How to Paint Lighthouses

Robyn Tindle

Painting a lighthouse is fairly simple. You don't have to have the artistic flair of a great master like Rembrandt, Monet or Van Gogh to create an effective rendering of a lighthouse. All you need is the enthusiasm to try, as well as the basic ability and confidence to express what you see onto the paper.

Learn to paint a lighthouse.
  1. Find an image of a lighthouse to paint. Look through books, holiday photographs, search the Internet or if you live beside a lighthouse, paint the scene outdoors.

  2. Open your sketchbook or pick up your art canvas. Sketch a rough outline of the lighthouse, using a pencil. Draw a vertical line as an invisible central line for the lighthouse. (Erase the line before painting.) Draw a horizontal line for the base. Draw a second horizontal line below the dome window of the lighthouse, to indicate how the dimension of the lighthouse has narrowed from the base. Using the pencil guidelines, draw the rough shape of the lighthouse. Fill in other details – dome window, door and other noticeable characteristics. Suggest the seascape around the lighthouse – rocks below, a promenade, a beach, sea and the sky.

  3. Apply color. Use a paint medium of your choice – watercolor, oil paint, gouache or acrylics. If using watercolor, remember light is defined by the white of the paper. It is a difficult medium to use for the beginner, as mistakes cannot be corrected. Gouache is a thicker paint which is better suited for poster art. Oil paint is very slow drying. Acrylic paint is the most versatile medium, as it can be watered down like a watercolor, can be applied thickly like an oil and mistakes can be corrected.

  4. Mix colors on your palette or old plate with a round brush until you reach the required hue. (Round or liner brushes are ideal for controlled areas of detail, while flat, filbert or mop brushes are to be used to cover larger areas of the canvas.) Possible colors you may decide to use to create a seascape with a lighthouse - titanium white, black, cerulean blue, yellow ochre, green, burnt umber and red.

  5. Paint the lighthouse a basic block of titanium white, for instance. Blend in darker tones to suggest shadow. Do this by applying a dark color at one side of the lighthouse. Add a lighter mid-tone and blend it between the dark tone of the area cast in shadow and the white of the base color. As a hint, use dark blue, light blue to white. Observe the tones in the lighthouse to guide you on which colors to apply to the canvas.

  6. Fill in other intricate details to complete the lighthouse. Using a small liner brush, apply a dark hue for the roof, door and doomed window. Add a highlight of white on the window to reflect light. Paint a stripe of red somewhere on the lighthouse. This is a traditional convention to draw the viewer’s eye to the focal point of the seascape – the lighthouse.

  7. Apply color to the rest of the seascape to complete. Paint the rocks below the lighthouse using dark green and contrast with burnt umber. Use cerulean blue and white for the sky. Add a touch of black to the blue to create silver grey to darken clouds. Lighten the sky in tone as it reaches the horizon. Use a blue green wash for the sea. Add darker tones to create shadows and lighter tones to show ripples of light reflected on the water. Paint white broken squiggles for waves. Paint the beach with yellow ochre and darken with burnt umber. Paint colors in exactness or apply color to your own expressionistic vision.

  8. Paint in a meticulous manner like Rembrandt to define every detail. Go wild and paint in a looser style with big expressionistic brushstrokes like Van Gogh. Or apply small dabs of color to capture the play of light and shadow which was typical of a Monet.

  9. Tip

    Look at the seascapes and lighthouses painted by other artists to help you find your own painting style.