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Article: Painting realistic water

Painting realistic water

Painting realistic water

Water can be a difficult element to paint, finding the right technique to create true translucency, mirror like reflections and crystalline clarity can be tricky! Have you ever wondered how I achieve this in my paintings?

Over the 28 years I've been a professional artist, I've developed techniques to capture the very essence of water in my paintings, I find the alluring qualities mesmerizing!

Traditionally, I use a wide selection of brushes to achieve the desired effects at
different stages of my paintings. 


The professional brush set is available to purchase through this link it includes all the brushes you will need.

Once the grid has been applied to the reference image and to the surface I am painting onto, I then sketch the outlines including tree reflections and any other features ready to block-in using mid tones. Apply the block-in, making sure the paint is as smooth as possible, and using the least amount of brush strokes with a large flat brush for even coverage, this provides a good base.

Start by adding a slightly darker glaze with paint and liquin, working on the darker areas with a very thin layer gives the undercoat a more transparent look. It's important to use thicker paint when adding the lighter sky reflections to help with coverage, especially when working towards the edges of the darker areas.  It helps to add a bit of liquin to the paint, when painting the lighter tones into the edges of the darker areas. Thinning the paint helps to create the fine details of the ripples using a Rigger brush.

Expressing movement in water may seem tricky but with the right techniques, you can create perfect ripples! Watch my tutorial here.

You can see my YouTube video time lapse below

Reflections in water play an important part in creating a naturalistic look in my paintings, not just reflections of the sky but also surrounding elements.  When painting a river scene for example, there are also reflections of the tress and grasses along the riverbank.

To achieve this mirror effect it's important to create the perfect base by using a wide brush and vertical brushstrokes to create a smooth surface, mimicking the colours of the trees whilst adding darker tones to reflect depth and shadow. 'How To Paint A River' tutorial is available on my Art school website here


Where the riverbed is visible there is an element of translucency, these areas require a change in texture and tones, adding Galkyd to the paint at this stage will thin it enough to give the water that transparent feel. 

'Lake Reflections' tutorial is available on my Art school website here.

Adding texture can be tricky! The Comber brush is great for adding fine details of grass and tree reflections on the water I also use it to add texture to the surface of the water prior to adding ripples too.





The Rigger brush is perfect for adding fine details, when working on ripples, reeds and other delicate details. 





To create the frothy effect of crashing waves on the beach, rushing rivers or cascading waterfalls the fan brush is the perfect tool.  By using the very tip and keeping the brush dry with very little paint, you can create a very fine effervescent texture.




You can view my lessons varying from beginner to advanced here, to help you on your way to painting realistic water!

Why don’t you give this a try, it may seem daunting, but with the right equipment and techniques your painting will definitely improve!

You can buy my brushes here

Happy Painting!

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