Plein Air Painting-What Beginner Plein Air Painters Struggle With Most

terry ouimet plein air painting telluride co

Written ByTerry Ouimet

Plein Air Oil Painter, specializing in mountain landscapes

Blog | Uncategorized

July 9, 2021


Hey there PAINTERS!

I recently taught a private plein air landscape oil painting workshop with one of my YouTube subscribers, Dan.

The YouTube video of us painting and having a blast comes out this Saturday 7/10.

If you are a beginner landscape oil painter, and you are less than happy with your paintings, it’s very likely that you are struggling with what Dan had been struggling with as a somewhat new plein air painter.

Two of the biggest struggles are accurate color mixing and proper values.

terry ouimet plein air painting RIDGWAY CO

​16x 20 Oil on canvas board, plein air -Ridgway, CO. Terry Ouimet

Here are a couple tips that may help you with these roadblocks so you can make some beautiful paintings:

Tip #1 Color Mixing

Limit Your Palette

Color Mixing is part science and part art, and the best recipe is practice.

Rather than buying 10 pre mixed paint colors off the shelf, try starting with the Primary colors and a few others like black and white or a neutral earth tone. You can mix almost anything from the primary colors (Blue, Red, and Yellow) which will force you to understand color theory (in a fun way!).

When you mix primary colors you get Secondary colors (Orange, Green and Violet) and when you get those, you can now start to mix your Primary with Secondary colors to get some powerful beautiful neutral colors which are also called Tertiary colors.

As you will see in the next tip, colorful neutrals are needed to make accurate values, which lead to beautiful paintings.

Here is a link to my YouTube video on Color Mixing:



Tip #2 Proper Values

Foundational Values

Every beautiful painting has an accurate value structure or what are called Foundational Values.

The best paintings have 3-5 easily identifiable and differing values in large pieces or shapes. This is partly why I teach “Pieces” as one of the “4 P’s of The Drawing Stage of Painting.” Here is a link to that free video:

How To Start A Painting Right

Oftentimes, beginner painters will make their far-off mountains, for example, the darkest pieces or shape in the painting. That will not read properly with your art admirers because atmosphere does not work like that. Try to make sure that your foreground values are generally the darkest and include the most chromatic (colorful) strokes.If you are unhappy with your paintings, practice in black and white, to make your painting design using 3-4 larger shapes with varying values. I use a LIGHT, MIDTONE, DARK, AND BLACK as my 4 values structure. So right from the beginning of my painting design, I am thinking in terms of these 4 values, before I put one color note down.

Terry Ouimet plein air painting Ridgway CO

Then when I add color, I try to make the color line up with my value. Make sense?

Are your background pieces usually the lightest in value and the coolest in color to help show atmospheric perspective? If not, try it out!

Practice this and you will see a difference.​


Bonus Tip

One of the biggest realizations that I made as a beginner plein air painter was that all along I had been painting things by name, what I know. Trees, apples, people, leaves, mountains.

You can take a big leap forward in your plein air painting skills by looking at your subject matter in terms of large shapes. And your job is to put the right color, value, and temperature inside those shapes.

Easier said than done. We all have to fight against our natural mindset to control, categorize, and label.

Once you have covered the canvas with the above method, blocking in two-dimensional shapes, you can then proceed to the next step of forming/modeling and painting smaller color and value changes inside of those larger shapes.

I hope these tips will help you create more beautiful landscape oil paintings.

If you would like to watch my YouTube video showing footage of one on one teaching and having fun plein air painting in the gorgeous mountains of Colorado, click here below.

Beginner Plein Air Painting Workshop | Biggest Struggles

Learning Plein air YouTube Channel

Consider subscribing to the channel if you want to join our rapidly growing community of beginner plein air oil painters, we would love to have you!


I’ll see you up in the mountains.

Terry Ouimet


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