How to Draw Water With Colored Pencils: Tips and Tricks

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Water is one of nature’s most majestic elements. From the waves crashing into rocks, the soft rippling of a stream, and gigantic waves during a storm, water creates many scenic sites. The endless variations and scenarios make water and water bodies an intriguing drawing subject.

That said, drawing water is a tricky undertaking in that it’s continually changing and always in motion. Capturing some of these factors can prove to be a tad difficult for beginners but gets easier with direction and practice. Read on to learn how to draw water with colored pencils.

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Colored pencils lend themselves to drawing water because you can layer them as thinly or as thickly as you need to create the desired effect. Coupling coloring pencils with the best drawing paper gets you excellent results.

Drawing Water with Colored Pencils

What You’ll Need:

  • A set of blue and green colored pencils
  • An eraser
  1. Color the Water Surface

The first step is creating a light layer of horizontal blue color across the page. It’s essential that you use a bright blue color as the first layer then apply darker shades later on.

  1. Create the Reflection

Leave a small channel of lighter color in the middle where the moon or the sun will be reflecting against the water. That will divide your drawing into two halves. Shade each half separately but ensure the shading is consistent on both sides. Keep shading until you’ve built enough tone on the paper.

  1. Draw the Horizon

The horizon is usually the darkest part of a water drawing. Therefore, you need to create darker shades towards the back of the picture, i.e., towards the horizon where the water meets the sky. Angle the pencil and use short horizontal strokes to shade this area and progressively build darker shades of blue.

A water drawing is darkest at the horizon and brightest in the reflection, which is towards the center where the sun or the moon hits the water. That makes the front part of the drawing brighter than the areas towards the back.

  1. Create the Waves

Drawing the waves entails creating a set of two or three horizontal lines running across the page that curve up towards the edges. For this step, you’ll need a vinyl eraser. Rub the eraser across the page in a straight line that curves up on either end. In essence, creating the waves entails removing some of the tones that you’d painstakingly layered up. Curving up the lines simulates the shapes that result when a wave breaks on the surface.

  1. Layer the Colors

Now you can start going heavier on the blue color to give the water a realistic feel. Medium blue tones are perfect for this step as they are in the right shade of ocean blue. Be sure to shade around the swathes of white that you created with the eraser. Use the blue colored pencils to define the waves. Be sure to capture the foam and bubbles that result when the waves crash against the sand as well as the sprays. At this point, the picture’s tone is probably a little bit too even.

  1. Refine the Horizon

Fill the background with a darker shade of blue such as indigo blue, making sure the horizon remains the darkest part of the drawing. Use shades of green to enhance the contrast, especially in the front parts of the picture. Be sure to refine the definition of the waves, sprays, and bubbles.

  1. Polish the Waves

Use the eraser to go over the center of the diagram, the one where the sun hits the water. That brings back a little more light to the area, making the reflection a little bit more pronounced. It also helps to blend the tones.

Go over the drawing with a white pencil to blend the white color into the blank spaces and over the layers in the different shades of blue and green. Use dark blue and green pencils to shade the area under the breaking waves to give the illusion of a solid mass that is rolling in the water.

You can achieve this effect with short diagonal lines inside your shading to give the drawing a dramatic effect.

Additional Water Drawing Tips

Water occurs in many different states that fall into two broad categories – calm or turbulent water. Reflection is a crucial part of a water drawing, and it changes depending on the state of the water. Realistic water drawings carry reflections that relate to the state of water. Looking at the edge sharpness is the easiest way to determine the state of water. Reflection edges in water are hazy and distorted while the borders in calm water are well defined.

Basic Water Strokes

Simple wavy, non-overlapping lines can depict water ripples in a relatively calm water body. They represent the gentle ripples that occur when a gentle wind is sweeping over a water body. The wavy lines in turbulent waters tend to overlap and feature sharp peaks. The peaks feature a darker shade of color to show turbulence.

Reflection in Calm Water

Vertical lines are an effective way to draw reflection in still water. Just be sure to keep the edges clean and match the reflection’s shape and size to the object. Matching the reflection to the object makes the drawing more believable.

Defining Water Edges

When drawing water edges, such as a riverbank, keep the water in the foreground. Draw the top end of the riverbank, then the bottom edge, and have the bottom edge tapering towards the side of the paper. Keep the shape of the river edge irregular to mimic real river banks. Shade between the upper and lower lines to create the river bank. Adding reflection and water strokes convey the presence of water.

Essential Considerations When Drawing Reflections

  1. The size of an object’s reflection is proportional to its distance from the water body.
  2. The angle of the object needs to be captured accurately. You don’t need to capture the exact angle, but at least get the direction right.
  3. A reflection’s visibility decreases with water clarity and an object’s height. Considerations are darkest at the base of an object and growing lighter to the point of being indiscernible as climb higher. Ticks and small dots are an excellent way to convey this change.

Learning how to draw water with colored pencils may include a little bit of a learning curve. However, once you’ve mastered the basics, you’re on your way to creating a range of water masterpieces. Having a trusted set of colored pencils greatly helps your results as well as the learning process.

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