Wildlife Art Underwater: The Ultimate Blending Challenge in Acrylic | Sarah McComb-Turbitt | Skillshare

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Wildlife Art Underwater: The Ultimate Blending Challenge in Acrylic

teacher avatar Sarah McComb-Turbitt, Wildlife Artist Marine Biologist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

18 Lessons (1h 38m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Materials

    • 3. Class Project

    • 4. Mixing Background Colours

    • 5. Blending for Depth

    • 6. Blending for Depth - 2

    • 7. Blending for Light

    • 8. Planning with Chalk

    • 9. One Brush to Rule Them All

    • 10. Colour Theory

    • 11. Blocking in Colours

    • 12. Principles of Blending (Tail Fluke)

    • 13. Creating Dimension Underwater (Belly)

    • 14. Creating Illusions of Distance (Flippers)

    • 15. Blending Around Features (Face)

    • 16. Blending Colour Patterns (Side)

    • 17. Surface Light Reflections


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About This Class

Welcome to Wildlife Art Underwater!

Achieving smooth underwater scenes is a challenge when using a quick-drying medium like acrylic paint.

Join me and learn how to master blending, create simple yet realistic lighting effects underwater, and apply a few tips to make your main subject fit right in its environment and save a lot of time in your painting.

Whether you are a beginner or advance painter, this class has something for everyone. 


For your class project, paint a Pacific white-sided dolphin alongside me or substitute it for your favourite underwater animal. By the end of this class, you will be a blending master!


Finished your class project? Tag me on Instagram, and I will share it with my followers!!

You can also find me on LinkedIn & Twitter 

Music: Over You - Atch https://soundcloud.com/atch-music Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0


Meet Your Teacher

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Sarah McComb-Turbitt

Wildlife Artist Marine Biologist


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1. Introduction: My name is Sarah, and I'm so excited that you're joining me today for my Skillshare class. Hi, I'm Sarah. Welcome to my studio and I hope you're excited to work Wildlife Art Underwater. I have a deep love for everything to do with the ocean, I have a master's degree in marine biology, and I'm so excited to be able to use knowledge from that part of my background, as well as painting, to bring my two passions together. Acrylic paint can be really difficult to work with, because it does have a very quick drying time, but I have a lot of techniques and tricks to help you with this challenge. The class project today is to paint an underwater animal. I'm going to be painting a dolphin species. So as described in the product description, the main three checkpoints of this class are going to involve mastering the art of underwater lighting, the ultimate blending challenge to create a great ocean background, using chalk to quickly sketch your animal into your painting, and finally, painting your creature in the foreground. I would help you with the details and tricks to add realistic lighting around the animals so that it pops out from your background and give you some tricks to help save a lot of time in your painting. I just love being able to showcase animals that we really don't know much about. I think painting underwater animals is really unique because we don't often get to see them in underwater environments. By taking reference photos that are above the surface, but changing them so that they work underwater, you can really bring a new life to the animals through your paintings that would be otherwise really tricky to do with just photography. It makes your painting unique. This class is for all levels as some information is more introductory, but techniques for blending can improve your painting regardless of your current skill level. Although realistic wildlife art may seem intimidating, I think beginners would be very surprised at how great their projects are going to turn out using the tricks I provide in my class. So come paint along with me as we create a Pacific white sided dolphin and extending oceanic environment, or sub it up for your favorite species using the links to other reference images I provided below in the project description. Thank you for joining me. I'm so excited to get share my knowledge with you. So let's get started with our first lesson. 2. Materials: In this next video, we're going to go over some of the materials that'll be good to have to help you with the Skillshare class. First off is you need a surface to paint on. You can get any canvas you want. I prefer painting on wood because I like a smoother texture, but that's just my preference. Well, aside from a surface to paint, you're also going to need brushes to paint with and acrylic paints. For paint today, you basically need the three primary colors, as well as black and white. We're going to keep it really simple and practice blending colors from these basics. For blues, I really like ultramarine, but it's up to you. Other material we're going to need include our paint brushes. We're going to do this entire painting just with two brushes. This one is a 3/4 inch or 20 millimeter filbert brush, and this is what we're going to be using for most of the background blending. You want a pretty large brush to accomplish this with. Additionally, I'm going to do the entire foreground animal with a number 10 filbert brush. I really like filberts because they have a really good variety and they are pretty thin to get some fine lines when you need to, so this is what we're going to be using for our foreground animal to keep it super simple. Additionally, some tools I recommend having is a spray bottle. Spray bottles are great because they can help you mist your paint on your palette surface, and this will help keep your paints from drying out too much. Additionally, what you may see me using is a stay-wet palette. This one's been with me for quite some time. But essentially all it is is a piece of pallet paper that stays wet with a sponge underneath. You can see this one's quite well loved. It's already nice and wet for me to put my paints over top and it'll help absorb moisture as you go. They're about $20, highly recommend. To sketch out our animals, we're also going to use chalk. You can get any color you want, it's pretty simple, but we're going to use chalk and then I have Q-tips to erase the lines after you paint over them. 3. Class Project: For your background today, we're going to start it off by mixing a beautiful shade of blue that we're then going to lighten to create a bit of depth to your ocean environment. We're going to start off with light colors at the top and then darker colors at the bottom of your background, which is replicating the sunbeams cutting through it. This creates a great base atmosphere for your underwater animal to inhabit. I've provided some links in the project description to help you choose your reference photos and also the link to the exact one I'm going to be using for the tutorial today. Don't forget to credit any photographers that you use their photos from and make sure that you have permission to use their photograph. The two techniques I'm going to demonstrate are kind of a circular blending motion along the bottom of the canvas. I'm also going to show how to do vertical blending techniques. Just a bit more of advanced. I'm going to show you some variations of this general technique. These backgrounds took me anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to complete. There's two main techniques that I'm going to demonstrate for you today. The first is a bit of a circular blending motion seen in these images to really add some shape to your background. The second is a more vertical blending: light to dark, where you can see more of the streets of light. The background I'm going to do today is going to be similar to these sperm whale displayed beside me. Where you can see a lot of the circular blending throughout the background and then you can see the vertical blending coming in at the surface to really show in those light streaks. Now that you have an idea of what you want to do for your background, we're going over and start mixing some paint. 4. Mixing Background Colours: For the background color, you want to make sure that you definitely have enough of it. We're going to start off with some of our ultramarine blue, get a little tad more. Then we get to decide what kind of blue color we're going to be mixing. I'm going to add a little bit of yellow to get a very slightly more green look. Now, it looks quite dark upon first mixing it, but you can see when you when you spread it out on the palette, what the general color is going to be. Next step is to take a section of this paint, maybe a little less, and we're going to be adding a small amount of white. I think that this color is a pretty good choice. You don't want to go too dark for your background, but you want to keep some of it available for when you do your bottom colors of your blending. But this is going to be the main background color that we're going to go darker to towards the bottom, and lighter to towards the top. The next step we're going to do is section it off again and go even lighter. That's pretty good. 5. Blending for Depth: Once you have your colors mixed, you're going to wet your paintbrush. We're going to start with our medium color. Now, I'm going to paint this to the bottom up, we prop it on the edge there. To do these circular techniques, we are just going to start getting some coverage in the bottom there. Right at first, you can see it's fairly streaky, but don't worry about that too much right now. That's what the bottom half is going to look like. Now, you're going to notice, if I try and blend to the top areas up here and scrape my papers through them, you'll see how it turns white and you're actually removing paint. That's actually because it's already partially dry. What you need to do is either add more paint to your paintbrush so that you can glide easily over it without friction. Or because it's already partially dry, you have to wait for it to dry and then try and add paint afterwards. But for now, we're just going to add more paint. This whole process is us really just getting a feel for how far down we want different colors. We're making really nice, gentle arching motions on the canvas to really figure out the placement we want this to be. Whether we want the dark to start down lower or higher. It doesn't have to be perfect because this is just a first coat and we're going to go back and do a second coat on everything, where it's where we really get it to look quite smooth. You can already see the gradient start to form. That is more or less the first coat. Another problem I'm going to demonstrate is, when your paint starts to dry and you're still trying to blend it, one thing you may do is add too much water to your brush. If I try to go over a section where I've added too much water, you can see how it's adding streaks from below it. You're actually erasing the paint on the bottom there and it looks more thin than you want it, so you're getting less and less coverage in this specific area now. Another thing not to do is to add spray bottles right to your painting. I'm going to do an example of what this looks like. First of all, you can have some drips which are going to take some of your pigment from your lighter color and bring it below, which is hard to fix. Additionally, if you try to blend over this, you can see I'm getting that same problem where you've added too much water and now we're erasing paint. It's pulling off of the canvas where you can see the background color poking through. I wanted to show you these two things. Although it's tempting, you don't want to have your brush paint too much wetter than your canvas paint because you're going to have different issues in coverage come up with acrylic. When the paint gets tacky like this, the only thing you can really do is you can try to cover it up by getting more paint and doing a thick layer, which fixed this area. The other thing to do is just to wait for this area to completely dry. It'll take 10-20 minutes, depending on what paint you have. Then you can re-go over it in a second coat and try and catch all those problem areas in round 2. 6. Blending for Depth - 2: Throughout the second coat, you want to focus on smooth, even transitions on color, and use your first coat as your guide as to where they occur. If you get some accidental light at the bottom there, just adds to the overall curving track that you want to do, and get some good variety. Here, I'm just mixing an intermediate color between these two to help really smooth this part of blending the painting and get a little bit more volume of it going at once. You also may want to step back at some points of your painting, make sure that the arc you're going for is well balanced. It doesn't have to be perfect because going through water also won't be perfect. But basically, you just start slowly working your way up the canvas blending lighter as you go. Let me darken here. Keep your brush nice and loaded, so that it goes on pretty easily. The motion you're doing with your brush is actually just little zigzags. We're just mixing our color again, this is getting a little tackier and hard to work with. We want to make sure there's not too much water on it though before we go back in case of the problems we mentioned earlier. Now, when you're doing this, you don't have to get it perfect. Something I lack, there. Because the unevenness of it makes it actually look a bit more realistic. It's a bit of a problem area on the canvas right here that I'm having trouble covering up because it wasn't quite dry before I started this. We'll just have to keep it really thick over there and try not to touch it too much. But it's just pretty much a repetition of late feathering strokes as we move up our easel. Now, you want to make sure you save whatever this top color is as it's going to come into use during our second stage of this, where we do the light streaks at the top. You want to make sure that the top did of this wherever you're doing a light streaks remains really nice, and even so that when we do the next section, it's a little bit easier for you. This whole top section is going to be left from corner to corner. Now that we've finished our circular blending pattern of our ocean background, creating a really nice deep and dynamic environment for our animal to live in, we are going to do the vertical blending of the light streaks up next. 7. Blending for Light: Now that we are back to do our vertical streaks, we're going to start with the main color that we have for our background. Take a little bit of that and make sure your brush is thoroughly saturated with your main color, because what you want to do is you need to get the area where you did your circular blending wet again. So you can see the color difference, how it looks so much lighter, it's not, it's just because it dries at a darker shade. This is why it's really important in this part to redo the last little section that you had in that color. Then what you're going to do next is start adding vertical streaks through it. This is important because the bottom of your streaks are blending into the color you just chose. I think I may have gone a little too far downwards in my blending, which is okay. I'm just going to quickly smooth out this edge down here. It will look like this. You want to take your top blended color, the one that you've worked in to the bottom there. You refresh it and then you take it into a vertical pattern. It's the side of the brush that I'm painting with, not flat and point sideways to get some of those light beams to poke through at different levels and you want to mix up the pattern here that you're creating. Perfect. Then just making sure that this top color is all basically the same. What you want to do is add a small amount of white to this top color. Then you want to do this really gradual at a time, but then you just want to keep going up really broad, gentle strokes, pulling it down into that color. One of the reasons why this is so tricky is because the paint dries darker. When you're doing a vertical blend, you really want to make sure that the bottom edge gets really left because you want to see that unevenness pattern, but it can be really hard to let go. Just start working super slowly from the bottom up to the surface of your painting and do not feel bad at all. This may take a few tries until you get something that you're super satisfied with. But basically the process is just slowly adding more and more whites as you climb up towards the surface. Again, you want to make sure you're stepping back a little bit, check that it's even as you go. If there's any areas that are particularly sharp, we'll just have to try and smooth it out. As you pulled down into the white paint below it, the ends feather out to you already. You want to make sure that you vary the length of your strokes as you go and every now and then step back, get a really good idea for what the balance of your painting is, where you want to put more light and more dark, but essentially your last few layers at the top can basically be almost pure white and they'll just blend in. Another thing I'm doing is I'm changing the angle. Out here I'm going more out on this angle, trying to go down center and trying to go to the side over here as well. Not also helping to create that variation. At the end, because my brush is fairly blue, I'm going to give it a fairly good rinse because this is part of the blue that I don't want in my last coats of when I'm doing this nice white. My brushes are really thoroughly cleaned, but it's just a bit of a rinse more so than anything else. A bit of that darker blues mixing in with it, but it's pretty white. That's way much of a lighter shade. This is going to be the final one, so I'm paying a bit more attention to how it peaks over the edge of the canvas, trying to make sure that it's in pretty good lines all the way up to the edge. There you have it. One thing to note when you're packing up your background colors is you actually want to save them. I'm going to go ahead and put them on my stay wet palette. An alternative to this could be putting them in a small Tupperware container that's sealable with a lid. You want to save your color because we're going to use some of it when we're painting our ocean animals and we want the tone of it tip match as closely as possible to the background. This is our darker color. Remember, all we did to this is add a bit of white, so we can pretty much make any shade of color from this start with just a varying amount of white. We're going to go in here and save that. There we go, background colors, and there you have it. In real time, this took about a half an hour to complete. I sped up some parts of the video there. Don't forget to add your beautifully blended ocean background to the project gallery and we'll see you in the next video to chalk in your animals. 8. Planning with Chalk: In this next lesson, I'm going to go over how I use chalk to plan my paintings. If I wanted, say, a dolphin to swim here, I could sketch loosely in a dolphin. Then you see how that looks and if it's balanced. The reason I use chalk for this kind of stuff is because it is quite erasable, especially if you take a Q-tip dipped in a bit of water, it really just comes right off. You want to make sure your painting has dried completely before you do this. You can see it does lighten up the color for a little bit, but then it'll dry darker again. But it's entirely erasable. This is one technique that you can use to sketch in on your painting, and then you can just easily take it off. As you see, we have our reference image with our dolphin. I'm going to zoom in on it a little bit. Just with some pallet paper that I happen to have on hand, we're going to do a quick tracing of this with chalk. Some of the key features, as I mentioned earlier, that you want to go over, are you want to make sure you get the proportions of the animal and just the general outline. The step absolutely does not have to be a masterpiece by any means, it's just to get a bit of a reference of where to place stuff. There you have it. After we have this chalk, we'll take it back over to our painting and I'll see you there. Now that we have our quick chalk sketch of our reference image, all you're going to do is try and figure out where you want your animal. Then you're going to place it on there, and you're just going to rub the back of your piece of paper and try and get a bit of a transfer of those very key, essential markings. Now that you have a bit of a base outline, you're going to just finish sketching where you want that placement to be. One thing you'll notice if we look at the reference and the chalk right beside each other, you just check to see if there's any other elements of your drawing that you want to add. For example, there's a bit of a circle around its eye that we can add in there. It comes out a little farther. But spend some time to refine your drawing. I think we're going to call it here. At this stage, you don't want to go crazy including every single detail because a lot of it is going to get covered up in your base layers of paint. For example, if your animal has any types of spotted texture on it, it's really not the stage that we're going to be including it early in the painting. It's best just to create a smooth underlayer of paint for your animal and then add details in layers as you paint. Keep this very simple, you just want to get the outside proportions and any really distinctive changes in coloration marked at this stage. 9. One Brush to Rule Them All: Welcome to the next section of lessons on painting before ground animal. Quick before we get going, I wanted to talk to you about brushes. I am committing to painting this entire next section with just one brush. It's a number 10 filbert brush. There's a few reasons I wanted to talk about why it's a fun exercise to try and do. If we get some paint on our filbert, you'll see that there is numerous amounts of strokes. You can really get really crisp edges. You can even do fairly thin lines with a filbert brush. Something like this eliminates a decision off your plate and it's one less thing to think about and interrupt the flow when you're working. This way, we can focus on colors and blending, and also for efficient workflow, you want to make sure your brush isn't too small. You want your brush to hold enough paint to last, and you want to be able to cover a lot of area with each stroke. It's easier to blend, your paint will hold more moisture, and working big really cuts your time down. 10. Colour Theory: So now that we've talked about brushes, we are ready to start painting. So you want to take a good look at your reference image and notice some of the colors that you see. So we have some areas on this animal that are darker and some that are almost light towards the bottom. We're going to go ahead and add some colors to our palette. We're going to add more white, a little touch of black and we're also going to grab some red there. We're just going to darken up our background color the tiniest amount. Because I'm using heavy body paint, I'm just smoothing the black paint out so I can get a bit more of a controlled amount of it. But essentially, I'm going to take some of my dark background color and we're going to mix the main body color of the back of the dolphin first. So we're going to start off with the background color because it's in water. So you want that water to kind of reflect on it. You're looking through the water to see the animal. So it's going to be toned slightly to this color. I'm going to add a tiny bit of red and that crimson is really helping to darken that color up a little bit. A little bit more and give it a bit more of a like a purply look. This will help add a bit of contrast because warmer colors pop out from the background a little bit. I'm going to add a tiny bit of black just to really get that nice and dark purple color. Now we're going to take a tiny bit of this paint, so we'll put it over here. We're going to take a little bit of white to see what it looks like when you lighten it up a little bit. So this color is actually with the crimson and blue and the little bit of black, it's coming up as a really pretty neutral, warm gray color. We want it to be a bit more on the blue side. So we're going to add a little bit more of the background color in there. So there's three main areas that have different colors on our dolphin. So this is going to be the darkest color that we're going to use in our painting today. So we can section off a little bit of that and now we're going to make a bit of a lighter shade. Typically with a [inaudible] palette, I'm able to mix up all my colors right off the get-go and then can spend my time painting. So this is the base we're going to be starting with and we'll see you in the next video where we take it to the Canvas. 11. Blocking in Colours: The first thing I start with when I'm beginning a painting after just going over the chalk is I generally pick the color that I think has the most predominance. I'm going to start with this medium gray color. Now coming over to the painting here, we're going to start trying to pick out some of those darker areas on here. So at this stage, you're really just trying to carefully block in your light and dark areas. Take your time, be very careful of the edges, and if you go over your edge, that's fine. Just try and go about it as smooth as you can, kind of staying in the chalk lines that you've drawn, eye in there a little bit. One of the differences just quick while we're doing this between painting on wood and canvas is there's actually very little texture on the wood panels because I sand them smooth. The reason I do this is because I really like smooth work. I find when I'm taking photographs of my work later for prints, I like not seeing the texture of the canvas in my work. But one thing with painting on wood that does take a bit of time to get used to is it doesn't grip your paint off your brush a little bit. So your first couple of layers can be a bit slidy. But basically, you're just doing a first layer. I always use a big area on my painting to just throw paint down and then paint off of that. I find it slightly easier than leaving the painting. So when you're doing fine lines like this, like that's a pretty fine point I was able to get to you even with such a large brush. Now if I was using something like a liner brush, you actually have a lot less control because all of the weight of the brushes around it, the bristles on the brush are actually really helping it keep that shape. So you can really get a lot of control and really good crisp line work done. How you do this as you're turning the brush slightly on an angle. So instead of doing it flat like this, which does create a pretty good line, I twist my brush to about a 45-degree angle, and then do you see how you are just following that curve. This actually dark comes all the way in here. We'll get the edge a bit flipper. You notice we're kind of painting somewhere between these two colors. The dark is one we made in this middle tone to get this initial shape of the back. So the edges you want to be most cautious of are edges that are these outside ones. So don't try and get them exact at this stage, all you want to do is get close to the chalk. If it's not entirely smooth, don't worry about it, we're going to remove the chalk just in a few moments, and then that'll become a lot more apparent what to do. Now I'm going to start to just blocking in some of this lighter gray color. It's a bit more gray still than I want it. I think I'm going to make it a bit more blue. But again, we're just using this to get those initial color patterns down, and we're going to be modifying it. I got a streak that comes this way. So you want to make sure that you're looking at your reference photo during this process. This is actually the top highlight color that we use for our image. I'm just adding it in here just to lighten it up a little bit towards the top, and because it's still wet, we're able to blend this quite nicely already. So now we're removing some of that darker paint from my brush. I'm going to take some of this really light color because we're underwater and it's not going to be white. So it's just that highlight of a background color. We can play with it. The shading and the exact tone of it later. But right now we're just going to get a feel for what it looks like in here. So let's loosen the shape of the flipper. It comes a little bit more, this part a little bit higher, but we're going to fix that in the next round, and this is a bit deeper as well. That's something generally like that. Now you have it. This is a first-pass, just blocking in colors of our dolphin. So we're going to let this dry for a second and then we're going to remove the chalk from areas where it's dry, starting with the dark areas and moving to the light areas. So we've waited for this outside layer to dry a little bit. You want to make sure it's completely dry, otherwise, you run into issues taking the paint off. Then all you do is go around the outside edge, and you're just taking off the chalk. So it's super satisfying and fun, and now you have a really great base to your painting that you can start with cleaning if some of the edges there. What we're going to be doing in the next series of videos is smoothing out the blending of the dolphin and going over some other tips. 12. Principles of Blending (Tail Fluke): [MUSIC] So now that we have a base layer of our animal done in paint, the next layer we're going to do, is going to be slowly doing our final blending of colors. Sometimes I move left to right. Sometimes I pick specific areas that I want to work on that are similar. So example, all the dark areas or all the light areas right off the bat, or if there's any area with tricky angles, then I like to do that first. So just to refresh what we did on our palette here, we have our darkest background color, our medium background color, and our lightest background color, that it went into a bit of white at the surface. So these are our tones of our ocean environment. Then mixing the darkest background color with a tiny bit of red and a tiny bit of black, we ended up with this kind of more gray tone. So then by adding a little bit of white to that and a little bit of this lighter blue color as well, we have been able to create the medium gray tone of our dolphin. So we're working in this space. We also have this color, which is a really light gray. What we're going to do is use a combination of these kind of more gray tones, and the more blue tones as we paint our animal forward. So I'm going to show you what I mean, but basically around the edges of the animal, you want to use more of the ocean color, and around the center of the animal, you want to use more of the gray toned color as we go. This helps give it a bit of roundness as there's more ocean when you're looking further along the animal down its side because it's curved around it. So what this means on here is that if we're doing this top edge and we're doing a bit more of like the top highlight, we want to make it a bit more closer to the background ocean color. So I'm going to start on the tail first, and we're working to create some definition. I'm just going to mix a little bit more of the darker blue in here. That's a bit better. So basically I'm taking the color we've already put here and I'm just working on getting it wet again so that it's going to be easier to blend into it. So now we're going to switch to our darker color, and slowly towards the edge, we're going to pull that lighter color into it. Give a little bit more of a highlight. So what I'm doing also with my cloth here is I always paint with a cloth, and whenever I put initial color on here, I wipe my brush more or less clean. So then this is like a dry brush blending technique, and it means that you're just kinda playing with the paint that's right there in the Canvas. So there's less paint from your brush, kind of overwhelming the wet paint that's already there. So we've got a fairly smooth gradient there. It's a little lighter than we wanted, referring back to the reference image. So now I've just taken a little bit more of the darker paint color. We'll go even darker than that. We're going to add some of that dark color back in. So I'm going to rotate my paintbrush around because now we're after that crisp outside edge. So we've kind of reclaimed some of that darker space there. Same thing at the top for this fin. Now I'm going to wipe my brush, and blend it in a little bit more there. So for this top edge here, we were more concerned about getting the color than we worry about preserving the shape right there, but now we're going to do the top part of the fin here. So we're going to turn around and we're going to pay attention to what that bottom edge looks like. Because this part of the fin is actually in front of the other. So dragging it down like that, you can reclaim that space as part of the top dorsal fin, and the shadow continues and wraps around the underside of the dolphin a little bit. This edge feeds out a little bit. I think this color is a little too gray for where we're doing work closer to the tails, so we're just going to use some lighter blue color. Give it a bit more. So this is a color that's a bit more blue than the one we were using. I think it matches just a little bit better. Then again, bringing in some of that darker tone color. So you want to make sure that you are continuously looking towards your reference image as you go along the length. This actually fades out a little bit more into a pretty soft transition down the animal. Now the main thing with acrylic paint is that because it's going to dry over and over again, I could keep reputing layer upon layer, upon layer onto this. But if you just step back from your painting after you've been working at that area for about 20 minutes or so, what you want to do at this stage is make quick progress overall on the image. So don't get hung up on little areas, but we're trying to get one coat overall on everything. [MUSIC] 13. Creating Dimension Underwater (Belly): So now we're going to take some of our dark background color, because this is a dark section, and we're going to use that blue raids along this bottom edge. So what we're doing is we're really softening the contrast between the background and the color that we're currently using. Why you want to do this is because the animal actually curves around, so the edges of the animal are further away from us. So we're blending with quick little strokes, wiping your brush so it's dry, and then going back in it. So you're pulling that darker color up into that lighter color. I'm going to take the darkest color here, as we do have quite a dark patch that pulls up for me here. I want to put that in here now just to hold it as a place holder. The other thing I noticed is this is coming too far back. So I'm going to take off about this much of it to reclaim that space. So I'm looking at this bottom edge here, and in the photograph it looks to be quite gray, but I'm actually going to make it blue instead. So same thing as we did back on this edge. We're going to use this blue color to help add roundness. We're going to add a little bit of white in here Just to get a little bit of a better line. So we've used the background color down here from around this section of the painting. So it's still lighter than the background is down here. But now what we're going to do next is increase the white gradient and we're just going to finish off that white part right now. I'm going to take this lighter color with a little bit of white. Now this is quite bright. I'm going to put it on and see what it looks like. So I think that's a little too white than what we want. So we're going to take some of this gray color that we did earlier and add a little bit of that in just to darken it up a tad. So we're going to re-cut this white line from above so we don't have to worry about being too exact on this part. But what we do want is to get a really nice gradient below. This is the brightest this is going to be, and then we're going to blend it darker. Same thing with that fin. We're going to re-cut it. So same as the last gradient, we have our color that we're going to try and get to you, the blue with the background. We have our white. Now all we have to do is do some steps in-between to bring out that color. So taking a bit more of that blue, we're going to start bringing that up into the white. Now that everything's all wet, you can take it and do some quick strokes. I'm pretty happy with how that looks at the bottom there. I'm just going to add a little bit more of the lighter color at the top and blend a little bit more into it. So what we're going to do now is leave this belly area. I think I'm going to jump into the flippers and do a little bit more work on them. 14. Creating Illusions of Distance (Flippers): This flipper at the bottom is going to be behind water. So this top one, we're going to be able to use our darker color that we mixed. Redefine the line right above the fin [inaudible]. This actually curves a little bit. So now what we're going to do is repaint the general shape of this fin. Getting that blending gradient was really our main priority. Sometimes, especially when you're working with larger brushes, you sacrifice the smaller details to make a big amount of progress on those larger ones. So I really want to be careful of this arc of the fins that we don't cut too far into the gradient. Now, when you notice I've done this top edge, but the whole thing looks pretty squished, that's actually because it goes down probably a good four millimeters. So now we're going to turn our brush and reclaim that space before we start doing too much blending of the actual inside of the fin. Some pretty quick strokes, and this whole outer edge is pretty dark. Then we're going to take some of our lighter color, [inaudible] and for this, I am going to use a bit more of the gray one because it's closer to us. So we want that a little bit of red in there. Let me get a bit more of this blue gray around the edge of that. Just to smooth it out, it's already an intermediate color. So it's already doing part of your work for you. I'm going to make sure it goes in a little bit, and the other thing that's going to make this fin look like it's closer to us is contrast. So we want to make sure I'm going to add direct white into this to really liven it up a little bit. Because it's wet, it'll get blended in on the fly. We want to make sure that this has really stark difference from the really dark color to this really light color that we're adding now in the coloration of the fin. We're going to take some of our darkest stark color again and really get that area sharp. Take some gray color again, just in that very inner edge where it's blending. So it pulls out a bit from there, right in this corner as well. Our two main kind of highlight areas that we have are right here, this inside part right here on the edge. A really dry brush because we've got a lot of paint in there now to play with. We're going to just dab your brush along that edge and it really brings those two colors together. I'm just going to fix this inside part just how I see it. That's way too wet, but we'll put that out a bit, make it work. So for the bottom fin, what we want to do is we're going to pretty much replicate this as they are very similar with the color we had in the photograph, but what we're going to do is actually use more of the background color in this one, so it looks like it's further away. So the darkest color there, we're going to take almost the straight blue, add a tiny little bit of my darker color, so we're at a navy range. We're going to add this in here so you can still clearly see it, but it's much more blue than the paint was up there. So same thing we're going to go around the edge first. Make the edge whatever color you want it, and then we can work inwards. So taking your lighter color now, you can add that highlight in. One thing you want to make sure you do is that it's darker than your belly. So your whites aren't as white. Your darker color is more blue, and underwater, this really creates a cool effect of being distant. There's more water in front of these colors, so it makes it harder to see their true color. So right now my brush is pretty dry, and I'm just going over some of the areas that I think need a little bit more smoothing. I think that looks pretty good. So you can see how the front fin has a lot more contrast, the back fin has a lot less contrast and is bluer. That makes it look further away. So same thing is we used more background color towards the edge of the animal whereas the center, we used less background color and that also helps create a bit more of a round effect. 15. Blending Around Features (Face): After working on the fins I think I'm going to move into the face of the dolphin, what color to start with? It's a little dark. That's better. I'm playing with the darker color remix which was the darkest background color, a tiny bit of black, and a tiny bit of red creating a more gray tone and playing around with the blue tones of the background to try and see what I think fits the best. If I want it to be more gray, I add more from this side, and if I want it to be more blue I add from this side, the ocean side. It's a bit closer, needs to be a bit more blue than that. A little bit more gray, so will darken it up. With color mixing, it's really just about playing around with it until you find one that you are satisfied with. This light area of really comes up and around and arcs down right behind the eye, and additionally it comes on top of the eye, and follows down into the face curved. I'm adding a little bit of white to some of the areas that I want to be a little bit lighter. Just to really create that variation because it's going to dry a bit darker. Just slowly work it in. Let me take some of this darker color, and it was really light feathering strokes. Just smooth it out into that lighter color that we mixed. Until you're happy with the gradient that you've achieved. I'm going to come back in with a lighter color, smooth that top edge out with this darker gray right above the fin to really get a smooth transition between these two. Around the eye, one thing you want to note of is you want good contrast. People naturally want to look at eyes of humans, of animals, so you want to make sure that you spend a good amount of detail on this section, and get some really good contrast. Lighten up the background of the eye a little bit, and you want to make sure that you have a really strong highlight where appropriate. In this it looks like just right above the eye on a brow, and we're going to come in and add a bit of a highlight right below the eye as well. Wiping your brush, so it's nice and dry, and you just want to dab the edges of that to smooth it out a little bit. I'm going to take some of this other intermediate color, just a tiny bit on my brush. Get some of that coloration that goes from the corner of the eye to the tip of the beak; just so we have this darker color to play with. Then when we're taking a little bit more of our highlights, we're just going to smooth out that edge. As I'm painting, I always have a rug in my left hand so I can easily access cleaning my brush. I'm going to add a little bit more light. Now I'm going back over the line we drew at the bottom, just making it a tad bit thinner. Paying attention to where the coloration lifts underneath the eye and then drops back down closer to the beak and just softening that shadow. Now I'm going to come back in with my dark color again. I've finished things as I've gone up. Now what I'm going to do is finish this top line. I'm happy the top is blended. Now I'm going to focus back in on the shape of the forehead again. This section gets pulled down just a tad, and then it lifts back up before meeting the end of the beak. This is one of those moments where I might switch to a liner brushes. It is a very fine line, and I have a finished face on one side and a finished ocean on the other side. But this brush will be good enough for what we're working on achieving today. I started taking the beak up a top bit higher than what it seems like it is in the reference image. But that's because it's a bit of an illusion effect of the highlight on the lower beak. I'm going to take my lighter color again and very carefully add that line, so I'm just ever so lightly dabbing the paint on there and bringing it around to round the corner out and also at the top highlight color, I'll redo this top edge. Add little bit more white just in the very top edge of this to really get a glint of that surface on the beak. Last thing I'll do in this area is just clean up this edge one more time. Keeping for animals, you can see my brush there I just did it on one tiny little corner of the brush. But what you're going to want to do is add a glint in the eye. I personally like doing a double glint. There's one, there's two. I try to have one smaller and one larger than the other. As soon as you add the glint to the eye, it really brings a new life to it, and it makes it really pop out. Here's a close-up so you can get a bit more of an idea of what I was talking about by the eye highlights. 16. Blending Colour Patterns (Side): After stepping back and looking at this area, I wasn't quite satisfied with how the dark line between the belly and the gray coloration looked from far away. I'm just going to smooth it out quick. It looks a bit better. Now with our darkest color, we're going to go over the darker areas of the dolphin. All the areas that are this darker gray color, I'm just going back and looking at my reference, looking at the image and seeing where needs to be adjusted to better match the picture. It was off a little bit in its tail area. I'm just adding a little bit of a lighter gray right against this lighter pattern, so it will have an easier transition blending to it, then you see it sloops out from here into this darker section. Some of the lighter areas on the top here are the dolphin's coloration. Some are actually the reflected light in the image. It's a bit tricky to distinguish the two, and we're actually going to be adding our own reflected light as well. For now, this dips in a bit more than I want it to. I'm going to rebuffer that line ever so slightly so that you can see the curve of the back flows a little bit more naturally. Now this is a bit thicker, so I'm going to let that dry and I'm going to move back into the darker area and really get this transition blending between these two. Then you can see that check that comes out of there. If you notice it maybe hard to see on camera, I'm not entirely sure, but the darkest color I'm skipping away from the top edge because we have a lot of surface light coming down on it. We'll deal with that in a little bit after we finish this main section of the body, getting it to a place where we want it. But don't take the darkest color out to the top. Or if you do, we're just going to be painting over it anyway, but you leave it already at that lighter gray tone. One thing I will do with the darkest color is go in and do some details. Again, not right at the edge of the thin, but just a little further back from it. Because we want the fin to have the nice contrasts that it has in the photograph. We want to preserve that. It's got that darker color right from the tip all the way along that inside edge there. May be tricky to do with this brush, but I'm going to strain to get this tip to be a little bit more rounded. That worked. Now I'm going back and trying to replicate this color. A little bit of a darker tone in this area and in the inner parts of the fin there. Just like we blended this section, we're going to do it by starting with the darkest areas, getting them wet, then going in with the lightest areas and working with a dry brush and little tiny dabbing motion to create a smooth transition between the two. You want to make sure you want to reference while you're doing this, so that you notice that there's a bit of a lighter area of reading here that we want to preserve and another highlight in here. Same thing on the fin. There's a highlight on the inside here. We're going to replicate and read at the base. It also captures a bit more light. I'm taking some of the gray color, working it in the top here. Taking some of that dark color, getting a bit smoother of a transition along the back to it. That medium grays acting as a transition point between this darker black and this very light gray that's on the body of the dolphin. Now I'm going to take a bit of between this highlight color and the medium gray. Reclaim some of that space for the highlight now that it's all nice and wet to work with. At this stage, I would classify the top part of the back to be done. I'm happy with that to final medium gray to that darker gray transition there. When I'm doing the highlight now, I'm focusing on preserving the top edge of it and working from the top to the bottom. I always generally pick an area that I will classify as finished when I'm blending or more finished and work away from it so that I'm less concerned about the area below, more concerned about the area on the back so that it's a bit of a simpler process when you're working from it. Now I'm going to flip it around and do the same thing. We go back to that gray color. Get it nice and wet. Then we're going to bring the highlights back. Let's start down about there. We're sweeping up and I can just under the dorsal fin. Then we also have this branch, that starts to come out and then transition into that below the body there. We're doing that really soft as it starts laid up here. Then as you move, it gets more and more faded. Sometimes the motion of my paint brush is circles, sometimes it's dabbing. Really, it just depends what works for you and how you prefer to hold your brush. Now the whole time I've been doing this highlight color, I've been staying away from using the purest version of it. If you see on the palette, I've been going in this intermediate area between our dark gray and the highlight. There's a good reason for that because I want to be able to create a smoother transition in blending between the two spaces. Using a mixed color between them really helps with that. Additionally, it saves the brightest part of that highlight for the latest areas within this light gray section. I feel like that's good. We've got a very soft transition between our light and dark areas here. We're going to do a little bit more blending in this dark area here and along the top. It matches a little bit more into cheap that I'm just using that lighter color and softening this edge. I came at it from the light side to soften the edge. Now I'm going to come at it from this medium gray side. That's a pretty soft transition there. We're going to take that direct highlight color that we talked about and add in those final light details. It's almost like a speckled pattern. You get the paint on there and then with your dry brush, you just smooth that out into that highlight color, it should blend to equate easily because they're not too different from each other anymore. I think this lower one a little bit brighter. That works pretty well. Now that this color has a bit more contrast in it, this area is looking a little bit flat, I'm going to go back to it. Not a little bit more light right above the dorsal fin and along this edge right here. This is another reason why you don't want to spend too long on one area. You want to be able to move around the picture because things change as you go and they can look done and then they cannot look done. You don't want to spend too long getting one area really perfect because you may have to come back to it and redo it anyway to make your whole larger picture match well, and we're going to replicate the same thing on the top dorsal fin here. When you're blending something like this, it really is the same technique over and over again. Going from the lighter side, to dark, the darker side to light, and just back and forth until you're really happy and satisfied with that transition. You can really see where the light catching on the back of the fin here it's glinting half of it right here as well. At this point we are going to now start working on the top dorsal edge. 17. Surface Light Reflections: At this point, we are going to now start working on the top dorsal edge. Now the theory is tricky underwater because it is reflecting the most lights so our light source is coming directly from above. Technically this should be the widest part of the painting so we're going to use these top colors of our background and paint right on that top edge next. I'm loading my brush up with this really nice slate white color. Actually, I think I'm going to have it a bit more of this blue. Because I'm trying to get a very thin flat line after you load your brush, I'm just rotating it on the canvas to squeeze out that extra paint and then going flat so we end up with a really nice crisp line there. All the props a little wind-up. Next, what you want to do is go along your top edge with a little bit of space in a line just like that. This is going to be the glare right off the top. Anywhere where a kind of curves around the animals such as at the tail, or at the front head part, you want it to keep her out as it goes along. Now again, with the limitation of our brushes, we're not worried about the bottom edge being crisp but we're worried about the top edge being crisp. As long as you get that top edge, it should be pretty good. We'll take these highlights up starting thinner going thicker towards the top of the dorsal fin all the way into our tail highlight there. Coming back from that color, the next layer you want in here is a bit more blue. We're going to take some of this medium blue and bring it around. We're recreating this gradient in the final layers on the top. So we start from light then we're going to go really subtly darker. You're just going to go along the bottom edge there. I'm going to take that blue down a little bit more. Now we're getting our deepest background color here and this is what we're going to transfer from this blue into this darker gray color. I'm going to take some of this lighter color again and pull the highlight down. Then again with that lightest color, we're going to go clean up that outside edge again. Then we can do is taking very light color, and on the absolute main area of the highlight, which is the top from here to here, we're going to add a sunglint. Then once you want to get to do as you come around the curve, is bring in that darker color again. Now we've created a very nice blending of highlights where we go from the lightest color over top of our background, all the way to the darkest color of our background on the top edge of our animal here. When printing any animal underwater, remember that you want the sharpest contrast to be the areas that are closest to you and any areas as they curve around the animal, such as a dolphin or a flipper that's just located further away, you want it to have more of the ocean color in the paint so that it looks like there's more ocean between you and that object. That creates the illusion of it being further away. Now we have a dolphin with a nice rounded shape, background highlights that we know the light's coming from, and this is how you create realistic wildlife fired underwater. 18. CONGRATULATIONS: Congratulations on making it to the end of my Skillshare class. I hope that you enjoyed painting a Pacific white-sided dolphin. If you loved your Pacific white-sided dolphin and want more practice using these techniques, feel free to grab an additional species using the wildlife reference images that I've provided in the links below in the description and do another species. If you need any help with these, feel free to add a comment in the discussion section and I'll answer any questions you may have based on specific animals that you are trying to adopt these techniques to as well. Also, feel free to connect with me on Instagram and LinkedIn. I'm a huge fan of artists helping other artists grow. If you like your work that you did in this class, tag me in your post on Instagram and I will give a shout-out to you to my followers. This is my first Skillshare class and I'm planning to add a lot more to the platform in the following months, so if you have a specific animal you want to see me paint, let me know. Hit that "Follow" button if you want to stay tuned for when new videos come out. That's it. Now you have all the tools and tricks that you need to take on underwater art. You know how to blend really good smooth backgrounds, you know how to add light around your subjects so that it looks like they're immersed in their underwater environment, and you know how to do some awesome blending. Don't forget to review this class and I can't wait to see what you create.