Watercolor Seascapes – the Secret Ingredient

When I first started painting watercolor seascapes I left the white areas of the ocean blank. The white of the paper was my white. But I felt this technique left my seascapes looking unfinished. There is so much movement and energy in the white of ocean water – I wanted to paint it, not leave blank areas.

Painting waves in watercolor
My early seascapes.

white gouache

I felt like something was missing. On a whim I decided to try White Gouache. Gouache is thicker and less translucent than watercolor, so you can add it on top of watercolor and it will cover it.

I first painted the color underneath the white of the ocean – like the brown sand being churned up in front of a wave. Then I painted the white foam on top of the brown. This layering help add depth to my seascapes and I was able to better capture the movement and energy of the water.

Blue Wave #11 by Eileen McKenna https://shop.eileenmckenna.com/
Blue Wave #11

Since that first seascape where I used White Gouache (pictured above), I’ve been using it ever since. I use Holbein brand gouache in Primary White. It is my secret ingredient!

the fun part

Every time I get to the stage where it’s time to add the white I think. “Now for the fun part.”

When I’m painting with white I used different motions to paint different areas. Sometime I use different brushes.

Watercolor Seascapes - the secret ingredient

White techniques:

  • In front of the waves (the foam part) – Paint overlapping zig zags with a flat brush
  • Paint a thicker edge to the foam
  • In a crashing wave – First paint circular strokes, add shadows with grey. Then add dots with a fine brush (stippling) on top of the wave (and the shadows).
  • Use dry brush to create spray

Learn the watercolor seascape process

I’ve created easy to follow – beginner friendly lesson to share my seascape painting process.

Choose from:

Easy Watercolor Seascape online video lesson for beginners
Watercolor Seascape Tutorial Download

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