Social Media Follow Me pinterest instagram facebook twitter RSS Feed Contact Me!

Sailboat Painting Tutorial
Watercolor Painting Tutorial

by Jennifer Branch
YouTube Watercolor Painting Tutorial

The sun is shining, the wind is blowing and it's time to paint! Travel with me to the Maine coast and paint this gorgeous sailboat.

Sailboat Painting Tutorial Watercolor Painting tutorial

Painting Tutorial Level


Skill Building

Painting Boats

Painting Water

Art Supplies

18" x 24"
Twinrocker Cold Press

Isabey Mop, no.6
Isabey Mop, no.14
Isabey Pointed Round Sable, no.14
Isabey Rigger, no.1
Isabey Pointed Round Sable, no.8


M. Graham watercolors

Nickel Azo Yellow
Pthalo Blue
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Cobalt Teal
Cobalt Violet
Quinacridone Rust

Painting Demonstration 1

Sailboat Painting Tutorial Watercolor Painting Lesson 1

I paint a quick, rough first wash with big mop brushes. I want the brush to hit and miss a lot, so I have the sparkling, dancing light. There are very few bright white highlights on the water. Most of the highlights are the color of the sky, a soft almost cobalt blue.

I paint the background trees first wast after the sky and water have completely dried, otherwise they will bleed everywhere. The trees are going to be painted in several layers, so don't worry about perfection, just a nice gray green color.

Sailboat Painting Tutorial Reference Photo
Sailboat Painting Tutorial Reference Photo

Painting Demonstration 2

Sailboat Painting Tutorial Watercolor Painting Lesson 2

This is the really fun step. Just let your brush dance along the water, pulling into the shadows on the sails. Be sloppy! Don't worry about perfection, just the slapping of the hull on the water and the wind blowing in your face. Paint that!

Painting Demonstration 3

Sailboat Painting Tutorial Painting Tutorial 3

It's time to start painting the sailboat. I use a very light dry brush on the wood of the boat to get the sparkle.

I try to paint the people in one step as far as possible. I don't want any details in the people at all. I don't want skin color or clothes color, just the idea of people enjoying themselves on a beautiful day. So leave the highlights white, paint the shadows and let the rest bleed into each other.

Artist's Tips

Don't be afraid to let it dry and then gently pull out paint for an atmospheric effect.

Painting Demonstration 4

Sailboat Painting Tutorial Painting Tutorial 4

Just a few details on the sailboat, as well. I want the sails to have a bit of shape and structure, but I don't want to paint every line.

The United States flag is really a focal point of this painting, but it's off to the side so that makes it tricky. The bright colors are muted just a bit in shadows on the flag. I can tell it's bright but it's not distracting from the painting as a whole. I also added a touch of the bright Pyrrol Red around the painting so it wouldn't be a completely unique and distracting color. Just a touch will do it!

Painting Demonstration 5

Sailboat Painting Tutorial Painting Tutorial 5

No that the sailboat is almost done, I can darken the water. I want those sails to glow against the water. I'm leaving lots of sparkle and movement in the water. It's an exciting day out on the water, after all!

Painting Demonstration 6

Sailboat Painting Tutorial Watercolor Painting Tutorial 6

I've added a bit more detail to the boat and refined some edges. I'm also darkening the trees and enlarging them. I don't want it to be a stripe but I do want the dark to contrast with the white sails.

Sailboat Painting Tutorial Watercolor Painting demonstration

To purchase Sailboat Painting Tutorial original watercolor painting, please click!

Sailboat Painting Tutorial Final Watercolor Painting!

I did a bit of refining with this painting at the end. I toned the edge of the tree line down so it wasn't so harsh. I also made it a lot taller. I played with details and fussed a bit, but eventually I had to slap my hand and stop.

I thought about making it the slight gray day like the photo, but this is one time the photo is off. In my memory, it was a bright sparkling summer day. So I painted it that way.

I love this painting! It just sparkles with light and that lovely summer day haze over the water. Maybe I'll go sailing next summer...

I hope this inspires you to paint - or to sail. Either is an incredible journey!

Related Art Lessons

Sailboat Painting Tutorial watercolor painting tutorial by Jennifer Branch

comments powered by Disqus