Drawing the Ocean: Tips and Tricks to Create a Beautiful Painting

The ocean is one of the most beautiful sights to see. The blue water, the waves crashing on the shore, and all of those seagulls flying overhead make it an unforgettable experience.

It seems simple enough to just draw what you see with your eyes, but there are many different techniques that can be used when creating a painting. This article will go over some tips and tricks for drawing the ocean, including what colors to use, how to shade, and more!

How to Draw Water

When drawing water in a painting or picture there are two important aspects that need attention; reflections and ripples.

Reflections add realism while also helping define shapes such as rocks along the bottom of the seafloor (or sand on a beach). Ripples add movement to the water and make it seem more fluid.

Basic Rules of Drawing Reflections in Water

Reflections in water are always going to be a little blurry and softer than the objects they’re depicting. Some say that these reflections should never look as if there’s even an ounce of detail within them but it adds depth to bring this feature into artwork which is why some people choose to do both; adding shadows for realism while also including details on the reflection itself.

Drawing Ripples

Ripples are created by the interference of light reflecting off of waves or other objects in the water. These ripples then travel across the surface until they dissipate due to a lack of energy.

In order to create water with rippling waves, you’ll need a combination of wavy lines drawn using a ruler along with curved lines blended together by hand in the center where it becomes a little more chaotic for this effect!

This can also work alongside jagged strokes which depict rocks being thrown into the water creating shockwaves that radiate outward from where the impact occurred instead of just letting everything become smooth once more afterward.

Water Colors

Different shades of blue can be used when painting water in a picture, but don’t use too many colors!

A good rule is three different tones for each color choice; light blue, medium/teal tone, dark blue. This allows the viewer’s eye to easily connect all parts of the ocean without cluttering up your work with unnecessary colors that just confuse them.

For rippling effects or shadows on rocks along the bottom of a body of water using black pencils for shading will help give shape to waves which adds depth and realism to your artwork.

You don’t need any special type of paper or pens when trying out this type of art, just use what you have laying around the house!

Clear, Calm Water

If you want your ocean scene or painting about water to seem calm and serene then clear blue tones will work best! If using colored pencils stick with blues such as Prussian Blue or French Ultramarine since those two colors have been found by many artists through experience over time to offer realistic results without becoming overwhelming when blended together.

Water with Waves

When painting ocean waves it’s important to remember that they’re never completely perfect; so don’t be afraid of adding some messy details throughout the scene if you feel like your picture is too clean overall!

Create Depth with Shadows

When creating artwork about the ocean it’s important to remember how light reflects off every surface within view; even underwater. By adding shadows to the rocks, creatures in the ocean, or anything else underwater it creates depth which adds a realistic feel that gets passed onto every viewer of your work.

Underwater Objects

If your picture about water includes sea life such as fish then consider drawing bubbles rising up from their movement underneath since these will always appear throughout any scene with ocean life present!

How to Draw the Ocean

Choose Your Medium You Want to Draw With

There are many different mediums that can be used to draw the ocean, including colored pencils, pastels, or even paint! The type of art will depend on what you want your final picture to look like.

Pastel painting is usually more laid back and has a serene feel while watercolors have an artistic touch which makes it seem as if anyone could recreate this scene with just some paper and pens.

If you want to create a simple doodle or sketch, then pencils and paper are perfectly fine.

A mix between these mediums would also produce amazing results if done correctly!

Observe the Surface of Water

The surface of the water is always moving and can be a little unpredictable. Ripples from crashing waves, the wind, or even just the current will cause this movement to continue until it eventually settles down again as everything becomes calm once more.

This type of motion should be captured in artwork; whether you choose to draw ripples on top of stationary water through pencil shading or paint splatters that look like they were made by throwing droplets into the scene at random!

A mix between these two would also work for creating either subtle (soft) or dramatic (sharp/strong) effects within any ocean-based picture that you’re trying out your hand at painting.

Draw from a Photographic Reference

Since painting the ocean comes with so many difficulties, it’s always best to use a photographic reference whenever you can. This way there will be no question about whether your colors are accurate or if certain parts of water are being shaded correctly because everything has already been done for you!

It also takes out all of the guesswork when trying to figure out how light reflects off every inch of water in the scene; allowing artists to focus on their own style and techniques rather than worrying about things that they don’t know much (or anything) about yet.

How to Draw a Wave in the Ocean with Graphite Pencil Easily

  • Start with a basic oval shape. With this first step it doesn’t have to be perfect at all since details will be added later on but you should try your best to keep the lines straight and evenly spaced from one another if possible!

  • Next, draw some wavy-looking horizontal lines across the entire surface of the water in order to give the effect of waves crashing against each other as they come together. This step can also be messy so don’t worry about making them look too precise or even; just do your best while trying out different techniques for creating these kinds of effects within artwork!

  • Now shade everything underneath those diagonal outlines until only a few centimeters remain visible towards the top which is where the surface of the water will end up being. Make sure to use smooth shades that all blend into one another while gradually getting darker and darker as they move downwards; this way you can always add more layers later on if necessary (which is important when painting the ocean!)

  • Next, add in shadows underneath each individual wave where there’s no light hitting it from above. This will create an effect that gives off the impression that waves are curving slightly upwards towards their tips before moving back down again towards crashing against other parts of water nearby!

  • Finally, for this step draw some ripples throughout the bottom part of these wavy lines using either thin curved lines or faint circles depending on how long the waves in question are compared to their width. Adding these details will help elevate your painting or drawing so that it’s more realistic and visually appealing overall!

How to Draw the Ocean Step by Step

Step 1

Decide on how you’d like to lay out your ocean’s surface; whether that be with small ripples or large waves, and then sketch them in lightly using a pencil.

Be sure to leave space for where you’ll be adding waves later on!

Step 2

Use pencils to shade parts of your waves that are above where light would be hitting them in real life; such as areas that would catch direct sunlight.

This is an important step because without them being visible underneath there’s no sense of realism when looking at what you’ve created so far even though many people tend to skip this part thinking it won’t make a difference.

Step 3

Draw shadows using pencils where needed; including areas that are in shade due to light being able to reach them from the opposite side of where it is. This can include areas blocked from view by other waves in front of them, parts that are under an umbrella or a boat, and anything else you deem necessary to add realism!

Step 4

Blend colors together with a paintbrush. Simply blend your colors together so they flow smoothly into one another. You can add details such as waves crashing against rocks along the shoreline for further realism.

Step 5

If desired, use white gouache to add highlights along the water so it’ll stand out even more than before! Apply this at different angles for each part of the scene since they won’t all catch light from one single direction.

Step 6

Apply an even amount of green throughout each wave regardless of its size. Larger waves should have just as much detail added within them compared to smaller ones around it since they’re both equally important when creating a realistic scene rather than making one side look better than another due to lack of attention given towards it at all!

Step 7

Add shadows for more waves following behind the first wave until you’ve completed this step! Blend pencils using water until smooth like before if desired.

Step 8

Add some white gouache within ripples and wave crests if needed.

Step 9

Use pencils depending on your preference when applying dark shading randomly throughout any parts of your painting. If there’s too much gray in areas where it shouldn’t be simply use colored pencils to take care of that issue so everything is uniform when finished with this step.

Step 10

Add darker tones to water by using a blue colored pencil if desired. Use this in areas that aren’t facing the sun so your shadows will be more prominent than before!

Step 11

If you are adding shadows to your painting overall then do so once more here. Then, if desired finish everything off by making any focal points stand out, even more, using white gouache paint like before! Your ocean drawing is complete!

For more tutorials read our How to Paint Grass and How to Paint a Sunset guides.

Tips for Drawing Water, Waves, and Ripples

  • Remember to add in shadows where needed so everything looks more realistic when finished!
  • Don’t forget about adding colors within the water itself that will help it stand out compared to other areas. This can be done by layering a darker color over your waves after they’re drawn and then blending pencils together afterward if you wish for this step!
  • When creating ripples throughout the surface of your painting, do so with either very thin curved lines or tiny circles instead depending on how many are being included within one another at once rather than making them appear as though all were created using just straight strokes which won’t look right based off of their shape alone.
  • Use a mix of colors that come from blues, purples, and maybe some pinks or reds blended together to create foam on top of waves in motion!
  • The best way to paint water is going from the lightest color at the top blending into darker shades as it goes down towards the bottom so don’t be afraid to use several layers if needed!
  • Harsh sunlight can reflect off large bodies of water so this means there will be brighter spots throughout your ocean artwork whether you want them included or not! Hairline cracks within rocks are also common since they’re being hit by light just like everything else surrounding that area.


No matter what type of ocean you choose to draw it’s important that people feel like they’re able to jump into the scene without worrying about whether or not their clothing will get wet; if this is achieved then everything else should fall into place afterward.

If your goal is creating artwork that challenges others with its realism then go for pencils and darker shades (or vice versa) while also including various types of waves depending on how rough/powerful you want them all shown off because these details are guaranteed to make an impression upon anyone who looks at the final image long after it was finished becoming part of other masterpieces soon afterward even though the techniques used in order to create them might seem easy at first.

Leave a Comment