Beginners Guide: Step-by-Step Seascape Painting Tutorial
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Gather your painting materials
  2. Prepare your canvas
  3. Sketch the seascape outline
  4. Mix your colors
  5. Paint the sky
  6. Paint the water
  7. Add details to the horizon
  8. Paint the foreground
  9. Add final touches and details
  10. Dry and display your painting

Do you feel the call of the sea, but can't quite figure out how to capture its essence on canvas? Fear not, this step-by-step guide is here to navigate you through the process of seascape painting. Whether you're a seasoned artist or just starting out, this beginner-friendly seascape painting tutorial will help you to create a masterpiece that truly reflects the beauty and power of the ocean.

Gather your painting materials

Before you set sail on your artistic journey, it's important to ensure you have all the necessary equipment. Here's a quick list of items you'll need:

  • Canvas: Any size will do, but a medium-sized canvas (around 16x20 inches) is a good starting point for beginners.
  • Paint: You'll need acrylic paints for this tutorial. Make sure you have a good range of colors including blues, greens, whites, and a bit of red and yellow. A small tube of black paint can also come in handy.
  • Brushes: A variety of brushes is key to creating different textures and details. For this seascape painting tutorial, you'll need a large flat brush for covering large areas, a medium round brush for smaller details and a fan brush for creating the effect of waves.
  • Palette: This is where you'll mix your colors. Any flat, non-absorbent surface will do, but a proper artist's palette can make the process easier.
  • Water pot: This is for cleaning your brushes between colors. It's best to have two pots: one for cleaning and one for diluting paint.
  • Palette knife: Not strictly necessary, but a palette knife can help you mix your colors and can also be used to apply paint for a textured effect.
  • Sketching pencil: A soft pencil (2B or softer) is perfect for sketching your initial seascape outline.
  • Easel: If possible, use an easel. It will help you to see your work from a distance and paint at a comfortable height.

With your painting materials at the ready, you're well on your way to creating a stunning seascape. Stay tuned for the next step where we'll dive into preparing your canvas for the masterpiece it's destined to hold.

Prepare your canvas

Now that you have all your painting materials, it's time to get your canvas ready. Prepping your canvas correctly is an important step in this seascape painting tutorial. A well-prepared canvas can make your painting process smoother and help your artwork last longer. Here's how to do it:

  1. Choose the right canvas: If you've bought a pre-primed canvas, you're good to go. If not, you'll need to apply a coat of gesso to prevent the paint from soaking into the canvas. You can buy gesso from any art supply store.
  2. Apply the gesso: Use a large flat brush to apply the gesso evenly across the canvas. Make sure you cover the entire surface, and remember, two thin coats are better than one thick one. Allow the gesso to dry completely before moving to the next step.
  3. Smooth the surface: Once the gesso is dry, use a fine sandpaper to smooth the surface. This will help your paint glide on easily and will give your finished painting a professional look.
  4. Set up your canvas: Finally, place your canvas on the easel. Make sure it's secure and at a comfortable height for you to paint. If you don't have an easel, you can prop your canvas against a wall or place it flat on a table.

There you have it! Your canvas is all set and ready to capture a beautiful seascape. The next step in our journey? We'll be sketching the seascape outline. It's not as daunting as it sounds, I promise!

Sketch the seascape outline

With your canvas prepped and ready, the next step in our seascape painting tutorial is to sketch the outline of your seascape. Don't worry, you don't need to be a master of drawing for this. A basic outline is all you need to get started. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Visualize your seascape: Before you start sketching, take a moment to visualize the seascape. Is it a tranquil beach with gentle waves or a dramatic coastline with towering cliffs? Perhaps you're inspired by a photograph or a memory of a beach vacation. Keep that image in your mind as you begin to draw.
  2. Draw the horizon line: The horizon line is where the sky meets the sea. It's usually located about one-third or two-thirds of the way up the canvas, not in the middle. Use a ruler and a light pencil to draw a straight line across your canvas.
  3. Outline the water and sky: Now, lightly sketch the area for the sky above the horizon line and the water below. Remember, you're just creating a rough guide, not a detailed drawing.
  4. Add in any major features: If your seascape includes any major features, like islands, cliffs, or boats, lightly sketch them in now. Again, don't worry about details at this point.

There you go, you've just created the basic outline for your seascape painting! Not too hard, right? Next, we'll get to the exciting part: mixing your colours and starting to paint. So, let's dive in!

Mix your colors

Alright, let's get into one of the most fun parts of this seascape painting tutorial: color mixing! Dipping your brush into vibrant colors and seeing them blend together is truly magical. But before you get too carried away, it's important to know a few basics. So, let's get started:

  1. Create a Basic Palette: A good starting point for any seascape is a basic palette of blues, greens, whites, and browns. These colors will form the basis for your sea, sky, and land. Don't forget to include black and white for lightening and darkening your colors.
  2. Mix Your Colors: Now comes the fun part. Using a palette knife or an extra brush, start to mix your colors. Try to create a variety of shades: light blues for the sky, deeper blues for the sea, and a mix of greens and browns for any land features. Remember, color mixing is all about experimentation, so don't be afraid to play around!
  3. Test Your Colors: Before you start painting, test your colors on a scrap piece of paper or canvas. This will help you see how they look when they dry and if any adjustments are needed. Trust me, it's much easier to tweak your colors now than after they're on your painting!

And there you have it, your color palette is ready! With your colors mixed and your canvas sketched, you're now ready to bring your seascape to life. It's time to grab your paintbrush and start painting!

Paint the sky

With your colors all set, it's time to paint the sky — an integral part of any seascape painting. Now, don't worry if you've never painted a sky before. This part of our seascape painting tutorial will guide you through it, step by step.

  1. Start with the Lightest Colors: Begin your sky with the lightest colors — typically whites and light blues. Start from the horizon line and work your way up. Remember, skies tend to be lighter closer to the horizon and darker as they reach upwards.
  2. Add Some Depth: To give your sky some depth, introduce darker shades of blue as you move upwards. Be sure to blend these with the lighter colors to create a smooth transition.
  3. Clouds Are Key: Clouds add character to your sky. Mix some white with a tiny bit of blue or gray to get a good cloud color. Paint fluffy, irregular shapes, and remember, no two clouds are exactly the same, so let your creativity run wild!

And voila! You've just painted a beautiful sky. It's amazing what a few simple steps can do, isn't it? But don't rest on your laurels just yet. We still have the sea to paint, and that's where the real fun begins in our seascape painting tutorial.

Paint the water

Now that we have a sky that makes us want to soar, let's dive into painting the water. This is where your canvas really starts to look like a seascape. Don't worry, we'll make it as smooth sailing as possible in this seascape painting tutorial.

  1. Start with the Horizon: Using a mixture of blue and green, start painting from your horizon line and work your way down. Use horizontal strokes to mimic the natural horizontal movement of water.
  2. Blend with the Sky: To create the illusion of distance, the water at the horizon should be a similar color to the sky. Try to blend your first few strokes with the sky color you've already laid down.
  3. Add Depth: Add darker tones of blue and green as you move further down the canvas. This creates the illusion of depth in your seascape painting.
  4. Create Reflections: The water's surface often reflects the sky, particularly in calm weather. Add dabs of your sky color to the water to create this effect.

Great job! You've now taken a big leap in your seascape painting tutorial journey. With your sky and water set, it's time to add some more details to make your seascape come alive. But we'll save that for the next section. For now, take a step back and admire your progress!

Add details to the horizon

Alright, let's keep sailing along. Now that your water and sky are in harmony, it's time to add some intrigue with a few horizon details. This part of our seascape painting tutorial is where your seascape starts to take on a life of its own.

  1. Choose Your Focus: What's on your horizon? It could be a distant island, a lighthouse, a boat, or even a whale's tail! Let your imagination run free and sketch in your focal point.
  2. Keep It Simple: Remember, less is more. The objects on the horizon should be simple and not too detailed. After all, they are supposed to be far away!
  3. Paint It In: Use a fine brush to paint in your horizon details. Stick to muted colors that blend well with the sky and water to maintain a sense of distance.
  4. Add Shadows: Adding a little shadow under your horizon details can really help them stand out. Just a dark line or two will do the trick.

Great job adding those details! Now, your painting is starting to tell a story. Every horizon has a tale to tell, and you're the author of this one. What will your seascape say? We'll find out as we move on to the foreground in the next part of our tutorial.

Paint the Foreground

We're nearing the end of our seascape painting journey, but we've got one crucial stage left. The foreground is what gives your painting depth and realism. Let's dive in and see how it's done.

  1. Sketch the Foreground: Before you start painting, sketch out what you want in your foreground. Maybe it's a rocky beach, some sand dunes, or perhaps a weather-beaten dock. Remember, this is your seascape, so make it your own!
  2. Use Darker Colors: To create a sense of depth, use darker colors in the foreground. This contrast against the lighter sky and water will make your painting pop.
  3. Add Texture: Here's where you can let your brush do some talking. Use different brush strokes to create texture in your foreground. Whether it's the roughness of rocks or the smoothness of sand, texture is key in making your painting feel alive.
  4. Details Matter: The devil is in the details, as they say. Add some small details like shells, pebbles, or grass to make your foreground feel real and lived-in.

Well done! You've painted a beautiful and detailed foreground. Now, your seascape has depth and a sense of realism. But we're not quite done yet, it's time to add those final touches. Ready to put the cherry on top? Let's do it in the next stage of our seascape painting tutorial.

Add Final Touches and Details

Now, let's move to the final stage in our seascape painting tutorial: adding the finishing touches. These details can be the secret ingredients that turn your painting from good to great.

  1. Include Highlights: Highlights can make your painting look more dynamic. Try adding some white or light-colored strokes where the sun would naturally hit in your painting: the tips of waves, the edges of clouds, or the tops of rocks. It's subtle, but trust me, it makes a big difference.
  2. Shadowing: Shadows can add depth and dimension to your painting. Use a darker shade of your base color to add shadows where necessary. Remember, the sun won't shine everywhere!
  3. Signature: Don't forget to sign your masterpiece! Your signature is a stamp of your hard work and creativity. It's also pretty cool when you become a famous artist.

Congratulations! You've added the final touches to your seaspace painting. Now, it's time to let your painting dry and find the perfect spot to display it. But first, let's talk about the best ways to dry and display your artwork in the next section of our seascape painting tutorial.

Dry and Display Your Painting

Great job! You've completed your seascape painting. Now, it's time to let your artwork dry and showcase it for everyone to admire. Here's how you can do it:

  1. Let it Dry: Patience is key here. Depending on the type of paint you used, drying times can vary. Acrylics may dry in a few hours, while oils can take a couple of days or even weeks. Make sure you leave your painting in a safe, dry area where it won't get disturbed.
  2. Protect Your Work: Once your painting is completely dry, consider applying a varnish. This clear protective layer will safeguard your artwork from dust, yellowing, and UV light. Plus, it can give your painting a nice, shiny finish.
  3. Showcase Your Art: Now, you're ready to display your masterpiece. Hang it up on your wall, place it on a shelf, or even consider giving it as a gift to someone special. Let your art be seen and enjoyed!

And there you have it, a step-by-step guide to creating and displaying your very own seascape painting. Remember, practice makes perfect, so don't be discouraged if your first few attempts don't go as planned. Keep trying, keep improving, and most importantly, keep having fun with it. Happy painting!

If you enjoyed this step-by-step seascape painting tutorial and want to expand your skills further, check out the workshop 'How to Paint Water' by Jauni (tofublock). This workshop will provide you with in-depth techniques and guidance on how to master the art of painting water in various forms and settings, enhancing your seascape painting skills.