Water Color Step-by-Step

Wet on Wet-Wave Painting with Water Colors

Painting a Wave is the next best thing to riding waves. Where ever you live, there has to be some sort of waves; whether you’re near the ocean, a lake or gulf. Painting them can be so very relaxing but, they can be challenging as well. Painting water is challenging enough and when storms and wind create moving energy, this is where it can get very dynamic; especially here in San Diego. So grab your watercolors and let’s get to it!

Step 1: So the first thing I do with the paper, is to wet the entire area that I will be working on. In this case, it is the far background sky. I do not wet the entire paper, just the area where there is sunset colors. Then, using yellow and purple, I begin to add my sunset.
Step 2 : Next I add some orange, which is the top of wave cresting over. Notice that I add it to the paper while the sky is still wet. I want the sky colors to peep through the wave a little.

Step 3: Now, I can add some orange paint on the wave crest. This will represen the reflection of the sky on the wave crest. I did let the sky part dry a little bit before doing this because I do not want them to bleed together.

Step 4: Here comes the colors of water. I am adding in the teal, aqua and greens first. The area is slightly wet to blend the colors better.

Step 5 : I continue the greens and teals up through the crest of the wave. Here, I am painting on dry paper to get a much more crisp line. When the paper is wet, you will get bleeding and the paint does whatever it wants really.

Step 6 : Here comes the time to add the dark blues and Ultramarines. Add this color when it is wet so that it can blend together with the previous color. I am painting more squiggly lines to reflect the nature of water being lifted up 12 feet in the air.

Step 7 : Now, I am simply adding in streaks of blue within the tube of the wave. This will give the viewr the illusion of the shape of the wave.

Step 8 : As you can see, the shape of the wave is starting to form nicely with the curl, the crest and the pitch. In this step, I am adding more teal and greens where it is needed to blend into the blues I just used. You can add colors wherever you’d like to your wave.

Step 9 : Next, I use a finer brush to fine tune the wave. I want nice and skinny lines added to the curl. You can use a “round” liner brush if you have one. Have fun in this step. Notice the little squiggles in the crest of the wave. This will give your wave some nice depth and illusion to it.

Step 10: Now, before I continue any further, I want to add some distant mountains to add more depth to the painting. I do this with some black Gouache paint for some silhouette action. Any object against a setting sun will appear black and will lose its detail, so this is how I want my mountains.

Step 11 : While you have black Gouache loaded in your brush, we can now add some nice reflections of the mountains in the wave. I even begin to add some washed out grey to help blend the black into the rest of the other colors. In this step, the black really makes the wave pop with all of the contrast. Watch your wave come to life too!

Step 12 : I can now switch to the fine line paint brush to add some fine lines and squiggles to the crest and face of the wave. As yiou can see, painting waves are really just as dynamic and detailed as anything you have ever painted.

Step 13 : Continue with the fine detailing.

Step 14 : My favorite part is when I can begin to add highlights with Gouache. We are simply building up the layers of colors and then highlighting it with white paint. The white is simply reflecting the setting sun. Be careful not to add to much white as you are only asdding dashes and gleams of light to the wave.

Step 15 : Here, you can step back and review waht you have done so far. Enjoy this process as you can see all of the needed layers working together. The hard and soft blendiong of colors, the darks and lights, shades and highlights are working together at this point.

Step 16 : For some very fine detailing of the white highlights, I switch to this white gel pen. I love doing this with a pen because you can really get in there create some very fun effects and illusions. This brings out the very fine lines that you cannot get with a paint brush.
So there you have it. Our wave looking into the sunset through the barrel. I hope you had as much fun as I did. If you have suggestions on what you would like me to cover next, please leave your thoughts and ideas below in the comment box. Until next time, keep painting, stay colorful and laugh often.

Artist’s toolbox:

Watercolors:  USA PT-WAT-36
Gouache: USA PT-GOU-36
Watercolor brushes:  USA BS-124
Watercolor Paper: USA PWC300-12X16-2PK

For more on the art of Anh Pham, follow me on Instagram at Anh Pham
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