How paint sea and waves with watercolor. Step by step tutorial

Today Katerina Floescher with show us how to paint waves and sea with watercolor. 4 easy steps and just 4 colors. And you are prepared for vacation sketching! Let's go!

Do you like watching smooth surface of water? Whether it’s sea or river. Have you questioned yourself what is the best way of painting water with watercolor? Today I am going to show the basic steps of how to create a seascape. Let’s begin!

Buy the lesson Watercolor video drawing lesson "A walk along the mountain river" (English)

Видео урок рисования акварелью "Море и лодка. Отражение на воде" Художник-преподаватель: Екатерина Флешер УРОК НА АНГЛИЙСКОМ ЯЗЫКЕ Катерина Флешер – прекрасный ...

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The materials, which you might need:

✔ Watercolor paper. I have Arches, 100% cotton, 300grm; ✔ Watercolor paint: Nevskaya Palitra: indigo, Winsor&Newton: phthalo blue ✔ Pencil HB; ✔ Brushes: flat synthetic number 30 for watering paper, squirrel number 6, imitation of squirrel number 4 for details. It is important to have paper which contains cotton. Cotton papers hold more water allowing painting wet on wet or dry on wet for a longer amount of time. Thus, you have more time to manipulate the paint on paper. Moreover, as paper stays moist longer, you potentially have more time for creating soft edges between objects (in our case waves).

Step 1. Sketching the water ripples

Before we proceed with drawing, please have a look at the reference and get the idea of how the waves get shaped. Notice the difference between frond and back ripples. With imaginary horizontal line divide paper into 3 sections to see where to change the size of the waves. Tip: Creating a drawing should not take a lot of time. Don’t be detailed and when working with pencil, try to avoid pressing hard against it, as the sketch can remain visible even after applying watercolor paint.

Step 2. First wash on the entire area

Before we apply colors, wet the top 1/3 of your paper so it’s nice and damped to start. I wouldn’t suggest to add water to the entire area as it might get dry by the time we reach the bottom. Another reason to divide your painting in few parts is to use different shades of colors and achieve effect of aerial perspective. For entire painting I am planning to apply only two colors which are intensive blue (phthalo blue) and indigo. With using the brush number 6 I will try to create a very light wash and brush it directly on the wet paper. I am creating horizontal straight strokes and am making sure to leave white space in between them as if I would be thinking it’s ripples on the water.

Moving lower, we wet the next area. As the colors become more intensive closer to the front, I’m going to add a slight background color and then work on the ripples with darker mixture of phthalo blue and Indigo.

Moving to the lowest part, we will do the same procedure but darker both mixture as for background and for the ripples. One thing you should always keep in mind, ripples in the water in the front appear larger in size. And as it gets further away they going to appear smaller, closer together and lighter in color.

Step 3. Second wash. Fining the waves

In this step we are going to highlight the tops of the waves by darker the lower part of the waves. We will apply technic wet on dry. During fining the waves you might see that the edge of stokes become crispy. If does that happen you can just take a wet brush, dry it off a little bit and blend out the edges. And I do want some of those strokes to be more defined than others so it means I won’t blend all of them. For this step you can use either the size 6 or 4 of your brushes, applying the same colors Indigo and Phthalo Blue. And we go through the entire painting fining the waves with using different brush strokes until you feel it’s enough. Tip: how to achieve a good shape of a wave? There are no wrong or right in doing that. But what I found easiest is to use tip of the brush and push on the belly of the brush every so often and then release it. This is what helps to create a good shape and more natural look to the ripples.

Step 4. Last touch. Adding more details

Now we are nearly on the finish line. I’m going to use Indigo with Phthalo blue on dry paper. And once again we are doing it to darker shadows on the water in the front line mostly. It will give more dimensions. The work is done!


It might looks a bit messy from the beginning. Don’t get frustrated. If you have a plan of how it should be, just work on it passionately and it turns out good! Also don’t forget about practice. This is one of the most important ingredient, which leads to success. As you can see, in only few easy steps the work got ready. By using the tips from this article, you can definitely achieve good results in any seascape painting. If you like this article, please watch my tutorial “Reflection on water”.

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Article details

  • Created: 29 июл 2019 в 14:14
  • Type: Art review

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