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How to Paint the Shape of a Wave

by | Jun 29, 2022 | Art Lessons | 0 comments

Painting waves is definitely a time where knowing the shape of a wave ahead of times helps it all come together.

We think of waves as being a round semi-circle shape, but they are more of an oblong C shape, that is leaning towards the open ocean. How to paint the shape of a wave is a study in how to see what is going on, instead of painting what you think is the truth. Luckily, once you are aware of the shape of a wave, painting one becomes a lot easier!

Notice the shape of the wave above. The curve sharpens as it rises and the wave builds up.

The back of the Wave

Even low waves follow the same shape idea, of a oblong C shape, but notice that the rear of the wave is less sharp of angle. This is going to apply more with low waves, simply because they are lower and easier to see the back side. Either way, there is always more water built up behind the wave, driving it along.


How a Wave Breaks

A wave crests over once the forward and upward momentum isn’t enough to contain the top, and the top of the wave starts to spill over. Then that spill, still following a curve, crashes down into the wave. However, the entire wave hardly ever crests and crashes at the same time. If it does, you may decide to not paint it, because it will look like you didn’t understand the way wave work.


Notice how the crest of the wave is crashing down on the left while still at the top on the right.

In an upcoming post, we will cover the color and values of waves. Happy painting!