"Your cyber source for artist news and education!"
© 1998, 1999, WetCanvas!

[ Home: ArtSchool Online: Digital Art: Digital Painting for the Beginner: L5 ]

Digital Painting for the Beginner: L5

A Digital Seascape

Author: Roger Elliot, Associate Editor

Here we go again!! This time we will be exploring a seascape using our Adobe Photoshop 4.0 LE program. I am told that there are other programs that work in much the same way as this one and many of the letters I have been receiving are from folks who are following along but using a different program. Great!!

The sea is a difficult subject in any medium and the same holds true for painting it digitally. Pay close attention to all of the instructions as many of them will be about things that will change the painting drastically if not adhered to in a strict manner.

Since we want to give our painting a rather panoramic look, I suggest you open your program and create a canvas that is 575 pixels wide by 450 pixels high. If you are new to our little series, you may wish to go to the first few lessons in order to be familiar with the process of opening up the program and creating a blank canvas. If you are just joining us, you may find it helpful to go back the first few lessons in this series for some introductory information on the tools and techniques. I call this little painting, "Digital Wave", you may, of course, call yours anything you wish! :) Let's get started and have some fun!

Almost at once we are on the horns of a dilemma! The bottom of the sky area must be as STRAIGHT as possible. The ocean will come to this line and if it runs either down hill or up hill it will make the ocean appear tilted! I had to make a few passes to get it as straight across as this and, as you can see, it isn't as perfectly straight as I would like. However, I can paint the sea "up" and that will give me another chance to get it done to my satisfaction. Using the top color box, I have selected a pale, light blue for the sky at the horizon. I have made several passes with the airbrush tool, each time selecting a somewhat darker blue so as to give my sky a feeling of depth. I have left just a few small patches of white here and there hoping that this will add some movement to my sky as I continue with the next step. Unlike the other paintings we have done before, I don't want as much movement in this sky.

Now, using the smudge tool, I work the sky by running the tool across the sky in short strokes. My main objective here is to remove the "layered" look and blend the colors so that they look natural. This may take some time. Be careful and spend some time on this if you want an attractive sky for your painting.

Here's that dilemma again! I have selected a very dark blue-green for the ocean. It may appear black to you but it is really a very dark blue-green. Where the ocean and the sky meet we must be very careful to get the division STRAIGHT across. This is quite easy with a brush, but not so easy with a mouse!! I have painted this in with the airbrush tool and I have left space at the bottom which will become our beach! Also, you can see that I have left the bottom of this section quite uneven. This will serve us well later.

Now I have selected a "sandy" yellow for my beach area. Don't be overly concerned with getting the exact color you want for this area. At this stage we are simply conditioning our canvas. Later, we will be adding color and content to our little beach. You will notice that where the ocean and the beach come together the lines are very uneven.

Here is some of those "subtleties" that I spoke of. With the paintbrush tool, and selecting the NEXT TO SMALLEST brush size, I have added some white to the ocean near the horizon. Then I used the smudge tool to "float" these out. BE CAREFUL NOT TO GET RID OF ALL OF YOUR NICE DARK WATER COLOR! It is very important that we leave dark in between these white areas!

Here I have selected THE SMALLEST brush size from the "brushes" tab and with the paintbrush tool I have strengthened the waves with white. It is now apparent why leaving dark in our faraway ocean was so important. They are what separates our waves! One of the problems when working with the mouse is that it wants to make straight lines! Just what we do not want to happen when we are adding these lines. I combat this by painting in the lines then using the smudge tool to pull just THE TOP EDGE of the line back. It is now obvious which direction the ocean movement is taking. In my painting, it is easy to see that the movement is from left to right. It makes no difference which direction yours might move but once you have established the direction, everything else must move in that same direction!

This step is very simple but very necessary! Here I have "plotted in" where I want my large, major wave to be located. Think this out carefully. And, of course, if the movement in your sea is right to left the wave would break in the opposite direction.

Now I have added a bit more white where the wave "dips down" and, using the smudge tool I pull the top of the white back IN THE SAME DIRECTION as my wave movement. The angle of these lines is critical! Also, using the paintbrush tool and the smallest brush size, I added a few small lines running down the face of the wave just behind this large one.

Two things here! First, using the airbrush tool and a small brush size, I painted in some foam over the top of the wave WORKING IN LITTLE CIRCLES. Then I use the smudge tool to blend this out to look like foam again, working in LITTLE CIRCLES. Secondly, I took the eyedropper tool and picked up color from the lightest part of the sky. Using the airbrush tool I painted in an area just to the left of the crest of the wave. This will become the "eye" of the wave. That is, the area where the water is thinnest and therefore allows the light from the sky to show through. Notice that I have not painted this area in solid. Allow some of the dark blue to remain.

OK! Let your creative instincts take over! :) First blend out the "eye" using the smudge tool. I have taken the painting ahead a little so that you can see the best way to blend out the eye of the wave. Next paint in some white where the wave breaks over being careful to leave some of that wonderful dark blue-green. Remember, white on white is nothing!! I have also added some white in the foreground and moved it around with the smudge tool. Lastly I painted in some lighter value water color next to the shore. This water is shallower and we need to lighten the value in order to convey that feeling.

Now, using the smudge tool, blend out the shallow water and add some darks and lights into the sand. Finally, use the smudge tool to pull the water so that it "laps" the beach. Add some very dark blue just at the base of the water to "stand it up" and give it height. There! You have a very simple little seascape. I am still attempting to keep these quite basic and simple so that everyone might be able to paint along. If you wish to add something to your painting, go right ahead. You are the artist. Hope you had fun with this "Digital Wave"!.....Ooops! Forgot something! Read ahead!

What is a seascape without a few birds?? To make these little guys use your paintbrush tool in a very small brush size. Make an "upside-down "U" then shake your mouse a little (this will establish the body of the bird), then another upside-down "U". :) Have fun!