If you’re new to making art, then trying to work out how to draw and/or paint realistic-looking water can be somewhat confusing.
Although I’m still learning the finer points of how to draw and paint realistic water myself, I’ve learnt a few things over the past three years or so which might come in handy.
So, without further ado, let’s get started:
1) The colour of water: This sounds like a fairly simple thing. After all water is supposed to be blue – right? Wrong.
Water is, as you probably know, completely transparent and colourless. What this means is that the water in your painting or drawing should be approximately the same colour as the things above it and/or whatever it is being contained in.
So, for example, if you’re painting the sea – then it should be roughly the same colour as the sky in your painting. If you’re painting the sea during the day, then this means that it should be blue/green.
If you’re painting the sea during the sunset, then it should be orange/red/yellow/black and, if you’re painting the sea at night, then your water should be black/dark blue/ purple.
Making oceans, rives, lakes and seas a totally different colour to the sky is a beginners’ mistake and it’s one I’ve made more than a few times in my own art. But it can be easily avoided if you remember this simple rule.
Likewise, if – for example- you’re painting a red bucket full of water, then the water should be a slightly lighter shade of red than the bucket – perhaps mixed with a small amount of whatever colour the things above the bucket are.
2) Distortions: Because light passes through water at a slower rate than it does through air, everything underwater will appear slightly distorted. This is basic secondary school science, so how is it relevant to us as artists?
Well, one of the easiest ways to show that something is underwater is to draw it using slightly wavy lines rather than with straight lines. Likewise, a good way of showing that something is partially underwater is to draw the lower half of it using slightly wavy lines. In case this is confusing, here’s a picture of what I’m talking about:
Whilst you can use distortions alone to show the presence of water, it can sometimes also be useful to draw a few wavy horizontal lines on the surface of the water (like in the example) to make it clear to your audience that they’re looking at water.
This technique also only really works for clear water – if your water is muddy or is extremely deep, then you should only do this for a small part of the objects very close to the surface and to make objects that are far deeper either completely invisble or nothing more than a dark silhouette (using a darker version of whatever colour you are using for your water). Like this:
3) Very basic reflections of the sun and/or moon: I can’t really offer any advanced tips about how to draw and/or paint realistic reflections in water, because I’m still learning how to do this. However, I can teach you one basic thing that will come in handy if you’re drawing the sea during the day and/or night.
In short, if the sun or the moon is above the sea, then you need to draw two wavy lines in pencil on the water directly below it – the space between these lines should be lighter than the rest of the water. In case this was confusing, here’s a small diagram to show you what I mean:
4) Slightly realistic rain: Rain is fairly easy to draw, right? All you need to draw is lots of short diagonal lines across your painting or drawing and it looks like it’s raining, right?
Well, yes. But, if you do this, then it will just look like there’s a very unrealistic two-dimentional sheet of rain falling in front of your picture.
If you want to make your rain look more realistic and three-dimensional, then you have to make some of the lines longer and thicker (so that they look like they’re closer to the front of the picture) and some of the lines shorter and thinner (so that they look like their further away).
It’s as simple as that, and it should look something like this:
Anyway, I hope that this was useful :)