Process for Painting the Beach in Watercolor


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, you get faster. I noticed this the other day when I painted a complete beach scene from start to finish in one sitting. I had such a sense of accomplishment! Before this, I was still figuring things out. I often had several paintings going at once, adding details here and there and working on getting the water to look right. This time it was almost easy, I was stunned. How’d I do that? I realized I’d developed a process for painting the beach. I knew the steps to take to achieve a certain look.

My Process for painting the beach:

  1. Colors  – mixes of blue, yellow, and red watercolors
  2. Use painter’s tape to achieve a straight horizon line
  3. Paint the ocean water closest to the horizon darker and bluer
  4. Water in the cresting wave is lighter and greener
  5. Water in front of the wave is a darker shade of the green
  6. Water gets browner – more red – closer to the shore
  7. Add white gouache for foam and spray. More foam closer to shore.
  8. A flat brush helps achieve the horizontal lines that make things appear flat.
  9. Sand is darkest closest to the water
  10. The foam of the breaking wave has shadows in it
  11. Sky is lighter closest to horizon

Give this process for painting the beach a try and let me know how it goes!

**UPDATE – Read my recent detailed post “How to Paint the Ocean with Watercolor & Gouache”**

How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | tutorial | step by step instructions | painting tips

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See my watercolor and acrylic seascapes at
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.

12 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! 🙂

    • 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. 😀

      • 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. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Picking a blue for my next watercolor painting | my creative resolution

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  4. Pingback: Tips on painting waves in watercolor | my creative resolution

  5. 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!

  6. 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

  7. 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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