Tips on painting waves in watercolor


It is so helpful watching instructional videos and seeing someone break down their steps as they paint. After watching three short videos on painting waves, I came away with several tips.

  • Determine what direction the light is coming from
  • Create the waves with dark and light areas.
  • Where is the detail in the painting? And therefore where is the eye drawn to? Contrasts also draw the eye.
  • Keep slivers of white (the paper) which suggests waves in the distance. Add dark areas in front of these.
  • Blotting with a tissue can create the spray of a wave
  • Dark edges makes the foam look thicker
  • Wet sand has blue in it
  • Horizontal strokes in your painting make things look flatter – use a flat brush
  • Use other colors in the sky, not just blue
  • There is a reflection in things that are wet and shiny – like wet sand
  • The position of the horizon line effects the vantage point of the painting (where you are standing on the beach)
  • The water is greener closer to the shore
  • Colors in a painting – use the same colors throughout your whole painting

As I’ve practiced, I’ve come up with my own tips, including:

  • Use white gouache to add foam areas, spray, waves in the distance, etc.

Watercolor Seascape Tutorial Download

Links to the videos I watched:

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The Blue Collection by Eileen McKenna | watercolor beach ocean landscapes available as limited edition giclee art prints


Author: Eileen McKenna {my creative resolution}

Web and Print Designer living in New York. I blog about painting, illustration, and designing patterns. Inquires are welcome.

19 thoughts on “Tips on painting waves in watercolor

  1. Great tips. Thanks for sharing, Eileen!

  2. Waves are always tricky. Good practical tips!

  3. Thanks for the tips and links. Look forward to checking out!!

  4. Thanks for sharing your learnings Eileen 👍🏼

  5. Pingback: Having the time to experiment | my creative resolution

  6. Pingback: Tips and tools that prove invaluable | my creative resolution

  7. Pingback: Capturing the Ocean in Watercolor | my creative resolution

  8. Thanks. It motivates me to start painting again

  9. I’m inspired to paint again, thanks to you!

  10. I’m inspired to paint again, thanks to you!

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