How to make water look realistic with paint


Depicting water in a painting is one of the most challenging feats to achieve, especially for beginners. To show water in the painting, illustrations of the object above the water surface is often showed inverted and sometimes this object is not in alignment with its reflection. In some other cases water gets to be the harsh blue or grey slate of a portion in the painting, with suggestions of waves along the surface. Such mistakes should be avoided.

Let’s begin with some of the most common mistakes that are made while painting water. Taking a lake painting for example, the following are the mistakes made during a lake painting that fail to convince the viewer:
• Simply picking up blue or grey paint and painting a vast surface area in that colour to show the lake won’t work.
• Using the same shade of a colour and brush mark, painting waves of the same size all over the surface of the water will not look realistic.
• Showcasing the water to have a definitive edge will not resemble the slight curvature of the horizon.
• To paint the whole water body in the same tonal value without regarding the surrounding weather conditions will leave your painting incomplete.
• Not painting the reflections correctly aligned with the subjects above the surface of the water will look immature.

Water is undoubtedly a complex subject matter to paint. So be sure to keep in mind that when you get to painting lakes, seas or rivers, water adheres to certain rules.

Now that we have covered ground on the kind of mistakes you should avoid, here some ground rules that need to be followed for painting reflections on the surface of water:
• Keep in mind that whenever there is an object above the surface of the water, it will always appear exactly under it in the water.
• Regardless of what the shape of the object may be, it’s reflection will always appear vertical in the water.
• The colour of the reflected object will often be a shade or two darker than the object that is causing that reflection.
• Ripples, waves and other disturbances on the surface of the water will appear smaller, flatter and more regimented from a distance.
• On a calm day with a uniform sky, if the light is behind the viewer, then the tones and colours of the water will appear more muted and pale from a distance.

Here are some tips to help you achieve the same:
• When you finish outlining the reflection in your painting, turn the painting upside down to make sure that the reflection is appearing directly below the object whose reflection it is.
• Don’t exclude any colour from your palette when it comes to painting water. As long as it can be perceived in water, you can use it.
• It may be tempting to show every wave and ripple in the painting, but it is wise to resist it. Soften any sharp edges of the waves with a brush.
• Blending is an important part of depicting water. Use a wide brush and work your magic.
• If you are not satisfied with the final output, add some oil paint to give the water a glaze.
• To increase the sharpness of the water, add a bit of blue and green to illustrate the surface of the water on a clear day.

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