How to Paint a Full Moon
Watercolor Painting Tutorial

by Jennifer Branch
YouTube Watercolor Painting Tutorial

When you look up at the moon at night, do you want to stay in that moment forever? I love the light the moon seems to glow with and how it changes all the colors in the world to something different and hauntingly beautiful.

This watercolor painting tutorial is fun and very easy to do, since there's so much splatter and scattering of paint. This one is meant to just be fun and at the end of it, you'll have a luminous watercolor painting of a full moon at night!

I've always wanted to paint the moon. My husband took the photo with our 8" Dobsonian telescope and an iphone held up to it over a year ago. I've had it in the back of my mind as something wonderful to paint ever since.

The moon is a particularly tricky subject in any medium as it's basically black and white. Color is there, but very muted. Blood moons and harvest moons can be orange, but it's really just grays floating in endless black space. I used the moon being a warmer color from the reflected light than the surrounding space and intensified the color quite a lot!

You'll have a lot of fun with this painting. Splattering paint, scrubbing and water dropped on everything. It's a very fun painting to do!

How to Paint a Full Moon Watercolor Painting tutorial

Painting Tutorial Level


Skill Building

Glazing Washes

Strong Darks


Art Supplies

14" x 14"
Twinrocker Cold Press

Isabey Pointed Round Sable, no.14
Escoda Full Bellied Round Squirrel, no.14


M. Graham watercolors

Maroon Perylene
Nickel Azo Yellow
Pthalo Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Cobalt Violet

Painting Demonstration 1

How to Paint a Full Moon Watercolor Painting Lesson 1

I start with a loose wash of pthalocyanine blue and ultramarine blue in the night sky. I leave a few holes for stars, some of which I reserve with a wax crayon. I also reserve the whites of a few craters.

I start painting the moon with cobalt violet. I am letting the background bleed into the moon. The shadows and light on the moon are full of reflections, after all!

I took a lot of time drawing out the various features of the moon. It's like a portrait - everyone recognizes the moon! While I start extremely loose, I do want to define those features fairly accurately later on.

Moon  Watercolor Painting Tutorial reference photo

Wonderful photo taken by my husband!
Can you believe this was with an iphone 4 just held up to the eyepiece? We really need to get some good telescope camera mounts!

Painting Demonstration 2

How to Paint a Full Moon Watercolor Painting Lesson 2

I let the night sky blur into the moon. I'll go back and redefine it later!

I let this dry completely!

Painting Demonstration 3

How to Paint a Full Moon Painting Tutorial 3

I paint another layer on the night sky. The wax reserved areas are really starting to show up!

I use maroon perylene in the background to get a deep dark that's still transparent. Burnt sienna would be too grainy and opaque.

Artist Tips

Paint twice as dark as you think you need.
It will dry lighter!
How to Paint a Full Moon watercolor painting tutorial by Jennifer Branch

Painting Demonstration 4

How to Paint a Full Moon Painting Tutorial 4

I've pulled out some of the color and blurred the edges. I want them less defined since it is such a bright object against something so bright.

I use cobalt violet and nickel azo yellow, with touches of pthalo blue to paint the craters. Everything is still very loose.

Painting Demonstration 5

How to Paint a Full Moon Painting Tutorial 5

Oh I had some fun pulling out paint with a clean wet rag here!

Always let the painting dry completely after you've scrubbed at it. Letting the paper dry completely is how you avoid damaging the paper so you can do more washes.

Painting Demonstration 6

How to Paint a Full Moon Watercolor Painting Tutorial 6

Now I go back, doing more layers. This is a paint and wait to dry sort of painting with a LOT of washes.

I'm starting to define the craters a bit. Keep in mind the light direction when painting big holes. The almost black and white photo helps with that!

Painting Demonstration 7

How to Paint a Full Moon Watercolor Painting Tutorial 7

After several layers of paint and wait to dry, I let it dry completely. Now it's time to start pulling out big impact craters. I start with Copernicus, let that dry. The last crater I pull out with a clean wet brush is Tycho, since it rays across the surface cover everything else.

How to Paint a Full Moon Watercolor Painting demonstration

To purchase How to Paint a Full Moon original watercolor painting, please click!

How to Paint a Full Moon Final Watercolor Painting!

This was such a fun painting to paint! I love looking up at the moon at night. It's always so awe-inspiring.

This was also a complicated painting, which is also always fun!

I'd like to add a side note of caution. I painted this on Twinrocker paper for a reason. Handmade paper stands up to washes and layering and scrubbing that mouldmade artist paper will not. This is why. Do not try to paint this on cheap paper. It simply won't work. I highly recommend Twinrocker as the best paper I've ever used. At the very least, go for a 300# Arches or Saunders! Your painting will be so much better!

Some paintings you can get away with any old paper. Paintings with strong darks, lots of scrubbing, pulling out or more than 3 washes, cheap paper is not worth painting on. Cheap paper is perfect for sketching, practicing brush strokes or exploring your pigments. The right tool for the righ job makes life easier!

I hope this inspires you to paint the night sky! My next wish list on that is the Aurora Borealis, which I've never even seen! I'd love to see what paintings this inspires!

I'm taking next week off to work on my next big project!

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