How to Paint Ocean Waves in Watercolors

Written by joy campbell
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How to Paint Ocean Waves in Watercolors
Mask off areas to preserve where the waves crest. (Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Have fun experimenting with different effects when painting ocean waves using watercolours. The basic rule for painting in watercolour is that white areas are left white. Mask off areas where the crests are formed to keep them white and sparkly. When applying colour, lighter values go on first and then build each layer of colour to the darkest. This is the opposite of acrylics and oil painting, where dark values go on first.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Bar of white soap
  • Watercolour paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Newspaper
  • Sea Sponge
  • Liquid Mask

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  1. 1

    Dip brush into blue paint, and then move it around on a bar of soap. (See Reference 1)

  2. 2

    Paint on paper using wavy patterns. The soap will create a wavy streak effect on the paper.

  3. 3

    Repeat the process using another shade of blue and create more wavy patterns on the paper.


  1. 1

    Mask the water colour paper with newspaper randomly placing were the ocean waves will crest and create white foam. (See Reference 2)

  2. 2

    Paint an ocean colour over the newspaper with a wash such as blues or greens over the randomly placed piece of paper and let dry. Use a variety of washes by applying colours side by side and letting them bleed into each other. Let dry.

  3. 3

    Remove the newspaper.

    Sea Sponge

  1. 1

    Using a sea sponge dipped in a liquid mask, sponge on paper where the waves will crest. This will keep the area white as paint is applied over the mask. Let dry. (See Reference 3)

  2. 2

    Apply various shades of blue-green colour to the paper by painting side to side and then dragging the paint brush down to create a flow-down effect.

  3. 3

    Add dark blue paint under the mask to outline the foam and add shadows. Let dry and then wipe away the liquid mask.

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