{diy with style} How to Paint a Simple Skyline

Some people love wide open spaces and dream of a home with no neighbors in sight. Me on the other hand, I dream of living in a New York City high rise surrounded by skyscraper views. When we moved from our condo in downtown Denver to our current home {which is only half way to the suburbs}, it took me a long time to adjust to the quiet - I missed the sounds of the city. 

And while most people want to head for the beach or the mountains on vacation, I love traveling to big cities! Luck for me, I'm headed to New York City soon for a some super fun interior design events - so watch for lots of NYC photos on my Instagram feed in a couple of week!

My love of cities carries over into my home decor, and throughout the house, you'll find lots of cityscape and architectural photographs, paintings, and books. And since I enjoy creating a lot of my own art, I even decided to try my hand at painting a skyline to create a backdrop for my small collection of metal skyscraper sculptures.

How to Paint and Quick and Easy Skyline

I've always enjoyed painting, but I like to keep it pretty simple, quick, and abstract. This skyline painting is all three of those things, and today I'm going to share the easy tutorial with you in case you want to paint your own!

Let's start with the supplies. I purchased a shadowbox gallery wrapped canvas from Aaron Brothers, and grabbed a bin of paints from my craft room.

After sorting through all of my blue acrylic paints, I couldn't find just the shade I had in mind. I wanted something a bit vibrant, but not too bright. Then I remembered that I had picked up a sample bottle of Modern Masters Shimmer Metallic Paint in Venetian Blue.

I tested out the shimmer metallic paint on the canvas and immediately loved the look. I planned to put the finished canvas up on top of the armoire in my bedroom, which is a bit of a dark spot, but with one small can light shining directly on it, so I knew the metallic paint would really help to bounce the light around and make the painting more of a focal point. To stick with the metallic concept, I picked my metallic silver and gun metal craft paints, as well as a basic white and a high gloss black.

I began by painting about one third of the canvas using the Modern Masters Venetian Blue. I dragged the paint in long vertical strokes. I also carried the paint around the edges of the canvas, and part way into the shadow box inset {as you'll see below}.

Working quickly, while the dark blue paint was still wet on the canvas, I mixed some white paint into the Venetian Blue in order to create a lighter shade of blue that still had the shimmer metallic quality.

Using the new light blue paint, I painted in a roughly straight line across the canvas even with the bottom of the shadow box inset, and I then dragged the paint up into the darker blue using long, vertical strokes.

While the light blue paint was still wet, I began blending the dark and light shades together using horizontal brush strokes.

As I worked my way up further into the dark blue paint, I added continually more water to my brush to thin the light blue paint and create a soft transition from the light blue into the dark. 

After I was finished blending the blues together to create the sky {which doesn't have to be perfect}, I moved on to the bottom portion of my canvas. Here I wanted to use gray tones for the feeling of the asphalt. I began by mixing silver metallic craft paint into my existing light blue paint to create a nice, shimmery gray with just a hint of blue.

I then worked from the blue horizon line, and dragged the gray down 2/3 of the way to the bottom of the canvas, again using long, vertical brush strokes.

For my final color, I added some gun metal metallic craft paint to my light gray to create a dark gray that wasn't too dark.

I painted the dark gray onto the canvas, dragging the paint from the bottom of the canvas up, again using vertical strokes, and overlapping the light gray.

I then used the same technique as above - with long horizontal brush strokes and a wet brush- to blend the two grays together.

Once the paint was completely dry {which didn't take long}, I moved onto adding the buildings, which I painted with a high gloss black craft paint.

I simply painted rectangles of varying heights all along the length of the shadow box inset, making sure that some were wider and some narrower. If you don't like the way your skyline looks after painting the rectangles, you can always go back and add some more height to some of them. But don't over think it - the skyline looks best it it looks random rather than symmetrical!

How to Paint a Quick and Easy Skyline

After painting in my skyline, I mixed my black paint and dark grey paint together to create a dark charcoal. I then used the charcoal to pain the shadow of the buildings on to the bottom lip of the shadow box inset. The shadows shouldn't have crisp lines like the buildings, so after painting in the rough rectangles, I dragged the paint to the left and right to make the edges of the shadowed buildings look a bit fuzzy.

How to Paint a Quick and Easy Skyline

Once the black paint was dry, I was finally ready to add some simple details to my skyline. Because I find it difficult to paint thin, crisp lines with a paint brush, I instead opted to use a silver Sharpie. And to get my lines nice and straight, I used a little 4" ruler that my mom had picked up for me a quilt store. If you don't have a super short ruler like this {I'm guessing most people don't}, then you can use anything with a straight edge - a piece of cardboard from the back of a small notepad would work well, for example.

How to Paint a Quick and Easy Skyline

Using the silver Sharpie and my ruler, I drew in various styles of "windows" on the buildings. I used a cross-hatch pattern for some {above}, and long vertical lines for others {below}. I also used the Sharpie without the ruler to draw in other styles of windows, using shorter, uneven horizontal and vertical markings.

How to Paint a Quick and Easy Skyline

As I worked, adding silver window details to my skyline, I made sure to give some buildings the appearance of overlapping others.

How to Paint a Quick and Easy Skyline

When the buildings were complete, I used my lightest gray paint color and a thin paint brush to very lightly add in some light lines into the shadows of the buildings. Rather than trying to mimic the window lines of each building in the shadows, I instead using used straight lines for all of the shadowed windows. These lines are so light that you almost don't notice them, but they do add just a bit of depth to the look of the overall painting.

How to Paint a Quick and Easy Skyline

And here is my completed skyline painting behind my collection of skyscraper sculptures!

How to Paint a Quick and Easy Skyline

I am so happy with the way the metallic paint gives the painting the shimmering feel of city lights.

How to Paint a Quick and Easy Skyline

Those skyscraper sculptures that used to be barely noticeable up on top of my bedroom armoire have now become much more of a focal point.

How to Paint a Quick and Easy Skyline

And the blue sky of my painting ties in so nicely with the blue sky in my DIY metallic photos of New York City that hang on the wall next to the armoire.

How to Paint a Quick and Easy Skyline

If you'd like to see how the rest of the room - which I call our Modern Metro Master - came together, you can see all the photos in the master bedroom reveal post.

How to Paint a Quick and Easy Skyline

This is the first time that I've shared a quick painting tutorial, but I have several more paintings I've thought about creating tutorials for. I'd love to hear from you - would you be interested in other simple painting tutorials?

Let's get social!   

Linked up at Remodelaholic


  1. Love how you did this!! I would love more tutorials on simple paintings - thank you for that!! I'm a country girl who loves having my closest neighbors over 3 miles away...love the serenity. Your skyscraper sculptures are amazing!!

  2. lovely painting and yes please more tutorials!! simple ones. i love to doodle and watercolor, neither of which i am very good at but it makes me happy. simple paintings like this gives me enough confidence to try!