Basic: How To Paint A Seascape

Be taught from Steve Curl on tips on how to paint a seascape and a lighthouse by means of cautious planning and figuring out totally different values earlier than transferring to extra superior watercolor strategies, together with the variegated wash (“wet-on-wet”) approach and the scumbling (“dry-on-dry”) approach. Wish 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’ll be able to print one out here.
  • A e-book of Arches chilly press watercolor paper (140lb, dimension 16″ x 12″)
  • Scrap paper or a sketchbook
  • Two L-shaped “angle bands” constructed 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 Pink 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


For those who don’t have one already, make a viewfinder by chopping two L-shaped strips of paper (known as “angle bands” by Steve). Their size and width must be massive sufficient to border your reference image. Place it on the reference image in order that it frames what you wish 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 suggests deciding the place every worth goes and shading your sketch accordingly. For instance, mild values must 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 total sketch shouldn’t take too lengthy to finish.

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

Step 2: Transferring The Sketch


Once you’ve deliberate the whole lot, switch the compositional sketch to the Arches chilly press watercolor paper, however be sure to not embrace the values – you simply need a line drawing of the essential shapes wanted to information your portray. Draw evenly so the pencil strains might be erased simply. The ultimate sketch must be barely smaller than the dimensions of your paper; about 14″ x 11″. You’ll be able to draw a border round your composition for framing functions (use a ruler for this).

You’ll be able to 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 remains 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 means in the direction of the horizon. The highest has a darker worth, so it will probably include just a little extra Alizarin Crimson, then blend in additional Cerulean and Peacock Blue as you get in the direction of the clouds. Be certain that to color across the clouds, and soften any exhausting edges with a clear, moist brush. You too can 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 just a little Cobalt Blue to the sky’s coloration 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. You too can add darker shadows beneath 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 transferring on to the following 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 just a little Payne’s Grey. It must 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 swap to the dimensions zero brush when you’re portray a smaller space. With the identical coloration, paint the shadowed space on the lighthouse as nicely. Because the lighthouse is spherical, be sure you paint a turning edge on the shadow, which suggests softening the aspect of the shadow that’s close to the sunshine so there’s a gradation from dark to light. You’ll be able to 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 mild inside the shadows. Lastly, don’t overlook to color the solid shadows brought on by the lighthouse.

Step 6: The Gentle In A Lighthouse


Depart 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 (be sure the shadow is dry earlier than portray the home windows). Examine the paint with the again of your hand; if the paper remains to be cool to the contact, then the paint isn’t dry sufficient but. However when it’s, you possibly can add the main points to the opposite buildings too, excluding the roofs and home windows.

Step 7: Distant Sea


When you’re ready for the buildings and lighthouse to dry, transfer on to portray the ocean. Combine loads of paint for this as you’re masking a big space. You have to: 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 swap to the dimensions Eight spherical brush. Add just a little extra Payne’s Grey and Hooker’s Inexperienced into the colour you blended for the ocean, then begin portray the water, ranging from the horizon line and dealing your means down. Attempt to mix the ocean’s coloration into the sky; soften the transition with just a little water if crucial.

Step 8: Deeper Sea


As you’re employed your means 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 must be darkened. You’ll be able to 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 sides 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 possibly can 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 sort of clear, you possibly can even layer it on top of shadows if crucial. This provides to the concord and depth of the portray. Add Cadmium Pink 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 possibly can add Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine blue for a deep violet coloration. Use this coloration to color the underside of the roofs as nicely (i.e. the slight shadow solid 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 simply want. Be certain that 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 Pink Deep, and just a little Everlasting Violet, including various water to lighten the colour (as a substitute of utilizing white paint, use water as a substitute). Begin blocking in this coloration for all of the rocky areas, leaving the water foam and splashes white. Soften the sides the place the rock meets water with a clear brush and water. Use the native coloration of the rock to type the bottom layer, in order that even the shadowed and highlighted areas include this coloration. You’ll be able to combine in additional Cadmium Yellow Orange or Cadmium Pink 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’ll be able to add a number of crevices and different textural particulars, however don’t overdo this as you need the rocks to body your foremost topic, somewhat 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 coloration 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 just a little paint from the bottom of the rocks the place you need a splash to seem. The delicate unfavourable house created ought to appear to be a twig of water. If it’s nonetheless too darkish, you should utilize 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 could begin to look too pressured. Add extra Burnt Umber and Sienna the place wanted to tie within the rock with its shadow, and use this identical coloration to color cracks or different textural particulars on the rocks. Be selective – particulars must be extra outlined in the 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 counsel 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 prime 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 coloration 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. You too can add crevices in the 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 the direction of the bottom of the rocky island, the place it meets the ocean. For the darkest areas the place the rocks are all the time moist, combine in Burnt Umber and Everlasting Violet, particularly as you get in the 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 coloration than objects within the distance. Additionally, keep away from utilizing black in any respect prices, as it will uninteresting down the brightness and lifetime of your portray.

Step 15: Lifting Out Extra Surf And Including Particulars


Sometimes, you possibly can add just a little Cadmium Pink 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 in opposition to 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 utilize the scumble technique, a sort of dry brush approach 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 decide up just a little paint in sure locations to provide a tough, craggy texture. You’ll be able to take a look at 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. Attempt to not overwork your portray, as this may drown out any indicators of your distinctive artwork type and the portray’s personal individuality. Nevertheless, when you’ve deliberate nicely, you shouldn’t have to spend an excessive amount of time including ending touches or fixing errors. As a last step, watch for the portray to dry fully earlier than utilizing a kneaded eraser to wash 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 prime. And whenever you’re carried out, be happy to signal it, date it, and body it for all to see!

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