Traditional: How To Paint A Seascape

Study from Steve Curl on easy methods to paint a seascape and a lighthouse by cautious planning and figuring out completely different values earlier than shifting to extra superior watercolor methods, together with the variegated wash (“wet-on-wet”) method and the scumbling (“dry-on-dry”) method. Need to watch the video model? This tutorial can also be obtainable to members of our Watercolor University.

Supplies used:

  • Reference image of a seascape with a lighthouse within the background. You may print one out here.
  • A ebook of Arches chilly press watercolor paper (140lb, dimension 16″ x 12″)
  • Scrap paper or a sketchbook
  • Two L-shaped “angle bands” created from paper or cardboard (as a viewfinder)
  • Masking tape (width 1″)
  • HB pencil
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Portray palette for watercolor paints
  • A container of water
  • A towel or rag to relaxation brushes on
  • Tissue or paper towel

Paints (Holbein Artist’s Watercolors)

  • Cadmium Yellow Deep
  • Cadmium Yellow Orange
  • Cadmium Crimson Deep
  • Everlasting Alizarin Crimson
  • Everlasting Violet
  • Ultramarine Deep
  • Cobalt Blue
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Peacock Blue
  • Sap Inexperienced
  • Hooker’s Inexperienced
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Sepia
  • Payne’s Grey


  • Mop brush (1″ flat)
  • Fibonacci Kolinsky-Sable: Spherical brush (dimension 14)
  • Artificial spherical brush (dimension 8)
  • Artificial spherical brush (dimension 4)
  • Artificial spherical brush (dimension 2)
  • Artificial spherical brush (dimension 1)
  • Cotman artificial spherical brush (dimension 2)

Step 1: Framing A Sketch


Should you don’t have one already, make a viewfinder by slicing two L-shaped strips of paper (referred to as “angle bands” by Steve). Their size and width needs to be massive sufficient to border your reference image. Place it on the reference image in order that it frames what you need to paint and cuts out what you don’t want, then tape the body to the image utilizing masking tape. Take into consideration the ultimate portray’s composition and one of the best ways to current the lighthouse within the image. After that, do a fast value sketch of your composition on a chunk of scrap paper or in your sketchbook, which implies deciding the place every worth goes and shading your sketch accordingly. For instance, gentle values needs to be the clouds, the water spray, and the highlights on the lighthouse, whereas mid-values go to the sky and rocks, whereas darkish values go to the shadows and deepest components of the ocean. Maintain checking your reference as a information. This general sketch shouldn’t take too lengthy to finish.

Beneath is a close-up of Steve’s worth sketch:

Step 2: Transferring The Sketch


Once you’ve deliberate every little thing, switch the compositional sketch to the Arches chilly press watercolor paper, however make certain to not embrace the values – you simply desire a line drawing of the fundamental shapes wanted to information your portray. Draw flippantly so the pencil strains may be erased simply. The ultimate sketch needs to be barely smaller than the dimensions of your paper; about 14″ x 11″. You may draw a border round your composition for framing functions (use a ruler for this).

You may see a close-up model beneath:


Step 3: A “Moist-In-Moist” Sky


Prep the colours in your palette with the dimensions 14 round Sable brush: combine Ultramarine, Cerulean, and Peacock Blue with a contact of Alizarin Crimson. Then, with the mop brush, moist the sky with clear water, together with the clouds. Watch out when portray across the lighthouse and surrounding buildings, as you need them to have a crisp edge. Whereas the paper continues to be moist, use the wet-on-wet technique to drop within the colours of the sky, ranging from the highest of your portray and dealing your method in direction of the horizon. The highest has a darker worth, so it will possibly comprise a bit of extra Alizarin Crimson, then blend in additional Cerulean and Peacock Blue as you get in direction of the clouds. Ensure to color across the clouds, and soften any laborious edges with a clear, moist brush. It’s also possible to use the paper towel to blot out the paint across the clouds so the paint isn’t bleeding into them an excessive amount of (however don’t overdo it).

Step 4: Shadows And Clouds


Add a bit of Cobalt Blue to the sky’s shade in your palette and paint the shadows beneath the clouds, then add some darker blue for a hazy impact close to the horizon line by mixing in Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson. Maintain softening the edges of the clouds with a clear, moist brush and paper towel. It’s also possible to add darker shadows below the clouds by mixing Ultramarine Blue, Cerulean Blue, and a contact of Payne’s Grey. It helps give the clouds extra construction and quantity. Once you’re carried out, let the portray dry fully earlier than shifting on to the subsequent step.

Step 5: Spherical Vs Flat Shadows On Buildings


Decide the values for the buildings and lighthouse, then prep the colours you want for the shadowed areas: Ultramarine Blue, Alizarin Crimson, and a bit of Payne’s Grey. It needs to be just like the darker areas of the sky, as shadows mirror their surrounding colours. For this half, use the spherical dimension 2 brush and change to the dimensions zero brush when you’re portray a smaller space. With the identical shade, paint the shadowed space on the lighthouse as properly. Because the lighthouse is spherical, be sure to paint a turning edge on the shadow, which implies softening the facet of the shadow that’s close to the sunshine so there’s a gradation from dark to light. You may even add a contact of Cadmium Yellow Orange or Yellow Ochre to the combo to interrupt up the monochrome, or the place there’s mirrored gentle inside the shadows. Lastly, don’t neglect to color the forged shadows attributable to the lighthouse.

Step 6: The Mild In A Lighthouse


Go away the shadows to dry, and proceed portray the details of the lighthouse and buildings. Combine extra Payne’s Grey to the blue/purple combine, then paint the lighthouse’s balcony, roof, and home windows (make certain the shadow is dry earlier than portray the home windows). Examine the paint with the again of your hand; if the paper continues to be cool to the contact, then the paint isn’t dry sufficient but. However when it’s, you may add the main points to the opposite buildings too, excluding the roofs and home windows.

Step 7: Distant Sea


Whilst you’re ready for the buildings and lighthouse to dry, transfer on to portray the ocean. Combine lots of paint for this as you might be masking a big space. You will have: Ultramarine, Cerulean, and Peacock Blue, with Cobalt Blue and a few Hooker’s and Sap Inexperienced, and a contact of Payne’s Grey. The combination ought to resemble the colours of the sky, as water displays the colours of its environment. With the Sable brush (dimension 14), soften the horizon line with clear water, then change to the dimensions Eight spherical brush. Add a bit of extra Payne’s Grey and Hooker’s Inexperienced into the colour you combined for the ocean, then begin portray the water, ranging from the horizon line and dealing your method down. Attempt to mix the ocean’s shade into the sky; soften the transition with a bit of water if needed.

Step 8: Deeper Sea


As you’re employed your method down, go behind the rocks and across the foamy areas, including deeper colours (extra blues and/or greens) as you get nearer to the foreground, and in areas that should be darkened. You may add in Burnt Sienna and a contact of Alizarin Crimson to uninteresting down the colour. Attempt to paint the best way the water strikes, and depart some white areas for waves or surf. For the areas the place water turns into foam, soften the perimeters with a dimension zero brush and clear water earlier than the paint dries. Maintain alternating between portray the ocean and softening edges till you end.

Step 9: Elevating The Roofs


Whereas the paint for the ocean is drying, you may paint the buildings’ roofs. Combine Yellow Ochre and Cadmium Yellow Orange with the Cotman dimension 2 brush, then fill within the roof space. As watercolor paint is kind of clear, you may even layer it on top of shadows if needed. This provides to the concord and depth of the portray. Add Cadmium Crimson Deep, extra Cadmium Yellow Orange, and a few Burnt Sienna for roof tiles and rusty areas, utilizing a dimension 1 spherical brush for the smaller particulars. To color the worth of a roof in shadow, you may add Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine blue for a deep violet shade. Use this shade to color the underside of the roofs as properly (i.e. the slight shadow forged by the roof). Combine in some Payne’s Grey and extra blue to color the remaining particulars of the constructing, such because the home windows or to the touch up any areas that you just want. Ensure to not oversaturate them – use paper towel to wipe off any extra paint or water in your brush. Maintain checking your reference image and worth sketch to information you in your selections.

Step 10: Rocky Cliff And Layering


Clear your palette a bit with a moist sheet of paper towel, then decide the value and local color for the rocks subsequent. Combine Yellow Ochre, Cadmium Crimson Deep, and a bit of Everlasting Violet, including various water to lighten the colour (as an alternative of utilizing white paint, use water as a substitute). Begin blocking in this shade for all of the rocky areas, leaving the water foam and splashes white. Soften the perimeters the place the rock meets water with a clear brush and water. Use the native shade of the rock to kind the bottom layer, in order that even the shadowed and highlighted areas comprise this shade. You may combine in additional Cadmium Yellow Orange or Cadmium Crimson Deep in a number of locations to make the rocks within the foreground extra fascinating, and provides extra depth to your portray.

Step 11: Rocky Textures And Mid-Tones


When the bottom layer of the rocks is comparatively dry, add extra Burnt Sienna and a number of the blue combine to your orange combine to color within the mid-values of the rocks in the course of your portray. You may add a couple of crevices and different textural particulars, however don’t overdo this as you need the rocks to body your principal topic, relatively than being the principle topic. For darker areas of the rock (the place it’s darker as a result of it’s moist from the waves), add Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Everlasting Violet, and Payne’s Grey to your rock shade combination, and use a dimension 1 brush to color them in. Once more, keep away from the froth and surf as they need to stay white.

Step 12: Splashes And Craggy Shadows


To color splashes of water the place the waves crash into the rocks, use the Cotman dimension 2 brush, moist it with clear water, and lift out a bit of paint from the bottom of the rocks the place you desire a splash to seem. The comfortable destructive area created ought to seem like a sprig of water. If it’s nonetheless too darkish, you should use the paper towel to assist blot out extra paint. Maintain including splashes right here and there as you paint alongside the bottom of the rocks, however don’t repeat it an excessive amount of or it might begin to look too compelled. Add extra Burnt Umber and Sienna the place wanted to tie within the rock with its shadow, and use this similar shade to color cracks or different textural particulars on the rocks. Be selective – particulars needs to be extra outlined in direction of the foreground, so don’t add them to rocks that aren’t essential.

Step 13: A Grassy Floor


Combine the colour for the meadow subsequent, utilizing the dimensions 1 brush to combine Sap Inexperienced and Cadmium Yellow Deep to recommend a sunlit space. Apply on the floor of the rocky island, beneath the buildings and lighthouse. Pay shut consideration to the form the grass types on high of the rock, and the best way it clings to the floor. Once you’re carried out, add some Burnt Sienna to color the shadow and underside of the grass so as to add some quantity to the meadow.

Step 14: Including Distinction, Depth, And Aerial Perspective


Subsequent, work on the world beneath the meadow, on the shoreline the place the rocky basis is uncovered to the waves. Add the shadows to those rocks utilizing the identical shade as you probably did for the opposite rocks, and paint the craggy impact with uneven strokes of the comb. Maintain checking the values and utilizing your image for reference. It’s also possible to add crevices in direction of the foreground, however once more, getting the shapes of the shadows in the suitable place is extra essential than including too many particulars. Add extra Cerulean Blue to the combo in direction of the bottom of the rocky island, the place it meets the ocean. For the darkest areas the place the rocks are at all times moist, combine in Burnt Umber and Everlasting Violet, particularly as you get in direction of the foreground of the portray. That is one of the best ways so as to add an aerial perspective to your portray, i.e. the place objects nearer to you seem darker in shade than objects within the distance. Additionally, keep away from utilizing black in any respect prices, as this can uninteresting down the brightness and lifetime of your portray.

Step 15: Lifting Out Extra Surf And Including Particulars


Often, you may add a bit of Cadmium Crimson Deep into the shadow, and ensure to melt the bottom, the place the rock meets water. Use the identical lifting technique talked about earlier than to create splashes of water crashing towards the rock, and as you get to the darkest areas, add much more Everlasting Violet, Burnt Umber, and Sepia, and paint in additional cracks and particulars. To breed the tough texture of the rock, you should use the scumble technique, a kind of dry brush method the place you wipe off most of the paint out of your brush earlier than brushing over the paper. The roughness of the paper ought to choose up a bit of paint in sure locations to present a tough, craggy texture. You may check this on a scrap piece of watercolor paper earlier than including this impact to the rocks within the foreground.

Step 16: Ending Touches To A Seascape


Lastly, add any ending touches to your portray, akin to extra surf, splashes, and many others. Strive to not overwork your portray, as this may drown out any indicators of your distinctive artwork model and the portray’s personal individuality. Nonetheless, for those who’ve deliberate properly, you shouldn’t have to spend an excessive amount of time including ending touches or fixing errors. As a last step, await the portray to dry fully earlier than utilizing a kneaded eraser to scrub up any pencil strains that detract out of your portray, particularly for the white or lighter areas. They need to come off simply so long as there aren’t too many layers of paint on high. And once you’re carried out, be happy to signal it, date it, and body it for all to see!

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