How To Paint Ocean Scenes with Watercolors

The best gift you can give is something you worked on yourself. Gifts that are handmade are always much more remembered not because of the quality of the final product, but of the investment of time and emotion the giver puts into the gift.

One of the most popular handmade gifts one can give is a painting. And the most calming, relaxing thing to paint is a seascape. The best medium to paint this is watercolor because the natural soft colors and pastels capture the sleepiness and serenity of a seascape.

Below are the steps you can take to create a watercolor seascape.

You’ll need:

  • Canvas or watercolor paper
  • Water
  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Watercolors
  • Large and small paintbrushes
  • Stiff board or wooden frame
  • Paper towels
  • Masking tape

  • Pull taut: Take your canvas or watercolor paper and stretch it over a wooden frame. This will make sure that you are painting over a smooth surface as even the smallest bump or crease will affect how your paint settles in the canvas.
  • Tape it down: Take your masking tape and cover the edges of your watercolor paper or canvas. This ensures that you are always working on a smooth surface all the time.
  • Scene it: At this point you have two options: work from memory or sketch an outline of the seascape before you. You can also take a photograph of the seascape and work with that if you like. What is important is that you have a good idea of the composition of the scene you want to paint. Take note of the colors of the scene because you will be replicating this on the painting.
  • Put on the wash: You’ll have to apply a light wash so you can clearly differentiate between the background and foreground of your painting. Take your watercolors and mix the colors you will need first and if you’re going to put in whites in your painting, just leave them blank to allow the natural color of the watercolor paper to do the work for you.
  • Add depth: Mix a darker gradient of color and use this to create depth to the initial wash you made in the previous step. This is the part where you put in the broad strokes of the seascape so that you have a rough idea as to what goes where. Apply these pigments on the wash to bring some depth and perspective to your painting. Watercolor usually needs two to three layers of color.
  • Detail it: Fill in the details as you like. Put waves in the water, leaves in the trees, always refer to the light pencil sketch you made in Step 3 if you went with that option. This is the step where your painting takes shape so be as meticulous with the details as you can.
  • Feelings: Step 5 brought the gradients and depth to your seascape while Step 6 allowed you to fill in the finer details. Now put in the finishes to your watercolor seascape! Add in little touches that evoke emotion. If you’ve got the sun in your painting, put in flourishes to the rays. Place in different colors in the foliage to give it a sense of shade. If you have open fields, use different shades of yellow to make it more inviting and fun.
  • End: You’re done! At this point you have the option of erasing the pencil sketch you made in Step 3 or leave it in if you feel it adds something to the painting.


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