Whimsical Starry Night Using Watercolor and Ink

design team - vanessa painting Feb 18, 2022
How to paint a starry night sky

Let’s paint a starry night while learning how to create a perfect gradient and adding a bit of whimsy to your watercolor!

Hi, Vanessa Lesniak here to bring you another tutorial!  Today I am showing you a very simple and adorable piece that brings in lots of whimsy for a fun, relaxing and simple piece.




Let’s get started!


Prefer following along?



Step 1: Making the Perfect Watercolor Gradient

Use a flat wash brush to completely saturate your paper with water.  Make sure to keep the paper wet throughout this entire process.  Cotton watercolor is recommended, as it stays wet longer than wood pulp paper.  

Start by using your darkest blue on top, add some blue/green in the middle.  With your brush, blend the colors down using a left to right motion.  Go from top to bottom in one continuous sweep, try not to lift your brush off the paper.  Once you reach the bottom of the paper, add more color as needed to the top and middle and sweep/blend the colors down once more.  Continuously sweeping the colors down will give you a seamless gradient. Repeat this process as many as times as needed until you are satisfied with the color saturation and gradient.




Step 2: Add Glow to the Sky 

While the paper is still wet, clean your brush thoroughly and tap it against a paper towel to get rid of excess water.  Dip the tip of your brush in water and dab it against the paper (keep the glow in the upper 3rd of the paper).  The water will cause the paint to separate, more water will cause a bigger spot while less water will cause a smaller spot.  

Dry your brush against a paper towel and begin lifting some of that paint off the paper by lightly scrubbing in the center of the water spot.  Slowly circle the tip of your brush around the spot to blend any excess water into the paint, widening your circle as you move outward.

Repeat this process, scattering some glow along the upper 3rd of your paper.



Let it completely dry.



Step 3: Add Stars and Glowing Rings Using Ink

Using a white gel pen, add stars to the center of your bigger glowy spots and dots to the smaller ones.



Holding the gel pen lightly, add rings to the outside of the stars, allowing the pen to skip slightly over the paper.  Try not to make the rings continuous, break them up.



Step 4: Add In Some Inky Waves

Use a ruler to make guide marks along the right and left corner of the lower half of your paper.



Use these points as guides to make wave patterns.  Make 3 waves and then thicken the lines to make them bold.




Holding the gel pen lightly, fill in the areas between the bpld wave lines with thinner lines.  Allow the pen to skip lightly over the paper in order to break up the lines. 




Step 5: Scatter Stars In the Sky

Using your gel pen, add some dots to the sky to show stars in the night.





Step 6: Add a Sailboat Silhouette

Using a pencil, roughly sketch in a small sailboat among the waves.  



Using a white medium such as Copic Opaque White, gel pen, watercolor, gouache or acrylic, fill in the silhouette of the sailboat.



And with that final detail, you are done!



Vanessa spent 16 years as a social worker and originally began experimenting with watercolor as a form of self care and it became a profound passion.  With the encouragement and support of her wife and 3 daughters, she became a full time artist and small business owner.  She now shares her passion through workshops and online tutorials. Check out more of Vanessa's tutorials here!