How to Draw Sea Foam

How to Draw Sea Foam
How to Draw Sea Foam

Drawing in pencil has an advantage with certain organic shapes we see in nature. Learning how to draw seafoam isn't as difficult as you think it might be. Here is how you can get this effect when drawing waves that are frothing-up from the surf.

How To Draw Sea Foam in Pencil

The ocean is a powerful source of endless energy that comes from crashing waves. These waves are carried across the ocean through winds and random weather patterns. As the waves are often minimal (far off the coast), they gain momentum and are forces to crash at the shore as they reach the shore. This is because the gradual shoreline is shallower than it will be in open waters.

The seawater that hits rocks and is mixed together with sediment will create frothy-looking patterns in the waves. But to draw seafoam is going to require some pointers that will help you get a realistic look.

• Study Real Waves From Pictures

The easiest part of seeing what sea foam looks like in waves is easier when looking at crashing waves' pics. There is no shortage of ocean wave pictures that give you an idea of what this looks like. It essentially looks like a stringy chain-link fence that's loosely floating on the surface of the water. You can use a pencil and a decent eraser to draw in these patterns in crashing breakers or sea swells.

• Use a White Pencil for Good Highlights

To enhance any pencil drawing, you should use a white pencil that gives you more power to make your foam appear dimensional. As if you're drawing a cloud, there will be a shadow point that shows up on froth and seafoam. You can further add glistening high spots that make your foam look like reflecting bubbles. A white pencil is also good at creating the unmistakable sea mist that hangs above crashing breakers.

How to Draw Waves on the Beach

How to Draw Waves and Sea Foam
How to Draw Waves and Sea Foam

After a wave crashes at the shore, it starts to get very foamy and frothy. If the condition is very harsh, such as crashing on rocks, this froth will stick around for a while. Some sections even have large masses of foam that are whipped up like choppy-looking whipped cream. Depending on how you want to compose a crashing wave, seafoam's element can help see the idea of movement too.

• Getting the Chain-Link Effect

Long ago, when I started to paint organic skin, I learned a lesson while trying to copy an organic animal mottle. My supervisor on the job notices the mottling was looking too ‘chain-link,' which didn't fit that animal's nature. But the concept would have worked perfectly for ocean waves instead. The secret lies with drawing loose sections of long lines that have opposing cross-hatching. This is why it ends up looking like a chain-link fence.

If you are using a pencil, these lines need to be outlined to stand out better. The edges shouldn't be hard since it's seafoam. Ensure all your cross-link-looking shapes are randomly spaced, so it doesn't look connected to each foamy strand.

• Softening Edges Using a Blending Stump

The chain-link-looking sections often appear on the crest of a curling wave or on the top of approaching waves will need some softening. You can use a blending stump to buffer the edges and eventually an eraser if you add shadow inside the wave itself. After this, it's a matter of tweaking these seafoam masses with bits of white pencil highlight. The trick is to give your foamy water appear to have a faint shadow.

• Drawing Bubbles and Sea Foam

Bubbles are easy to draw since these are series of spots that are like drawing clouds. Don't draw circles since this will look silly and childish. Just stick to smaller concentrated white spots that join together to form a mass. Using a white pencil, you can also do light doodles with random patterns to build-up the desired shape. Patterns can be added to the base of a crashing wave with little bits of white spots flying upward to represent splashing foam.

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How to Draw Waves and Sea Foam

Waves all follow a curved tube that begins at the base of the incoming water and curls over. There isn't much to them except the angle you see the waveform. This is related to perspective and will make all the difference if you are looking over a seaside cliff or on the beach directly. Which side of the wave you are standing on matters too, so this also determines an incoming wave's angle curve.

• Determine the Curve of a Wave

Is the wave being viewed from the left or right side will add appeal but certainly needs perspective to make it look correct. Use reference pictures for the type of wave you want to make. After this, you can create curved lines to represent the curl of a wave. Which end of the sea is crashing on the shore or not. Every wave has a gravity effect that looks better if you show the wave is still in motion.

One portion of the wave should still be cresting while the other end might have already cashed onto the shore. Just like telling a story, you need to let your viewer know this wave is doing something.

• Add Your Sea Foam

The curved lines of your wave play an important part in adding the seafoam into the water. Use these curved lines to plot out where stringy-looking foam is seen and bend them, so it bends in the same direction as your curling wave. It will be better to add a darker shadow at the base of your wave, with the top crest lighter. Shade carefully around your foam patterns and use the blending stump as needed.

When you are done, you can then go back and add a white highlight pencil to make your foam and crashing wave spray stand out.

Final Word

If you don't live anywhere near the ocean, your best bet is to study photographs on the internet. There are many stock photo reference sites you can collect ideas from. Copy and save these pictures on your computer or whatever wave looks interesting. These will come in handy later for drawing your waves and seafoam.


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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How to Draw Sea Foam