Paint and Ocean Scene


• Watercolor paper (1/2 sheet) attached to cardboard with tape (Practice page)

• Watercolor paper (full sheet) attached to cardboard with tape (Final piece)

• Watercolor paper (1/2 – 1 full sheet; no cardboard) for fish paintings

• Water in containers

• Paints: Blue and green

• Large flat brush for painting background

• Small round brush for painting fish

• Fish samples to copy

• Palettes

• Scissors

• Paper towels

• Old toothbrush


• Spatter

• Wet on wet

In this lesson, we’re going to create an “Under the Sea” painting using the wet on wet and spatter techniques. Teachers may use one class time for creating the ocean background and the second class for painting the sea creatures.

The wet on wet technique involves placing wet paint on a wet surface. We’ll use the wet on wet technique to create our watery background.

Before you begin working with the wet on wet technique, be sure the colors you need (in this lesson, GREEN and BLUE) are on your palette so you are ready to paint immediately after wetting the paper. If this technique is new to you or your students, try it out on a small practice paper. It’s good practice, and the students will feel more comfortable with the technique when creating their finished painting.


1. On your small practice sheet (1/2 page), “paint” the entire piece of paper with clean water using a large flat brush.

2. Before the water on the paper dries, load your brush with water and dip it into a color on your palette. With watery paint on your brush, create strokes of color on the paper. You can paint the whole paper with one color, then add another on top of it while it is still wet, or you can add different colors to the empty places on the paper. Either way, before the water on the paper and the first color dries, paint the second color. The paints will readily spread and blend with each other.

3. To add “bubbles” to your practice sheet, dip your old toothbrush into the water, tapping off some of the excess. Next, hold the toothbrush over your painting in one hand while tapping on the handle of the brush with a pencil in your other hand. Small drops of water will spatter on your paper, and if your background is still wet, some of the paint will move out of the way to create a bubble type effect. You can also try spattering some blue or green paint on your background. Remember, this is just a practice page.


1. Before beginning your final painting, decide which way you are going to paint your background – with a second color on top of the first color or with dabs of different colors. Make sure you have enough blue and green paint on your palette. You may want to take a little of each of these colors and make a new “watery” color to use as well.

2. With a large flat brush, “paint” the entire paper with clean WATER. You must work quickly, as the water will dry quickly, and we need a wet piece of paper to achieve this effect. Next, dip your brush into the water and then into the paint, making the paint very watery as you did when creating a wash. Apply the color to your paper with horizontal stokes or in patches of color while everything is still wet. When the colors meet, they will run together, and because the paper is wet they spread more freely. The ocean is always moving, so try out different strokes and shapes as you paint. Remember, though, you must paint QUICKLY, before the paper dries.

3. Before your background dries, let’s add the “bubbles” to your water. Remember, to do this, dip your old toothbrush into the water and tap off some of the excess. Hold the toothbrush over your painting in one hand and tap on the handle of the brush with a pencil in your other hand. You can also spatter blue or green paint onto your background.

4. While you are waiting for your background to dry, create the fish that will swim in your sea. Using the reference photos below, draw the fish with a pencil on the second piece of watercolor paper (not attached to the cardboard). When you are satisfied with your drawings, use the watercolor paints to color them in. You can color them like the fish in your reference photo, or you can paint them in your own color combination.

Your fish may look something like these:

5. With your background now dry and your fish complete, cut them out with a pair of scissors. Decide where in your picture your want them to go. They may be swimming the same direction, opposite directions, or they could overlap each other. Glue them to your painting with a glue stick – I like to use glue sticks instead of white glue when working with paper, since the paper is repositionable and the glue doesn’t make the paper buckle.

Painting by Lillie, age 7

Great job! Your undersea painting is complete! Don’t forget to sign your work!

Variations: Include other sea creatures, such as starfish, dolphins, and sea slugs.

If shells are available, they can be glued along the bottom edge of the picture. Shells would need to be glued on with white glue to insure they stay, in which case the glue should dry overnight.

A small thick piece of cardboard can be added to the back of the fish to make them stand out from the background.