TUTORIAL: How To Paint The Sea In Watercolor, With Just One Brush And One Color by Gareth Naylor

Yes, you can paint a beautiful picture of the sea in watercolor with just one brush and one color. So let’s begin. Below the video is an outline and written tutorial just to make the whole process easier to understand.

Painting The Sea In Watercolor – Outline Of Tutorial 

  1. Layout of Materials
  2. Materials List
  3. Introducing the Brush
  4. Practice Using the Flat of the Brush
  5. Practice Using the Thin of the Brush
  6. Practice Using the Tip of the Brush
  7. Now to Paint a Sea Scene

1. Layout of Painting Materials

You don’t have to arrange your materials like above, but I thought I’d show you as it might be helpful.

Three things to note are:

  1. I normally use a much bigger water container (a child’s play bucket), but because it is difficult to include this in the video view of my painting desk I used a very small water container.
  2. The tissue at the top is for wiping out mistakes on the paper. Whereas the tissue in the palette is for drying my brush.
  3. The watercolor pad is on top of another pad so that when I do a fast brushstroke across the paper the brush doesn’t hit the palette.

2. Watercolor Painting Materials

Brush: Hake Brush 5/8”.

Paint: Phthalo Blue Red Shade (Ultramarine is okay) 15ml tube.

Paper: Watercolor Wire-bound Pad 12 x 9” (30 x 22.5 cm). Try to get about 20 sheets at 300 gsm.

Palette: A cheap, plastic one is excellent. Just make sure there are big and deep mixing areas.

Water Container: Bigger is better. I use a child’s plastic bucket.

Rag / Cloth: Sometimes I use old clothes, towels and bed sheets.

Tissue

Table Cover: Needs to be waterproof. I put a permanent mark in my wife’s kitchen table because I didn’t use a waterproof cover. Not good!

3. Introducing The Brush

We are using a hake brush that is ⅝” wide. This brush has three sides: The flat side, the thin side and the tip.

We will practice 3 brushstrokes to show you how to use each side. Let’s begin!

4. Practice Using The Flat Side Of Your Brush

1-3 are slow strokes across the paper using the flat side of the brush.

1 was a very watery mix (i.e. lots of water and little paint), 2 was a thicker mix and 3 was a very thick mix. You can use this slow stroke for painting mountains.

4-6 are fast strokes across the paper using the flat side of the brush. (I practised these strokes on scrap paper first because if the brush is too wet you won’t get that sparkling effect. By doing one or several strokes on scrap paper you remove the excess water).

4 was a very watery mix, 5 was a thicker mix and 6 was a very thick mix.

It’s good to practice doing strokes 4-6 as they are difficult to do well at first.

You can use this fast stroke for painting the sea or a grassy field.

5. Practice Using the Thin Side of the Brush

1-3 are slow strokes across the paper using the thin side of the brush.

1 was a very watery mix, 2 was a thicker mix and 3 was a very thick mix.

You can use this slow stroke for painting a peninsula, low mountains and forests in the distance.

4-6 are fast strokes across the paper using the thin side of the brush. (I practised these strokes on scrap paper first because if the brush is too wet you won’t get that sparkling effect. By doing one or several strokes on scrap paper you remove the excess water).

You can use this stroke for painting ripples in the sea.

6. Practice Using the Tip of the Brush

1 shows how to paint rocks. You do this by painting from top to bottom using the tip of the brush and come down at an angle to create a slanting edge.

2 shows you how to paint the reflections of rocks in water by painting short horizontal strokes one below the other. Try making thin strokes and thick ones. A variety of thin and thick strokes will make your reflections look more interesting. You just press down to make a thicker stroke. You can also go down in a zig-zag fashion. At the very bottom you want the strokes to become thinner – so just literally dabbing the paper with the tip of the brush is a good technique to use.

3 shows a ripple of light across your dark reflection in the water. You do this by first repeating step 2. Next, rinse your brush. Remove excess water with a tissue – you can feel the water being sucked out of the brush. You don’t want to remove every drop though. Then wipe across the reflection (which is hopefully still moist) with your brush. You might have to do this several times to remove the paint. Each time wipe your brush with a tissue to remove paint and water that you’ve picked up. This creates a nice sparkle effect across your reflection when creating the sea in watercolor.

In 4 steps 1 to 3 are all brought together.

Remember make the rocks different shapes and if you have separate rocks don’t evenly space them. It’s instinctive in us to paint rocks all the same shape and size and to separate them by the same distance – and it looks unnatural. DON’T DO IT. It takes a real effort not to.

7. Now to paint the sea scene!

1 Painting Mountains and Sea

First paint the mountains using a flat brush stroke and moving slowly across the paper. Have a fairly watery mix. Do this in as few strokes as possible to avoid cauliflowers.

Next, while the mountains are still wet let’s do the sea. Go across the paper with fast strokes using a medium strong mix. (Make sure you test your brushstrokes on scrap paper first so you have the right mix on your brush and know what the effect will look like.

Leave this to dry.

2 Painting a Peninsula, Ripples and Rocks

Now just below the mountain paint a peninsula using the thin side of your brush. You might want to use the tip and corner of the brush too. But don’t labor over this.

Then do 2 or 3 quick brushstrokes using the flat of the brush across the middle part of the sea to create a large ripple effect (test first on scrap paper). Try to make the mix a little stronger than when you first painted the sea.

And at the bottom use a quick brush stroke using the thin of the brush to create small ripple effects in the sea. (You don’t want these strokes to be long and you don’t want them to be regular. You should also only do about 5 or 6.You may have to use a tissue to get the brush very dry which will give you a sparkling effect.) Make sure these ripples are dry before you do the rocks.

Now using the tip of the brush paint the rocks as you learnt in part 3 Practice Using the Tip of your Brush. Be careful to avoid them looking regular or symmetrical in size, shape or distance between one another.

3 Paint a fishing boat (bonus)

lesson 1 a

Finally as a focal point for the painting let’s paint a fishing boat. It’s difficult to explain how to do this in words so please watch the video. The main point is to use the tip of your brush. For thin poles you can just dab the paper with the tip of the brush. Do practice a few times on scrap paper before trying with your final painting.

Want to paint another picture?

I really hope you enjoyed this lesson of how to paint the sea in watercolor. If you want to paint some more lovely paintings using only one brush and one color then you can find out more information on my website. Here is the link:

https://www.garethnaylor.com/watercolor-lesson/

Happy painting,

Gareth

Recommended4 recommendationsPublished in Tutorials

I am English man living and painting in Japan. I have now been here for over 17 years and have been painting for all that time. I love to travel around the Japanese countryside and find beautiful places to paint. You can see my gallery and also my online watercolor lessons at my website: https://www.garethnaylor.com/

22 Comments
  1. M. L. Kappa 7 months ago

    Very interesting, thanks! Btw, it is impossible to leave a like lately, Charlie!

    • Charlie O'Shields 7 months ago

      Sorry you’re having issues with the likes, Marina, but I can’t replicate the problem and others are leaving likes without issue. Can you explain more of what’s happening on your end so I can check with WordPress on a fix? Thanks so much for your help!

    • Rod Fletcher 7 months ago

      Are you sure you are signed in Marina. If you’re not you can’t leave likes

    • Author
      Gareth Naylor 7 months ago

      Thank you Marina.

  2. Sharon Mann 7 months ago

    Wonderful lesson, thank you!

  3. Sandra Strait 7 months ago

    Excellent lesson! Thank you, Gareth.

  4. So simple, so nice…to try as soon as possible!

    robert, absolute beginner

  5. Michele Rath 7 months ago

    Very interesting approach with just one color. Very well presented. Thank you!

    • Author
      Gareth Naylor 7 months ago

      Thank you Michele. Yes, the thinking was that we can get caught up in all the wonderful colors but in the process not master some of the other very important aspects of painting such as brushwork and tone. Well, that was the thinking. And also just to simplify the process too.

  6. Sharon Nolfi 7 months ago

    Thanks for this wonderful tutorial.

    • Author
      Gareth Naylor 7 months ago

      You are very welcome. Thank you. I was a bit apprehensive as I don’t normally do tutorials it’s a very recent thing.

  7. Carole Sannes 7 months ago

    As a beginning watercolorist, I appreciate the simplicity of this project while giving several techniques to try. Thank you!

    • Author
      Gareth Naylor 7 months ago

      Thank you Carole. Yes, I really wanted to simplify the whole process and just show how with very few strokes you can quite quickly make a nice painting.

  8. SHARON A HASCHALK 7 months ago

    Hi Gareth! Thanks so much for this informative tutorial. I like the fact that you gave instructions on how to use the hake brush and the different brush strokes you can make. A beautiful painting with only using one color!

    • Author
      Gareth Naylor 7 months ago

      Thank you very much Sharon. Yes, I really wanted to put some emphasis on brushwork rather than just color mixing.

  9. Snehlata Maheshwari 7 months ago

    InerstingIn . thanks for sharing.

  10. Jan Williams 7 months ago

    Very helpful, thank you.

    • Author
      Gareth Naylor 7 months ago

      You are very welcome Jan. Thank you for your comment.

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