: There's a video below for a better visual!

Set your blend mode to multiply by going to your clipping mask layer, select the "N" and drag it up to Multiply.



Step 7: Add shadow to your boulders



Create a new layer above your "Interior Boulders" layer and apply a clipping mask. Grab the bloom accents brush and start applying shadow to your interior boulders. This can look a little harsh so if you run into that problem, go in and smudge some of it. I definitely go back and forth with color, so feel free to use that recolor tool as you go. 




I changed my mode from multiple to linear burn and adjusted the opacity to my liking. I really encourage you to play with blending modes because you never know what you could love! 


Step 8: Add texture with the bloom stamps



Create a new layer on top of your surface wash and apply a clipping mask. I grabbed one of the bloom stamps from the AquaReel Watercolour Brush Pack. Go back to your interior wall layer and create a new layer on top of the old layer. Apply a clipping mask and add more stamp effects to the interior wall. 

If you want to go crazy with a super stamp effect, duplicate one of your clipping mask layers to double up. 



Step 9: Peek-a-boo shadow your canyon edges



Create a new layer on top of your surface layer and apply a clipping mask. Grab the bloom accents brush and apply details to the edges of your canyon. Adding in these small details really supports the realistic look of the canyon. Also feel free to go dark on those shadows, then adjust the opacity on them to lighten if needed.



Continue playing and adding details to the edges of your canyon. I went ahead and got rid of one of my stamp layers on my back wall because it was just too dark for me. 



Step 10: Complete your background



Turn your sketch layer on and erase some of the harsher marks. Keeping some of the harsh lines keeps that hand-drawn vibe going, which is usually what I go for. Create a new layer and move it beneath everything because it's for your background and we want to make sure that anything in the background looks like it's fading.





Grab the subtle duo color brush and outline your forgotten mountains in the back. I especially love using this brush because it creates a really cool two-tone shading which totally plays into the realistic-watercolor-y greatness. If you want your mountains to look even further in the distance, try dropping the opacity down. Add a few birds and create a new layer at the very bottom and drop a super light color behind your canyon so it has a tint to it.



....and done! I really loved creating this really realistic-looking watercolor piece that is ALL digital. My eyes couldn't believe it at first, but this AquaReal Watercolour Brush Pack is the real deal guys. Do not pass this one up. 




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