The Colors of Tropical Water

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As the cold winds of winter keep us indoors and bundled up, the images of a tropical island and warm, sandy beaches warm the soul.

That image gives us the promise that the fierce and frigid jaws of winter will eventually release us to gentle spring breezes and bare toes once again.

When you imagine those bucolic beaches, the gentle waves lapping at the shore and the wide expanse of warm, inviting water, what colors do you see? The colors of water in the tropics are soft and range from aqua and turquoise to colors in the green family. They’re much warmer in tone than the cool shades of water in temperate zones.

True Blue Hues

If there’s a beautiful blue sky overhead, the colors of the sea reflect it like a mirror. Lush blues such as Cerulean Blue and Cerulean Blue Deep are good choices for wide expanses of a shallow ocean.

Cerulean Blue

Cerulean Blue Deep

When you’re painting wide-angle images of open sea, you may choose Azure Blue, Cobalt or Cyan Blue, which are cooler shades that illustrate waters with greater depth.

Azure Blue


Cyan Blue

As you may have noticed, Ultramarine Blue, Anthraquinone Blue, Prussian Blue and Indigo are not part of this color palette. While very lovely and intense, these blues are just too cold for the expressing the warm waters of the tropics. Save those colors for painting your rendition of Peary’s expedition to the North Pole.

Ultramarine Blue

Anthraquinone Blue

Prussian Blue


Turquoise And Aqua Hues

Since we’re avoiding cold, harsh blues, the turquoise and aqua color family is a good choice for your Caribbean hideaway. The waters are rich with colors and variations as the waves roll and crash. The movement of the clouds and the angle of the sunlight add variety to the local color as you watch the seas dance and sway in continual motion.

Combinations of Cobalt Blue Turquoise, Cobalt Turquoise Light, Manganese Blue and Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) all are contenders for creating the waters around the islands of the tropics. The depth of the water is typically not so great to require the intense blue colors associated with the deep sea, so the turquoise and aquamarine colors play perfectly against the soft colors of the beach and the lush, green foliage that hugs the shoreline.

Cobalt Blue Turquoise

Cobalt Turquoise Light

Manganese Blue

Phthalo Blue

Green Hues

Green colors are not exactly what one first imagines when thinking of water colors, but in the tropics, greens abound. The shallow waters of coves and inlets are often soft shades of greens that vary from pale, emerald greens to soft turquoise greens.

Your palette may contain Cobalt Green, Emerald Green and Phthalo Green (Blue Shade) to capture the essence of these shallow waters. If the sunlight is bright, these colors may look almost artificial in their intensity, while an overcast sky will grey them considerably.

Cobalt Green

Emerald Green

Phthalo Green

If you’re fantasizing of a tropical paradise and decide to take brush in hand to bring that daydream closer, pick a palette that features soft and luminous blues, greens and turquoise. The colors will warm you and help keep your teeth from chattering until spring breaks and your fingers and toes thaw.

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