Acrylic Seascape Details

Acrylic seascape by Eileen McKenna

Painting Seascapes

Before beginning to work in acrylics, I practiced painting seascapes in watercolor. Although acrylics are different, I found practicing in watercolor to be very useful. I developed a process that, when I switched to acrylics, I could follow. And painting with watercolor on paper is less expensive than using up canvases.

Coastal inspired art | watercolor seascape by Eileen McKenna
Watercolor Seascape by Eileen McKenna

Process for Painting Seascapes

Here is a summary of my painting 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.
  8. Paint the foam with white 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.
Acrylic Seascape painting

Tips for Painting Acrylic Seascapes

  • Study a reference photo to identify the details that will make your seascape more realistic looking.
  • Clouds in the sky – I used an acrylic gel medium to thin out the paint and overlay colors for a more transparent look.
  • Paint lighter areas on the ocean for the sunlight
  • A dry brush can help create the spray off a crashing wave
  • Use an art sponge to make the shadows in the crashing wave look more natural.
  • Add a dark line beneath the edge of the foam to make the foam appear thicker.
Art sponge makes more natural looking shadows when painting waves

Practice painting seascapes in watercolor with these tutorials:

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

Easy Watercolor Seascape online video lesson for beginners
How to paint the ocean in watercolor and gouache | tutorial | step by step instructions | painting tips
Watercolor Seascape Painting Tutorial

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Acrylic Painting Winter Birch Trees

Acrylic Painting Winter Birch Trees for Beginners #painting #beginners #acrylics #winter #trees
I wanted to swap out the two canvases above the couch for something new and had been thinking of painting simple birch trees. I painted the blue background and white tree trunks but it needed more. I looked on Pinterest at successful birch paintings and thought of ways to improve mine. Once I had a few ideas, I hit the ground running and it was easy. It’s great when you have a plan!

The feelings of a beginner #creativity #painting
First steps:

  • Paint a medium blue background. I used a mixture of white and blue with a little red mixed in. (My goal was to coordinate with the blues in my living room.)
  • Paint vertical white areas for the trees. You don’t want perfect stripes because trees don’t have straight edges. They aren’t the same size and don’t grow perfectly up and down.
  • Add thin branches going at an upward angle from the tree trunks. (Be consistent – I had to cover up some of my branches with blue because I had too many in one area and none in another. In the end I painted just a few on each side of the trunks.)

Painting birch treesPainting birch trees
Add depth and details:

  • Paint a dark edge (black) on each side of the trees and then brushed it horizontally into the trunk to create that birch look.
  • Paint off white (buff white) on the trunks – the white alone is too flat. Cover part of the black edge and stroke horizontally.
  • Add white strokes to the trees here and there for highlights – with a dry brush (not too much paint).
  • Add white streaks vertically. Paint a few streaks and then with a dry brush, spread them out and blend them, so the blue shows through. This gives the background depth and makes it look more wintery.

I was really happy with how it came out and happy to hang it over the couch. I’m already planning another acrylic painting. Let me know if you give it a try!


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Back to Acrylics

It has been about 2 weeks since I painted with acrylics. It feels like forever. Lately I’ve been playing with watercolor. Today, I was determined to paint with acrylics, but it took a while for me to get to work. I took a half hour to clean my palette because I ended up scrubbing the whole slop sink!

I wasn’t in the mood to work on my jellyfish painting, even though I think I’m close to finishing. I had a couple of ideas for new paintings and plenty of fresh canvases! Here is my list:

  • Donut with strawberry icing and sprinkles (yum!)
  • Gerbera daisy (I came across a photo I took 10 years ago!)
  • Ocean
  • Sunrise through the trees

I didn’t know which one to work on, and it probably wasn’t the best plan, but I decided to start all of them and see which one pulled me in. It was so fun playing! There is something exciting about starting new projects. It’s the finishing that’s hard – lol! In the end, I only started two of the paintings. It seemed like too much to start going in four different directions!

The background for “Sunrise through the trees” was a lot of fun, even though I ended up doing something different than I originally intended. I’m loving the colors! Notice I’m using bright colors, some directly from the tubes. I love it! It’s feels very springy. I just plopped the paint on with a foam brush. I plan on adding paint to blend the colors after this base coat is dry. (I hope that isn’t a mistake.)


Of the two projects, the Gerbera daisy painting was really tugging at me, so I worked on that one the most. I think I got a really good start! It is amazing how “just starting” changes your whole perspective. Here is the photo and my progress:

gerberaphotogerberaacrylic gerberaacrylic1 gerberaacrylic2 gerberaacrylic2b gerberaacrylic3