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What color is the water Blue and beyond

What color is the water Blue and beyond? When I was taking critical about the watercolor sketch, I would sit at the edge of our waterfront, looking at the lake, striving to know what performs water like water. What color is the water? What are the visual cues? How do we know at a glance, even from a distance, that it is wet? Here are some of my standard guidelines, along with three distinct areas to examine when sketching with water.

Paint the water cold and clear

  • Values ​​are more important than colors when painting with water; water doesn’t have to be blue.
  • The surface of a body of water seeks flatness, and the horizon over a body of water is level.
  • Thoughts are the most significant clue that a cover is open.
  • Reflections of water in the distance; near water, it is more transparent.
  • Waves in the distance appear smaller, closer together, less defined, and more precise than those in the foreground.
  • The far shore of a lake or stream often has a lighter stripe along the shore, separating the foliage from the reflection.
  • Raising a minimum number of horizontal lines with a thirsty brush informs viewers that they see water.


Getting the degrees of brightness or darkness or values ​​correct is more important than matching the colors you see in the water. If the values ​​are accurate, the traces will read as water and can be any color in the spectrum. When working from a color reference photo, convert it to black and white so that you can more easily see the light, medium, and dark values. Follow this up with a quick sketch of value, and you can simplify your painting plan.


The sky is the most significant influence on the color of a body of water. Generally more evident on the horizon, the sky becomes more intense directly overhead. It is reflected in the water in the same way: the clearest in the distance and the darkest near the viewer. If there is bright sunlight, the reflections can be impressive in relatively calm, sunlit waters. If the sky is cloudy, the surface of the water will appear flat and almost white.

Another element determining the water’s color is its transparency; is it crystal clear spring water, or is it opaque with brown delta mud? What about the lower surface of the body of water? Is it sand? Finally, the reflection from the shore influences the apparent color of the water, as in Tufted Puffins II above.

Reflection and shadow

What color is the water

A reflection can be soft or complex depending on the water’s surface, the quality of the light and the distance from the observer. Always point towards the viewer. When it crosses or breaks with horizontal waves, our brain tells us that we see water.

Reflections are usually lighter or darker than reflected objects, and distortion of shapes increases the illusion of moisture and waves. Note that a reflection is not a “spin” of an object; actually, it’s a different view. We can see a part of the bottom that is not visible when looking at the object directly. Meanwhile, the shadows are moving away from the light source. When combined with reflections, the scene can get quite tricky.

About reference photos

Until you develop an excellent working knowledge and artistic vocabulary about water, using reference photographs of different types of water can be very helpful in the painting process. By taking photos to freeze the continuous movement of the waves, you can analyze the structure of reflections and values. Once you gain some understanding and confidence, you can start improvising.

DEMO: Paint the watercolor

The artist’s toolbox

PAINTS: Winsor & Newton aureoline, genuine crazy pink, Antwerp blue, burnt sienna, and aqua green, and Mission cobalt No. 1

SURFACE: bows 140 lbs. cold-pressed paper

BRUSHES: Robert Simmons Sky flow 2-inch; 1-inch Winsor & Newton One Stroke sabre; Loew-Cornell 8050 Mixtique No. 1 rigger; a variety of round sable and synthetic brushes; old or inexpensive brushes to apply masking fluid

OTHERS: Amazing White Mask Liquid Frisket, Gator Board, Staples

Step 1

I transferred my drawing ideas and masked the whites with an Incredible White Mask and an old brush. Then I moistened the paper and, using a large flat brush, mixed in various blues, keeping the lighter blue values ​​on the horizon and the darker turquoise tones in the foreground. Before it dries, I wiped off some cloud shapes with a tissue and sprayed clean water to give it texture.

Step 2

By painting the darkest values ​​in the foreground waves, I observed the full range of values ​​that it would have included.

Step 3

I kept working on all the paint, which prevented me from getting overly intricate details in any area. I took off my mask.

Step 4

The whites in the water in the foreground looked too sharp and bright, so I toned them to a light value and continued working on reflections and ripples in the distance.

Step 5: final

Since the foreground and the distant water looked distinctly different from each other, I glazed those using subtle washes to blend them. I kept adding shadows and details to the pelicans, docks, and background until Top Bird felt complete.

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