Painting water can be difficult. In addition to reflections, transparency, and motion, there are a lot of factors to consider.
There is water in many forms: on a beach, crashing waves, reflecting the surroundings in a lake or a turquoise lake.
This makes it hard to come up with any standard formula. The tips I can give you can be applied to any water, regardless of the circumstances. You will be able to paint water in all its forms if you understand how water moves and interacts with its environment.
We’ll show you how to paint water in this article with expert tips. Let’s get started.
How to Paint Water
Starting with the lightest color on the top, create a beautiful gradient. For this entire painting, use only phthalo blue, white, and gray. Starting from the very top and working towards the bottom, use a lot of white and a tiny bit of blue.
The acrylic gel medium I’m going to use helps thicken up the paint without changing its color. Adding a little more blue with each additional layer will help to blend the colors. Then lightly run your brush back and forth between those two colors that you need to blend.
I add a tiny smudge of Payne’s gray to the bottom layer to deepen the color a bit.
There’s a bit more gray in there now. Create long and short strokes, blending them slightly to give the impression of a flattened mountain shape.
We’re going to add some white now so that the color becomes more muted. Lastly, add some tiny strokes at the horizon, which give the impression of distance far away.
The whole idea was to blend the sky and the ocean in this painting. Sometimes, when you are looking at the sea, there isn’t a very clear horizon line. Such a fantastic effect, and it gives it a fantastic misty vibe. To obtain a good perspective, the sky has to be blended.
Now that I’m adding gray-blue and a tiny bit of light back into the ocean, I will define some of those ripples more. It’s best compared to stretching mountains that connect, but not all of them have to.
As you go farther away, keep your strokes smaller towards the horizon. I’ll add some white to the horizon in a bit so that it might look a little bit fainter. As I mentioned, since it is farther away, it should have a lighter shade of color as well.
Finally, I will add more of that muted tone again, and you can achieve that by adding a bit more white to the mixture. Filling in a few strokes a few places, we will then go directly with white to highlight the parts already outlined in white.
We’re starting by defining the shape of our waves, even if they’re a little rough at the moment. It’s easy to shift oil paint around on the canvas because it’s oil paint so that we can blend it all later on.
In this stage of painting, we don’t care about adding any detail. Initially, we’ll paint very loosely and roughly, and later we’ll add details.
For the foreground waves, I just used their shape. The color palette, the layout, and anything else we’re not used to. In so many ocean paintings, I have used it for those two big waves in the foreground. At this point, I don’t have a strong desire to use references for most of them.
Using the darker gray, we’ll paint the sky. On the bottom, we will use the lighter gray shade we mixed. In a moment, we’ll mix it all with our blending brushes to make it a smooth gradient.
Even though I am halfway through painting this, it may seem strange. Honestly, I didn’t think about it until I was painting, but it always occurs that the sky is always the first thing I do before the horizon. In my opinion, painting the horizon line from beneath is easier. Compared to painting it from above, I find that drawing straight lines is much easier.
Now that we have finished the sky, we can move on to the ocean so that we will use our blending brush. We don’t want to over blend the shapes, so we will lightly blend between them. There should still be quite a contrast, and the shapes should remain. After outlining, you want all the lines to be a bit soft when blending.
Next, we’re going to use a medium or flat brush. We’ll be adding a few details to whichever one you have. To do this, I just added some random lines that followed the shapes we’ve already outlined.
Now I’m just going to take the lightest blue that we mixed and take that to the horizon line. The waves in the background will be a lot smaller, so I’m filling in the background. Instead of drawing shapes for the foreground, it would be easier to paint a block color and then paint the waves over it. Then fill it in between them and blend everything since the waves in the background are so small.
I am taking the lightest shade of blue we mixed and just using it for the background. Make a few lines in the darkest shapes I’ve outlined. Then, I blend it out with my blending brush to make it look smooth.
Using my flat brush and the darker blue shade we mixed, I’m adding some more details. I have taken the medium blue and used it to outline the background. A few rough waves in the distance will be blended out a little so that they appear soft.
I just added some details for the last bit, as you can see. Adding in many details while blending out certain parts is not something I’m thinking about too much. Add some lines that flow with the shapes we’ve already painted and blended. Just enough so that they all flow together and look seamless.
One of the most challenging subjects to paint is realistically representing flow and movement in the water. For the most part, this technique is based on memory. Colors and light change from day to day as the sea moves. Artists can predict the movement and form of the sea.
We hope you found the how to paint water tutorial helpful in improving your skill and technique.