How to Paint Toronto

Painting in monochrome can add atmosphere to a city landscape, such as Toronto in Canada. Monochromatic colours can be achieved by mixing colours from a limited palette of two or three colours.

Landscape Painting of Toronto
The city skyline of Toronto in Canada has been used for this demonstration. The composition has been sourced from several photographs from travel magazines and brochures. So long as the lighting conditions and the vantage point for all photographs are similar, one can knit together a setting with a sky from two different photographs.

Tips on Mixing Neutral Colours

Many artists used a limited palette for particular paintings in order to convey mood but it is also an excellent way of exploring oils if on a limited budget or getting to know oils for the first time. The following pointers might help those who are unfamiliar with this technique.

  • Select a photograph with a strong sense of light and shade in order to simplify the different areas of colours for the limited palette.
  • Three contrasting colours and white is often a god choice for a limited palette.
  • When selecting the colours, ensure at least two are complimentary or almost complimentary to one another, for example, red and green. In this demonstration, permanent rose and blue were included.
  • Using earth colours such as burnt sienna and burnt umber offers rich browns like those of sepia photographs
  • Try to avoid using black in a monochromatic painting, as it could deaden the colours
  • Allow one particular colour to dominate various areas of the painting to add variations to the highlights and the darks.
  • Working from pale to dark will ensure that the highlights will not become contaminated by a neighbouring dark colour, unless when blending.

Art Materials Required

  1. Several clippings of a cityscape, such as Toronto
  2. Acrylic paint in pthalo blue
  3. Oil paints in the following colours: titanium white, permanent rose, pthalo blue and burnt sienna
  4. A 10 x 12" (25. 5 x 30.5cm) piece of MDF
  5. A size 3 and size 6 round sable brushes
  6. A ½ inch wide bristle brush
  7. A palette consisting of a china plate or varnished wood.
  8. Small pot of artists’ white spirits
  9. A few rags
  10. Soft pencil
Demonstration on Painting a City Skyline
The painting surface had been made smooth by sanding the hardboard with fine glass paper. Once the primer had been applied, it was sanded again. Alternative smooth surfaces such as daler boards or primed card is suitable for detailed work.

A thin wash of pthalo blue acrylic paint had been applied to the painting surface in order to help set the tones of the painting, that a white surface would have made difficult. Once the glaze was dry, the composition was sketched out by using a soft pencil. With a thin sable, the highlights were applied first. Titanium and varying amounts of burnt sienna were applied.

A Monochrome Painting
With the same brush, a little more burnt sienna was added to bring out the creams on the buildings. Varying amounts of pthalo blue and permanent rose was used to express the mid tones. Allowing the paint mixture to vary will result in a diverse array of lights and darks that a mere black and white painting could not do.

How to Paint a City Skyline

With pthalo blue, burnt sienna and permanent rose, the deepest darks were etched around the shadowed areas of the buildings. This brings out the highlights.

Burnt sienna loaded with pthalo blue was pasted onto the sky with a bristle brush. Increments of white was added towards the cloud tops. With a clean brush, white and a little burnt sienna was pasted onto the thunderheads.



For a smooth, glossy finish, mixing linseed oil into the paint will eradicate any unwanted brush marks. Linseed is also ideal for applying the paint in a thin glaze for detailed work and a more uniform result.

The highlights and the darks of the clouds were thin knitted together with the use of a soft brush and a little mid tone. For the blue sky, white and a little pthalo blue was used. The expressive sky contrasts with the orderly fashion of the buildings below.
This site comprise of pictures and excerpts taken from my two art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author via this site, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon.


© Rachel Shirley 2010