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by Jean Bell August 14, 2018 4 min read

Nothing says “summer” like watercolour seascapes - whether it’s a boat out on the open ocean or a seaside town overlooking the waves, the flowing movements of the sea perfectly capture the spirit of the season. 

It may not be a good idea to fight fire with fire, but by painting water with water, you can achieve some pretty amazing effects. Seascapes are one of the easiest and most calming subjects to paint, making them great for beginners. 

Get Watercolour Painting Ideas from Famous Seascapes 

You don’t need to live on the beach to find inspiration for a summer painting project. Thanks to the internet, you can find millions of reference photos on photo sharing websites like Pinterest

 You can also draw inspiration for watercolour seascapes from the works of others. Take the Joseph Mallord William Turner’s piece “The Scarlet Sunset” (c.1830-1840) for example. Instead of taking blue paint to white paper, he takes red and yellow paint to blue paper to create a gorgeous sunset shore. 

 If you don’t have blue paper, you could instead get ideas from the work of Paul Cezanne. “Seascape” (1864) has a sketchy feel to it, adding movement and energy to the piece. You can create this effect by going over your dry painting with watercolour pencils. 

A Guide to Watercolour Paints and Pencils 

Before you can start painting your own watercolour seascapes, you’ll need to gather the right supplies. For starters, you'll need the right paper, ideally watercolour paper or a heavyweight cartridge paper can withstand light washes. Watercolour pads and blocks are great if you're painting in situ by the sea.

Watercolour Paper at ARTdiscount

You’ll also need a regular pencil to sketch with, watercolour paint or pencils; a painting half pan set will give you a starter set of colours, which can be mixed in the attached palette. Plus masking tape if your using loose sheets need fixing to a board. It’s handy to have a sponge or paper towels, to soak up excess liquid on the paper and create interesting effects. 

Sketching Pencils

Watercolour Paint

Watercolour Pencils

Last but not least, you’ll need a brush. I recommend investing in one, high-quality watercolour brush - bearing in mind that natural hair bristles retain water for longer (so you don’t have to constantly dip your brush), a fine tip for detail if well kept will last you a lifetime, such as the Kolinsky sable below. There are many leading synthetic brushes that compare well too such as Pro Arte.
You could also try a water brush, which holds water in the barrel for controlled painting, ideal for travel.

Watercolour brushes

Useful Watercolour Pencil Techniques 

Most people start with paint, but you can get some pretty unique effects using watercolour pencils. The basic idea is you use them as with any coloured pencil, then go over with a wet brush to get that sheer and dreamy look of watercolour. 

 Watercolour pencils are an extremely versatile medium with so many possibilities. Some other techniques you can try are: 

  • Spray your completed pencil drawing instead of using a brush and let the water work its magic. 
  • Wet the tip of your pencils to add fine detail to a painting. Wetting the pencil makes the pigment much bolder but harder to blend, making it perfect for adding those finishing touches. 

How to Paint Sea in Watercolour (Beginners)

Now that we’ve gone over some pencil techniques, let’s talk about paint.

We’ll show you step by step how to paint sea in watercolour, and teach you about some of the basic techniques you’ll be using along the way. 

  1. Prepare your paperby taping off the edges with masking tape. Or you could use a watercolour pad or board. 
  1. Lightly sketch the scene, it doesn’t have to be detailed - the sketch is going to serve as a guide. Draw the horizon line where the sky and the sea meet and add in any cliffs, trees, or houses along the shore. I recommend using a reference photo, but you can also sketch a scene from your imagination.  
  1. Start painting! There are two main techniques you’ll be using - wet on dry and wet on wet. Use wet on dry to paint solid objects with a defined shape, like the cliffs and homes in the background. To paint the sea and the sky, wet the paper with water before you start to paint. This will cause the colours to bleed into each other and create the sort of organic forms found in nature. 

 

 

As you paint, remember that objects farther away from the viewer will appear lighter and less saturated than objects in the foreground. For these areas, simply dilute your paint. For your very first watercolour seascape, choose something simple - it can even just be sea and sky. 

As you get the hang of things, you can start to add details like rocks, boats, birds, and even lighthouses!

More Advanced Watercolour Techniques 

The thing I love most about watercolour is that you don’t have to be super experienced at it to make something that looks good.
The water does a lot of the work for you, creating soft colour gradients and adding texture. That’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of more advanced skills you can master. Take your seascapes to the next level by practising some of these more advanced painting techniques: 

  • Use complementary colours to make your painting pop.
    When you look at a colour wheel, complementary colours are those that face opposite each other. So if you paint a blue sea, painting the sky with orange hues makes the painting more interesting.
  • Use masking fluid to preserve white areas.
    As a wet medium, watercolours have a tendency to run and bleed into each other. But when you want to add details like the windows on a house or the people on a ship, you need greater control.
    Masking fluid is a liquid that you can apply to your paper to keep certain areas paint-free until you’re ready to add those details, simply remove once dry.

 

Find Everything You Need For Your Next Project 


Ready to pick up a brush and start your next summer painting project?
Well, you’re going to need some supplies first - now that you know how to create seascapes, you can bring your ideas to life using our selection of watercolour paints and pencils.

Find every shade you need to create breathtaking sunsets and dazzling waves on the ARTdiscount store. 

Jean Bell
Jean Bell


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