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How to Paint Waves Splashing Over Rocks

Updated on November 15, 2011

When portraying a wave with water splashing over rocks, the artist will paint the wave first, then the splashing water before adding the rocks. This technique gives better control of lights and darks. The artist will determine the light source and place light splashes of water on darker waves to create depth. When painting with watercolors the artist will mask off any splash areas to keep the white of the paper along with painting light values over dark values. This is the opposite of oils and acrylics where the artist paints dark values over light values.

Oils and Acrylics

Show pouring water movement by painting the direction of the wave in consistent upward strokes. The lightest area is the highest point of the wave is where it will break and pour. The base of the wave should be the thickest and darkest.

Create splashes using a lighter color value than the wave. An example is to mix a bittitanium whiteto the color of the wave.

Load the paintbrush with the lighter color and drag the brush across the wave to represent breaking waves and splashes.

Add rocks to the wave by painting shapeslike an upside down “U.” Create additional depth by adding light and shadows of the rock’s color. Add additional splashes over the rocks.


Apply a liquid mask to white paper for the splashes using a sea sponge or brush. Let dry.

Create a pouring wave by painting upward strokes in various shades of blue and green keeping the lightest area at the highest point of the wave. Let dry.

Add rocks to the wave by painting shapeslike an upside down “U.” Create additional depth by adding light and shadows of the rock’s color. Let dry.

Wipe away the mask.


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    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      As a would-be artist I am always looking for ways to accomplish my artistic goals. Water is the most challenging in my opinion. I am going to reread it again. Hope you will have more art instructional ideas. It certainly deserves a thumbs up.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have never attempted using watercolor paints to illustrate water and splashing waves. Your instructions sound interesting and certainly worth a try. Thanks! Voted useful.

    • dragonflyfla profile image

      dragonflyfla 4 years ago from South Florida

      Thanks Peggy, painting waves can be a challenge.

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