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Layering watercolors to paint clouds and the sea on ARTiful, painting demos by Sandrine Pelissier

How to paint sea and clouds in watercolor : Try a layering technique

Learning how to paint sea and clouds in watercolor can seem tricky. A technique you can try that works well with clouds and sea is to layer your watercolors. Until now I have been using a layering technique with watercolors mostly for portraits because I find this is a great way to convey the subtle tones of skin and to avoid hard edges. For a seascape I wanted to try that technique to paint the clouds and the sea.
I did mount the watercolor paper with my drawing on board before I start painting.

If you are interested in that technique you can read the post here: Mounting Watercolor paper on board

Here is how to paint sea and clouds in watercolor using a layering technique

When layering watercolors I am always starting with the yellow layer as I am going to be using Yellow Ocher and this is the least transparent of all the colors I will use.

How to paint sea and clouds in watercolor painting the yellow watercolor layer

I start painting only with yellow ocher watercolor. I am wetting the paper with plain water before I start painting the sky, so I am sure all the edges will stay soft. I am also creating some white areas by removing paint with a tissue paper

ultramarine and cobalt blue watercolor to paint sea and clouds in watercolour

For the blue layer I want to use two tones of blue, a warmer ultramarine blue and a colder Cobalt Turquoise blue

painting the sea with ultramarine blue

Once the yellow layer is completely dry I start adding a layer of Ultramarine blue to the sea.When dry I start painting the boats and add details to the sea.

adding details and preserving whites with masking fluid

Before painting the clouds, I protect the boats I just painted with masking fluid so I can paint with large gesture and not have the dark blue on the boats bleed into the sky.

masking tape for clean edges between sea and sky before painting

I am also using masking tape to keep a clean edge between the sea and sky.

painting a watercolor sky wet into wet

I am then wetting the sky area with plain water before painting the clouds, I am using ultramarine on the top part and cobalt on the lower part.

alizarine crimson red to paint watercolor clouds

For the red layer I am going to use Alazarin crimson watercolor.

layering watercolours to paint the shy and sea

I then add a very light layer of red on the sky and sea areas, I am also adding some red to the boats

scrubbing off watercolour paint

The last step I am taking is scrubbing off a bit of color with a stiff brush and lots of water, then adding a bit more white with a fine layer of gouache.


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Here is a time lapse video that will show you the whole process in about 4 minutes

How to paint sea and clouds in watercolor : Try a layering technique
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