Skip navigation

Splashing wave


I have painted this wave once before on masa paper here. This time I wanted to try something a little different. I had read in a book titled “Terry’s Top Tips for Watercolour Artists” (by Terry Harrison) that he sometimes uses a sponge to create the white foam on the tops of waves or I think they are sometimes referred to as whitecaps.

I have outlined how to use liquid frisket with a brush in another post here. Using the frisket with a sponge is much the same.



Left to right are my frisket supplies. Frisket can be referred to as masking fluid or drawing gum, also. On the left is my rubber pick up. This is used after your painting has dried and you need to remove the frisket to expose the white of the paper. You do so by carefully rubbing this across the surface. It removes the frisket much like an eraser.  I have two kinds of frisket in the photo. The incredible white mask is pretty thick and I only use that when I am not too concerned about exactness, like for splattering and such. The other is Pebeo Drawing Gum. This is my favorite. I like it because it is runnier and easier to work with when using it for tiny areas that need more detail. Next is a small jar of brush cleaning soap and last is my frisket brush.



Above are examples of some of the sponges I have used. When I purchase sponges, I try to look for new shapes to add to my collection so I get a variety. The large one in the center top is the one I chose for this painting. I tested several on scrap paper to see which one would be best suited for what I needed for the white shapes on the wave.



I began by drawing a guideline or two for the rock shapes on my watercolor paper (140 lb  Arches Rough). I then prepared my sponge by dipping it in water and allowing it to become soggy. I squeezed out as much of the water as I could. This makes the sponge “thirsty and ready to work. I spritzed some water onto my soap dish and dipped my damp sponge in that first. This makes the outer surface of your sponge shapes a little slippery and will help you get the frisket off when the time comes to rinse. I then dipped my sponge in a puddle of frisket that I poured into an old dish (small to not waste the frisket). I began dabbing the frisket on the contours of the wave, emulating what I saw in my reference photo. I am very careful to rinse and repeat these steps so the frisket never begins to dry on my sponge. I used the sponge for some of the foamy water in the foreground, also. I  immediately rinsed my sponge out when I finished so the frisket did not dry in it. I have read about a landscape artist who allows the frisket to build up on sponges and old brushes and he re-uses them. He gets some very interesting textural effects with these.  I used my brush and more frisket in the foreground to paint in some of the lines and roiling shapes I saw there. Before continuing, I wait for the frisket to dry.



Next, I chose several blues and painted the sky and the shadow shapes in the waves and allowed that to dry.



I  mixed a darker blue for the ocean behind the wave and painted it in very wet. Note the lighter areas around the wave that look kind of foggy. Prior to the dark blue wash drying, I dabbed around the top of the wave with a tissue (non-lotion tissue) and softened the edges of these foggy shapes. I painted in the dark rocky forms with dark earth-tones.  I allowed the painting to dry again.


I removed all the frisket ; rubbing the surface with the rubber pick up.

Splashing wave

I finished by darkening some of the blues in the foreground and in the darkest areas of the wave. I splattered the top of the wave using a small #4 round and white gouache.

Thank you to wet canvas for the reference photo for this.


  1. Beautiful!

  2. Brilliant Leslie!

  3. This is beautiful Leslie. Thank you for taking us through the process -you make it look so easy to achieve such wonderful movement.

    • Thank you, Nicola. I never even considered using a sponge for texture with frisket but it works really well.

  4. Wonderful! My last bottle of gum dried to a ‘gloop’…I am now inspired to get some more. Thanks.

    • If you still have that bottle? Shake it vigorously a few times and see if it mixes up again. I order three bottles at a time because it is cheaper that way and one of mine appeared to dry up by the time I got to it. I shook it and it was good as new. You just need to wait til the bubbles, from shaking calm down a bit. If the lid was not air tight, however, I don’t think any amount of shaking would save it. Thank you for your comment, designsweet. Glad to see you are back to painting.

      • Haha! I tried shaking it but it ended up disgorging as a slimy slug!

      • Whoops! 🙂 Yep. I think your bottle is done for.

  5. Love it!

  6. Great painting Laslie. I have painted similar sea waves painting recently in acrylics I probably could used the same technique. Mind you with the acrylics I painted over as you did with the gouache here. Thanks for showing the process.

    • Yes. I think frisket can be used with many media, even pencil and ink! Thank you, Doron!

  7. Outstanding results Leslie! I am going to have to try using a sponge the next time I am tackling foam and spray on waves!! Thank you for sharing.

    • You are welcome, Susan. Remember to soften and lighten around the top of a crashing wave with a tissue, too. I think the sponge texturing was the key but the misty look had to be enhanced with tissue. …have fun with it. No two waves will ever look alike again. Ha! Thank you for your comment, Susan!

  8. Wow, awesome energy obtained in this scene Leslie!

  9. Very nice, Leslie. I find water to be very intimidating. I will have to try the thinner brand of frisket sometim. I never have had much skill using it well. that, and I end up ruining the brush as well.

    • Me too. Water can be so elusive. Skies can be the same way. I try anything new with both of them. Frisket does take some practice and some artists don’t like using it just because, after removal, they have to go back to work and soften edges and paint through some of it again. It is a more time consuming technique, but for some subjects, well worth the time spent. Thank you, Ruth!

  10. This is a beautiful and dramatic painting. I can feel the spray of the waves! I love the process/progress photos you posted. Thanks.

    • Thank you, Carol. I just wish I had painted this huge! I stayed smaller because of trying a new technique.

  11. Great instructional Leslie. And the results are beautiful. I have never used ‘Pebeo’ before so I will have to try it. I do use the masque pen which delivers fine results. The clean up is laborious.

    • Isn’t the masque pen Pebeo? I have some students who use that and like it really well. The fluid that comes out of their pens looks as thin as the pebeo that I use. I just have not needed the pen because I am able to get similar results with a fine brush. Thank you for this comment!

      • I don’t believe so. The very fine pen that I use….’masque’ comes from the UK. One must treat it like a surgical instrument and even then the mask tends to build up in the chambers.

      • Thank you for your info on this. I went in search and found one that talked about what you are saying. I see that there would have to be a cleaning of these pens to insure they don’t become clogged.

  12. Waves are so incredibly difficult to paint. Yours is beautiful. Thank you for this very valuable lesson!

    • Thank you, Linda. I’m still working on water. I agree that it is one of the most difficult things to paint, especially if the painting is all about the water.

  13. Yet another great painting and very clear tutorial Leslie – can almost hear the waves crashing against the rocks.

One Trackback/Pingback

  1. By At the Pool and a Basket Vendor | Leslie White on 08 Oct 2017 at 11:16 am

    […] people enjoying a hot summer day poolside. No special technique was used with this painting. I did liquid frisket some of the small design areas on the bathing suits and some of the bolts on the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: