How to Paint Reflection of the Sky on Water

Written by suzanna hulmes
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How to Paint Reflection of the Sky on Water
Study how the sky is reflected in water in landscape photographs. (water and air image by aylin acar from

Water can be a difficult element to capture realistically in a painting. By taking into consideration a number of factors including the reflections, colour and movement of the water, the artist can achieve a completed image that is more convincing. To create a painting of a water scene, the artist can choose to work on paper or canvas, using watercolour, acrylic or oil paints.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Canvas
  • Pencil
  • Paint
  • Thin-edged paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Sketch a rough plan of the image onto your canvas using a pencil. Create the outlines of the main elements that will make up the image, such as the horizon line where the water will meet the sky, any buildings or trees, and the sun or clouds if you choose to include them. Draw the outlines of any objects, such as trees or buildings, reflected in the water. Break up the reflections by drawing in lines to represent the movement of the water. These could be waves on the sea or circles of ripples to represent the calm water of a lake or pond. Avoid filling in too much detail at this stage.

  2. 2

    Look at a photograph to study the reflections of the sky in water and note the appearance of light. Use this to plan which areas of your painting should be light and which should be dark. Water generally looks darker the closer it is to the person viewing, therefore water in the foreground of the painting should appear darker, while water in the distance should appear lighter.

  3. 3

    Paint in the sky area of the image and any other subjects that you have chosen to include, leaving the area of water blank.

  4. 4

    Mix several shades of a suitable paint colour for the water in your painting. recommends that you use warmer tones to depict shallow water, as this can represent the earth and rocks beneath the water that influence its colour. Lighter shades of turquoise can be used for shallow ocean water. Rivers and streams often have a greener appearance, whereas a deep lake or ocean will often appear green-blue to dark blue.

  5. 5

    Paint the water with the colours you have prepared. Break up any reflections such as clouds or sunbeams by painting streaks of the chosen water tones through them. Do the same with any reflections of other objects such as trees or rocks. Create a realistic affect by using the rules of linear perspective. Achieve this by making the streaks of water that cross the reflections closer together the further into the distance the water is. Create a rough sea by using quick brushstrokes with a thin edged paintbrush to bring paint from darker areas into lighter areas and vice versa.

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