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Create an ocean sunset painting with acrylic

In this lesson, Joe takes you through how to create an ocean sunset with acrylic paints. He explores a few techniques, including scumbling, dry brushing, acrylic blending and some impressionism inspired elements. Check out the material list and lesson below!
Step by step

1. Tint the canvas

Squeeze the Lemon Yellow out onto the palette and use the largest brush to apply a thin layer over the surface. Add some water to the paint so the paint flows smoothly. Allow the coat to thoroughly dry.

Once the coat is dry refer to the first reference image and draw up the horizon line, then draw in the profile lines of the clouds and waves. We use an orange fine tip marker to lay this all in.

Because the orange marker is water based some of it will blend into the paint and disappear. If graphite is used sometimes in areas a dark line is visible which can show through your paint?

2. Painting the sky

Refer to the finished painting template for colour guidance. Start with the violet cloud in the upper left corner. The trick is to squeeze out some violet and white on to the palette and roughly mix it directly on the canvas. Make sure not to over mix the tones so there is a soft variation in the cloud. As we move to the edge of the cloud we lighten and soften the tone so it fades out to nothing. You can do this by scumbling the colour.

Lay a light tone into the right corner and a darker tone into the clouds in the distance along the horizon and the low cloud situated centrally in the canvas.

3. Adding to the sky

Create an orange and yellow mix and start painting at the top of the canvas between the two violet clouds. Work down the canvas and darken it with Permanent Red as you go. Again, do most of the mixing directly on the canvas to get that soft fluffy look to the clouds. Concentrate red into the large cloud in the centre of the canvas. Allow some of the yellow tint to show through in areas and lay orange just above the horizon. Lighten the orange clouds by mixing yellow into the edge of them so they fade out into the tint colour.

Create a light blue by mixing white and Cobalt Blue and lay it into the left part of the sky. Lighten the edge with more white and fade the colour into the surrounding clouds.

Add pure Titanium White to the centre of the canvas around the red clouds to create the centre hotspot. This should be the brightest spot in the painting.

Next, add blue into the right side of the sky. Blend this blue out into the white. Acrylic paint dries very quickly and blending tones can be difficult. Drying can be slowed down by dipping the brush into water then added to the paint.

The sky can be detailed by lightening and darkening areas and to get rid of any hard edges.

4. Beginning the water

Begin by applying some Titanium White into the foam of each breaking wave with a palette knife. Try to create as much texture as you can. It is unusual to add this first but we want to work out where any breaking foam lies as we may lose some of the line work when we lay over the blue glaze. Once the foam is all in we have to let it dry before we start the next step. Thick paint can take a while to dry naturally but can be speed dried with a hair drier.

To create a good sand colour, mix some Titanium White, Lemon Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Monasteral Green and Permanent Red.

For the glaze, create a watery mix of Cobalt Blue and lay it in below the horizon line using the widest brush and work down the canvas going over the foam at the top of the waves. As we work down the canvas dip the brush into the sand/ beige mix and create a blend. By the time you reach the bottom of the canvas it should be pure beige. The transition does not need to be too smooth as it is an underpainting and we’ll be painting over the top.

5. Defining the water

Squeeze out some Cobalt Blue and use the medium flat brush to lay horizontal strokes across the water below the horizon line. As you work down the canvas, add more white into the mix so the blue strokes lighten. Mix some beige to the cobalt blue and lay strokes into the right side of the water. Leave little amounts of green show through to add interest. Take the strokes down to the breaking wave in the middle of the canvas.

Squeeze some more white out and paint this into the foam that we laid into the top of each wave. Don’t cover the whole area with white and let some of the blue show through.

Mix a touch of Permanent Red into some Cobalt Blue and darken the shadow into the furthest wave. The mix can then be altered with some Monasteral Green and Orange to create more of a brown tone and some shadows can be laid under the foam of each wave.

6. Finishing and adding details

Create a light blue from Cobalt Blue and Titanium White. Add some water and glaze this over the middle ground of the left and right waves.

Create a dark brown by using a spot of every colour in the set and draw the profile line for the two shallow waves in the foreground.

To add shape to the waves we can add detail with white marks applied with a fine brush. A fine line can be added to the edge of the shallow waves. Fine strokes can be laid across the middle area. The shallow wave on the left has foam on the surface. The foam can be applied with a filbert brush and dry brushed on. Charge the brush, wipe the excess paint off and then apply the mark so the tone is not too bright.

And you’re done!

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MATERIAL LIST

Studio Palette Knife Set 5pce - Plastic
Palette Knives

Studio Palette Knife Set 5pce - Plastic

Single Thick Canvas Signature 60 x 75cm (23.6 x 29.5in)
Studio

Single Thick Canvas Signature 60 x 75cm (23.6 x 29.5in)

Taklon Brush Set in Wallet Signature 11pce - Acrylic
Acrylic

Taklon Brush Set in Wallet Signature 11pce - Acrylic

Dimension Acrylic Paint Intro Set 8pc x 18ml (0.6oz)
Dimension

Dimension Acrylic Paint Intro Set 8pc x 18ml (0.6oz)