Watercolor Fundamentals: Paint a Seascape | Charlotte DeMolay | Skillshare

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Watercolor Fundamentals: Paint a Seascape

teacher avatar Charlotte DeMolay, Art | Writing | Nature

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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

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Start with the Sky


    • 4.

      Adding the Water


    • 5.

      Painting the Sand


    • 6.

      Finalizing with the Dunes


    • 7.

      Your Project


    • 8.

      Bonus: Another Seascape Demo


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About This Class

Get in a summer mood with a coastal landscape painting! Practice some watercolor fundamental techniques by painting a simple seascape. We’ll step through a graduated wash, masking fluid, wet-on-wet, dry brush and splattering. You’ll not only create a finished painting in this class, but you will also be more confident in identifying and using these techniques in future paintings.

If you need a refresher for any of the techniques used in this class, check out Watercolor Fundamentals: Make a Technique Book.

Meet Your Teacher

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Charlotte DeMolay

Art | Writing | Nature



*I'm taking a break from Skillshare for a little while...if you need to contact me you can fine me on the sites below* 

click Facebook or @charlottebdemolay

click Instagram or @charlotte.demolay

click demolay.com for my website, email list and blog


I don't just see the world as it is, I see the possibilities.

Part of my passion for art is teaching others. I have taught students of all ages for over 35 years. I love teaching the creative soul who thinks they 'can't' do art as well as the advanced student wanting to push their work to a new level.

I have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I work in acrylic, wa... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Do you have a favorite photograph or memory from a beach vacation? Would you love to immortalize that as a work of art? Hi, I'm Charlotte DeMolay. Welcome to watercolor fundamentals, painting a seascape. In this class, we'll cover some basic watercolor skills that I taught in watercolor fundamentals, Make a technique book. We will use quite a few of the techniques to create a finished painting. If you didn't take that class, that's okay. You should be able to follow along and still complete a seascape, especially if you have any other watercolor experience. Why a seascape? Because I love the coast. It has been an inspiration for me for over 20 years. It is definitely one of the biggest influences of my painting. So I thought I'd pass some of that love onto you. In painting the seascape will practice the following techniques. Painting a graduated wash, wet on wet, using masking fluid, dry brush, and splattering. By practicing these techniques. Not only will you have a completed painting at the end of the class, you'll have a better understanding of how to use watercolor techniques. So join me for watercolor fundamentals, painting the seascape. 2. Supplies: Let's talk about the supplies you're going to need for this class. First, watercolor paper - cold pressed or hot pressed doesn't matter whatever you have. I'm using a 130 pound paper. If you prefer less buckling, go ahead and use 300 pound paper. You can use watercolor tape or inexpensive Painter's tape is great. That's my preferred tape to hold mine down. The surface I paint on is a inexpensive foam core board that I purchase at either Walmart or Michael's. These are the type used for student projects. I'm using Winsor Newton Cotman paints for the bulk of this painting. I will put the specific colors over in the supply list. You don't need to buy expensive watercolor brushes as long as the brushes are in fairly good shape and used specifically for watercolors, not mixed with oils or acrylics. Inexpensive brushes will work fine. I'm using a variety of flat brushes for the wash, a larger round brush for the sand, and then two smaller round brushes for the dune's, you'll want some sort of container for your water. I use this three-part water bin and I make sure I leave one of the parts with clean water for washes and wet on wet techniques. I'm also using masking fluid in this painting. If you don't have any, it's possible for you to do it without just be very careful in leaving whitespace around the areas that will be masked off during the demonstration, If you're using masking fluid. Always use a dedicated brush that does not get mixed in with your watercolor brushes. I separate mine out by putting a piece of the blue painters tape on the end. So I know which is my masking fluid brush. You'll also need a pallette to put your watercolor paints on. I use plastic pallettes, a couple of different types. The great thing about tube watercolors is once they dry, you can still wet them with water and continue to use them. So if you squirt out too much paint on your palette, It's okay. Next time you want to use that color, just add some water to it and you're good to go. If you don't have a special palette for watercolors, Get a plastic plate or a plastic lid from something like a coffee cans will work. When choosing a table or board to paint on, make sure you can have your watercolor board at a slight angle. This will help when you're painting washes. I have over in the resources, the photograph that I used for painting the seascape, feel free to print that out and use it as a guide. Okay, Let's go paint a seascape. 3. Start with the Sky: I'm going to do this little seascape here. Not going to worry about the people or the houses. I just want to focus on the sand dunes, the water and the sky to practice some of our watercolor fundamentals. Now normally, when I do a preliminary sketch, I use very, very faint lines to sketch in the major blocks of where everything is going. I just sketch in the large forms. I do the sketch with very light lines. But make sure you can see, I'll go back over it and darken them up a bit and basically just blocking in three sand dunes, like I said, it's not going to worry about the houses. I want that sand dunes a little bit higher than the level of the water so I'll bring them up a little. Now, normally, I would start with the sky, but I'm actually going to use a little bit of masking fluid to mask off a little bit of this water. And that way when I'm working on the sky, it can be drying. Again, I've got my marked brush that I'm only using for this. I'm putting a wave on the side. And in here. Not very precise. And what the masking fluid does is it leaves the white of the paper, as we paint over it. Later, we'll remove it and it'll stay white and leave the white of the paper underneath. That way you don't have to be as careful with the painting strokes. Now some of this, I might not want white, white at the end. But I can always remove it, paint it, but I can't get it back once it's gone. So that's why I prefer to be a little heavy handed with masking fluid. If I change my mind later, I can always go back and paint over the white that's left by the paper. While letting that dry, we're going to do our sky. Take a large flat brush with clean water and wet the sky around the sand dunes. Now, I'm going to do a graduated wash. Because usually when you're outside and you can see the horizon as large as you can see it on this painting. This is actually a little reverse. The prints of these turned out terrible. But normally on the horizon, the sky that's closer to you or higher up, this darker blue. And as it goes into the horizon, it turns into a lighter blue. Because for things further away are lighter than things close up, I'm going to use a little cobalt blue. With washes. It's always a good idea to mix up a big puddles of the color you want. From a wash. I'll start at the top with the darkest. I'm going over it to get the intensity that I want. As you can see, it's already fading down. So go ahead and pull that up. I'll stop getting paint this point and just pull down the pigments already there. In fact, I've gotten so much I'm going to dry my brush a little bit. Really want to look at the sky to be a bit darker. That's okay. It's darker over here then back here because really the angle of this, puts this further away anyway, It may even help that. So there's the sky, a little bit of a puddle here. So that's a quick tip. If you have a puddle you really don't want stick paper towel and let it absorb it. If you do it very gently, then it'll just wick it into the paper towel, instead of blotting and scrubbing it by pressing down, you just kind of gently get it to where it will pick up the water. In fact, there's a pool down the side here. I'll do the same there. So it doesn't creep back onto the paper. And we're waiting for this masking fluid to dry. So let's take a quick break, grab a coffee, check on the kids, whatever you need to do. 4. Adding the Water: Our masking fluid has dried, it's time to do some water. I use ultramarine blue for water. And then I'll end up adding on a little bit of viridian hue which is a green to give a kind of a Caribbean water look. Now in the photograph, the horizon line seems darker and reality if you're standing on the beach, you would notice as it approaches the horizon, both the sky and the water get lighter where they meet, it's sort of flattened out with a photograph. But it's also lighter here in the foreground because of all the waves and the reflection of the light and the wet sand underneath. And we'll have it a little bit lighter against the horizon, but there's so much of the whitewash and water here, it won't be very pronounced. My line wasn't straight so I'm going up into that sky just a little bit. If it was not dry. They will bleed into it, not make a sharp edge, but it's dry enough that it won't do that. See it's puddling here a little bit behind the masking fluid and that's kind of okay. It's usually darker right behind the white of a wave. So I'm going to try and see if it'll leave that. Okay. There's not a lot of water here, but we will give you just a touch of the green into the water. This is a so this is definitely a wet on wet. Just kind of drop it in and let it do what it wants. You don't have to cover every spot with it. It just gives it I think, a more watered look to have that blue-green instead of a straight Ultramarine blue. Now we need to set this aside and let it dry. One note real quick. I definitely got the paper too wet. If I had a taped down better, it would buckle less. I'm a very loose artist. Things like this don't bother me. There are a lot of watercolor purists that would just cringe to see that I'm allowing my paper to buckle. I didn't have it properly stretched and wetted and all of that. If you're one of those, you probably wouldn't be taking this class. So it's a personal preference. If you like, prefer your watercolor perfectly straight. Definitely tape it down. There's another method, called d stretching it. I'm not going to cover that, but that's pretty easy to look up. But just for this class, if you want less of this, keep the paper less wet, use a heavier weight paper. I'm using 140 pound, going up to 300 pound, and then tape it down all the way around the edge. Those three things will keep the paper buckling less. And this horizon line is bugging me a little. So I'm going to add in just another quick line. I'm just seems not quite pronounced and it gets a little too pronounced there. So I'm going to do a process called lifting with the brush. You can lift with the paper towel to deal with that pooling. But if you take your brush, clean it, and dry it off, it will lift some of the color as well. I think that's a little bit better horizon line. I think it's a little bit wet right there. Yeah. Okay. When this is dry, we're going to do the sand. 5. Painting the Sand: Now the base of the sand I'm going to grab my large round brush, grab this palette where I already have a large amount of yellow ochre squirted out as well as Burnt Sienna. I think the yellow ochre is a little bit too yellow. Burnt sienna is just a little bit too orangey blended together like this as a sand color. I'm going right up to the edge. And we'll go back later and add a reflection from the wet water in there. But for now, we just want to lay down the edge of the dunes. I actually want this dune to come up higher so I'll put that there and then we'll go back when everything's dry and use a dry brush for the oats. the seagrass and the sea ooats. We'll bring that up even higher. And I like using the round brush because I'm not as precise with this as the water or the sky. We're not doing the smooth wash or the wave type lines. Although I got this too wet because I'm lost a lot of those lines in there, but that's okay. I like to kind of scumble this about. Add some texture. Brush got caught on my microphone wire, so it added some drips and that's okay. As Bob Ross used to say happy accidents. Sand is nice and loose. I'm going to drop just a little bit more of this color in there. Start getting too hard to edges. Just wet your brush and go back and soften them. Cover some of those spots where the white is showing through. So from here we want to add some of these. Essentially it's shadows that's created by the dunes and the sand. What I like to use for that is a combination of burnt umber and ultramarine blue. Very, very popular combination for shadows, definitely one of my favorites and I'm going to switch to a smaller round brush. And then again, I'm not going to paint every single little sand hill in here. This is more of the suggestion of sandhills. And this is kind of got a little of that gray in here. Add a little bit up here so it can be shadows around the ground. We can add more of that later. Smooth out some of those blooms from before. Now, in paintings, in real life, things are always more detailed and crisper, up-close and less detailed and I don't want to say fuzzier but smoother. So that's why I'm keeping more high-energy and texture up here. And let it smooth out as it goes to the back a little bit. Now if you really want to get some energy into your sand, this is a good time to use splattering. I like to splatter with my stencil brush. You can also do it with a flat brush and I'm just going to get a bit of that yellow ochre and get it good and wet. We'll add a few flicks in here. I don't mean a lot and I'm keeping it up in the foreground where you would see more texture. And then do the same with the burnt sienna. And if the papers too wet these flicks are just going to blend right in. But I think we'll get some of them in there. I'm also going to add a little bit with the burnt umber and I'm not really going to worry about getting any more of the ultramarine blue. Just stick with the umber. Yeah it's too wet in here it's not really getting texture. We can always come back and do that later. So I can still see this is wet in here, so we don't want to remove this. This still wet so we don't want to start in on the sea oats and the dry brush. So this is the time to step back and let this dry. 6. Finalizing with the Dunes: So now our painting is dry, we can remove our masking fluid off. Probably got a little too much texture in here with the blooms then I intended, but we can smooth that out a little as we go. Let's start on the water first and add this, soften this white up a little bit. This left some harsh whitespaces. I'd like to soften that up, make it a little bit more like the, the wash of the waves. I'll mix some ultramarine with my green. I'm just going to come in with a small round brush and just add just a little bit in some of that white thin down some areas, soften the edges. I'm trying to keep the paint lighter than this paint here. When I say soften the edges, I mean take wet paint over dry paint and kind of rub on the edges. Remember how watercolor is not permanent when you add water to it. So by using a little bit of wet paint on top of that, it brings up the paint. Not quite a direct wet on wet technique, but it does soften it up. Let the brush get a little bit dry and it can add some of that wave texture in there as well. That's okay. I've gotten a little bit on the sand. In fact, we're going to make that shadow that you get, not really a shadow. Go over with a little bit of blue to show some wet sand and I'm probably using a little bit too small of brush for this but that's okay. Ultramarine blue on top of that sand. Give it a bit of a wet say and look. Now let's work a bit on the sea seagrass going to work from the back towards the front. Then again, remember my reference photo, I'm not doing that handles going to have CO2 coming in on all of the dunes. Now since these are further back, going to go on and start with a smaller brush from the beginning and go ahead and start with burnt umber, just the darker color. And this is kind of the base of the CEOs. That dark shadow and base. Since It's a bit of shadow, I'll even add a little ultramarine on top of it. Okay, to start in on the grass is still a little flicks and I'm not gonna go very high with these. I'm going to use a smaller brush to take it up higher. This is more for the base of the grass. I'm just little flicks don't take it up all the way. Since this is closer in the skin, go up a little bit higher. But again, you're doing essentially the base of the grass which is darker, more shadow. Canal is a little ultramarine blue on top. Darken that up. Okay, they're blending, they're going to overlap. I don't want this to be a neat line down here at the base for the grasses. I'm going to kind of pull it out a bit. That was a number 4 brush. Now I'm going to pick up a number one fresh going ahead and bring this grass with tiny brush and finish off. Now. Then we're going to add just a little bit of burnt sienna in there. It's got that to dry off. My brush is just going to add a little bit more glow in the grass. Same here. Again, not very precise. Just globe almost scribbling, click the Brush. Click and get some thinner lines up here. Maybe change the direction a little bit. Okay, Let's bring these up much higher. In fact, we'll bring some out here. Motion I'm doing with my brush is barely touching the paper and flicking it upward so it's thicker at the base, then are at the top. And start moving down into some more grassy patch here where you have little bits of grass and debris and stuff on the beach, mix some burnt sienna and a little blue, ultramarine blue soften up lines if you haven't. Beach debris over here. Now seaweed washes up on the shore. And opinion every little dot on the beach and just give them more of the pressure. And the saints get less detailed on the Mac and just take a wet brush to lose some of the harsh lines. Care for so much that texture. You can do a quick fix. I'm going to take a flat brush. You can also do it through round brush, get a little bit of clean water, clean brush, soften some of these lines. I think this is where I was doing some flicking on the paper is too wet. Owner erase everything. Bone around some of that I just painted and say I'm not just back and forth on for picking and choosing where I do it. I think that's sort of a softer. I'll bring this down a little bit that looks a little bit harsh. there. I'm showing you some of these things so that you can see how, even though watercolor is not quite forgiving of mistakes, they don't have to be permanent. You can go in and make some changes. Now I'm going to add ..oh that's too dark. I'm just going to tone that down. What's already out here I'm just going to spread it out on some greens and the grasses, but not quite that green that's a little much. By doing a little clumps of grass alternating between a couple of colors like burnt sienna and, I'm sorry, that was a burnt umber, and the toned down viridian green which adds just a little bit more in depth in there. Some of that a little bit higher. Just kind of tone down that harsh line back here. Last few little details. And kind of look and see if there's any spots that I don't like. And there you have an easy seascape practicing our watercolor fundamentals. We did a graduated wash, masking fluid, some wet on wet in the water, some wet on wet in the sand and then dry brush. and added some details to our beach. It's very quick, very easy. And here's what it looks like dry. Don't forget to sign your masterpiece. You don't have to sign with watercolor. That can be difficult to write with. I sign with an archival pen such as a Micron Pigma. 7. Your Project: I hope you enjoyed painting the seascape. If you painted along with me during the demonstrations, you should have a completed painting or maybe just a little bit of touch-up left. If you didn't go back through and try it, you can use the photo I did for a reference. I've included it in the resources or you may have your own coastal scene you want to paint. Or maybe you just want to try it from your imagination. Either way, when you complete your painting, take a photograph of it or scan it and upload it to the project section. I'd love to see your work and I try and comment on everything. And if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me. If you liked this class, please follow me and then you'll get announcements when I release new ones. Thank you. 8. Bonus: Another Seascape Demo: When I was preparing the demonstrations for this class, I had two different paintings. And for one of them, evidently my phone run out of battery and I didn't realize it, so it cut out part of the demonstration. And again, I didn't know it until I was several steps into it. So I've included it as a bonus here at the end, I'll put some notes on the part that's missing, but most of it is here. I've sped it up so it doesn't take so long. And there's no narration, but it's using the exact same techniques of graduated wash, masking fluid, wet on wet, dry brush and splattering and layering. It will give you an idea of another seascape you can paint with these techniques. music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing music playing