Bob Ross Painting Techniques

By Leslie Rose ; Updated September 15, 2017

Bob Ross was a painter and instructor featured on his own PBS television show for approximately 11 years. He is widely known for his fast painting technique, which allowed him to create completed landscape paintings in one hour-long episode. Bob Ross painted entirely from imagination, although his paintings were influenced by his time spent living in Alaska.

Landscape Painting

Bob Ross painted landscapes primarily consisting of trees, lakes and mountains, featuring snow and other weather patterns. These are signature features of his paintings. To mimic his technique, choose subjects that are natural and outdoors. Cabins and animals like squirrels and birds may also be featured as subjects.

A typical example of the landscapes that Bob Ross painted would include trees moving from foreground to background, possibly a lake in the center, and mountains behind. There may or may not be a cabin included. Any variation of this theme, whether a winter or summer painting, or featuring fall colors, is in keeping with his work.

Additionally, these landscapes will have a basic atmosphere of peacefulness and calm. The paintings will not feature human emotional drama, although they may be sweeping in their scope.

Wet On Wet

Use oil paints. Oil paints stay wet for a long time before drying. The painting technique Bob Ross used that applies wet paint on top of wet paint instead of waiting for bottom layers to dry is called "wet on wet."

The first layers to be applied to the canvas will be larger expanses of space, like land, hills, the basic structure of mountains, clouds, sky and water. Layers to be applied on top of the wet paint will include details like leaves, textures, waves and shadows.

Illusion of Perspective

Begin by painting objects in the background. Objects in the background will generally be lighter in color and less prominent than objects that appear in the foreground. A common technique Bob Ross used was to place dramatically darker objects at the front, such as nearly silhouetted trees or rocks.

Move from the back to the front as you continue to paint. Objects in the background will be less detailed and objects in the foreground will be significantly detailed.

About the Author

Leslie Rose has been a freelance writer publishing with Demand Studios since 2008. In addition to her work as a writer, she is an accomplished painter and experienced art teacher. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in art with a minor in English.