How To Paint Seawaves – Tutorial By Melanie Maier

For a recent commission, I did some research on how to paint seawaves properly. There are some major parameters to be taken seriously into account. If you consider these to be important, your waves will be precisely detailed and realistically painted. The following graphical tutorial explains how to paint seawaves for illustrators and painters, as well as for beginners using Photoshop to create magnificent images of powerful nature.

Taking a look on values is an easy start for every illustration or imagery you plan to create digitally using Photoshop. To create decent values on a blank layer, it is important to diligently observe the colors of your reference – whether they are light or dark. Put some special effort in analysing how dark seperate parts of the painting are in relation to the brighter ones. This will make your values realistic and detailed.

After setting the values, you shall concentrate on the background of the image. Create some small waves and some bigger ones using gradient brushes. Algenpflegers brush set includes the type of brush you will need. It can be downloaded via Deviantart. The gradient brush is the sized 160 brush. Surely, you can also create a gradient brush on your own, using the tools of Photoshop.

You aim to create maximum effect with minimum brush stroke. Analyse, how waves break, which values they produce and how you can simplify their structure. Painting the illustration is more observing the study reference than anything else – a sharp eye is always recommended and should be trained regularly.

To apply patterns on the foreground of the image, transform several water lines (created with a standard soft round brush) into each other. That will produce nicely shaped patterns. They can be used giving a convincing texture of the big bulging waves before they are breaking.

The top of your  illustration is applying the froth. Therefore, you start using a variably sized soft round brush and finish in using a brush like Algenpflegers splattery size 90 brush (second of the top in the middle row). That will create the froth-like shape of your seawaves.

After setting your black-and-white digital illustration, you may go on coloring it. Start with a new layer on top of the finished image. Set the layer mode to “color”. Well….start applying colors! Use a soft round brush to lay down the colors and merge them with the smudge tool (as you can see at the top image of the second graphic, saturation is high when the water is transparant – especially at the top of climbing waves). If you diligently observe the shading of the sun in my illustration, you will notice the sunlights gradient influencing the colors of the water. On the left part of the image, it is yellowish and flows from a greenish to a nearly blue color at the right edge.

To go on with the tutorial, emphasize the brightness of the froth with a new layer. Fill this layer up with black color, use the layer mode “color dodge” and lay down some light parts.

Enhance the glowing of the froth by using a soft round brush and add some ocean spray with a sprinkling brush (use Algenpflegers size 115 brush – third from the bottom of the middle row).

To sum up the tutorial on how to paint seawaves digitally with Photoshop, you should mainly focus on values and textures. Always train your eyes to notice every tiny detail on your reference – this will make your illustration precisely realistic without copying pixel by pixel.

At this point, you are done with the tutorial on how to paint seawaves. I hope it was useful to give you some new insights of painting seawater. You may send me your studies on how to paint seawaves via email. In case of a question, please leave a message.

And last but not least….never forget that a tutorial is never as important as your own observations!