Process for Painting the Beach in Watercolor

There is a real benefit to painting the same subject over and over. You get better at it, and after trying different things, over time you develop a process. You develop a series a steps that you follow every time you paint.

Crashing Wave by Eileen McKenna

Process for painting watercolor seascapes

Here is a summary of my process. Keep reading for links to more in depth resources.

  1. Mix seascape colors  – I mix blues, greens, and browns from ultramarine blue, cadmium yellow, and cadmium red.
  2. Mark the horizon line. I use painter’s tape to achieve a straight horizon line.
  3. Paint the ocean water closest to the horizon darker and bluer.
  4. Paint the water in the cresting wave lighter and greener.
  5. Paint the shallow water near shore brown.
  6. Paint the sand. The sand is darkest closer to the ocean where it is wetter.
  7. Paint the crashing waves with white gouache.
  8. Paint the foam with white gouache and a flat brush. Horizontal lines help this area appear flat.
  9. Add shadows to the breaking wave.
  10. Paint the sky as a blue fade that is lighter closest to horizon.
Easy Watercolor Seascape online video lesson for beginners
My video lesson shows you the complete process for painting seascapes. Learn more here.

Learn more about painting watercolor seascapes:

I share my step by step process for painting watercolor seascapes in the following tutorials. Choose the format that works best for you:

Printable Watercolor Seascape Tutorial

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Related post:

Read “Tips on Painting Waves in Watercolor”

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Process for Painting the Beach in Watercolor

13 thoughts on “Process for Painting the Beach in Watercolor

  1. Hello Eileen, I’m new to watercolor and I had never considered painting the same thing more than once. It’s like I didn’t know I could do that, as silly as that sounds. I can’t even begin to do waves – nowhere near that advanced but what I took away from your post is the realization that’s it’s ok to paint the same object more than once. This may seem like a no-brainer but I swear, this never occurred to me. Thank you! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Carol, I know what you mean. I used to think that you had to draw something once and draw it perfectly. Then I started really using my sketchbook. I would draw the same object over and over filling a page. I think the more you draw or paint something, the more you see it, and can break down the components and draw or paint it more accurately. I once went to a museum exhibit of Seurat’s drawings. He did that famous pointillism painting of the people by the lake. He did many drawings and studies before he did that famous painting. I guess practice really makes perfect. ๐Ÿ˜€

      1. Thanks to your advice, I’m in the process of painting a forest scene that I had painted before months ago. I realized that I had forgotten how I did the leaves exactly and I couldn’t find that painting anywhere. So I just redid it – still doing it actually. Adding a park bench I think. So I think I’m going to go through my old ones and redo them. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. My sister, who lives by the beach, has asked me to paint her a picture to hang in her home! It’s been a while since I’ve painted, preferring to sew as my creative outlet. But your hints and wonderful website have me itching to try! Thank you for sharing your expertise with us!

  3. I love the tips for waves on the beach! I just finished a class and could have used these tips especially for the colors of the water . the teacher did tell us to tape the horizon… I will definitely do the painting again using these tips! Thank you!Denise

  4. Thanks so much for these tips! Now, if I could translate them to black ink drawings….I’ll definitely need to save these techniques when shading.

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