Ocean Animals

Harbor Seals


Two harbor seals, watercolor painting by Katrina Pete

Two harbor seals, watercolor painting by Katrina Pete


‘Seal Buddies’

by Katrina Pete

11×14 inch watercolor on cotton rag paper.

This is the first of a series of paintings showcasing the friendships between animals.

View my watercolor process

Here’s a snapshot of my progress and techniques used in my harbor seal watercolor painting. My goal in this painting was to achieve a balance of expressive brush strokes with precise detail, and transparent layers of color and reflection. I forgot to take photos of the early stages, as I was having such a good time painting!  Hopefully, my descriptions will help illustrate my process.

My Toolbox

  • Blick Studio Natural round #12 brush, Windsor & Newton Round sable #3 & 4, and sable synthetic round #5
  • Van Gogh 12 color traveling artists palette using Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre
  • HWC Holbein Artist’s watercolors in Davy’s Grey and Lavender, Sennelier Cerulean Blue, and Greenish Umber.
  • Arches 100% cotton cold pressed watercolor paper


How to Paint Fur with Watercolor

I used the ‘wet in wet’ watercolor technique to paint the soft and subtle spots of the seal’s fur. The seals are grayish brown and white, but their fur reflects the colors of the sea and ice around them. Since Harbor Seals live in northern Arctic waters, I used hints of lavender and cerulean blue to showcase the beautiful colors of their habitat.


Painting whiskers

I used masking fluid to paint the whiskers of the two seals. While the paper was dry, I applied thin lines with a toothpick. After the final layer is dry, I peeled them off with an eraser and realized they were too stark white. I applied a transparent layer of yellow ochre over some of the white whiskers and a bit of cerulean blue in the shadows to make them blend in harmony with the rest of the painting.


Painting Eyes in Watercolor

Painting eyes is the most difficult part of the painting for me, so I often save it for last. I start with layers of color. I believe the best watercolor eyes include a combination of many watercolor techniques including hard and soft lines, layers of color and contrast to show reflections, and transparency. While the paint is still wet, I gently blot some of the pigment out of the center of the eye to create a transparent effect.

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