How to Draw a Realistic River

Updated July 19, 2017

A picture, sketch or painting of a river will liven any room it is displayed in. The best thing about drawing a river is that you can be as creative as you want. You can draw a gentle river gurgling down the mountain, or you can draw a tempestuous cascading river that people use for thrills, such as white-water rafting down the river.

Draw two wavy lines starting from a point high up on the sheet of paper. The lines should depart from one another as they move downward from right to left corner of the sheet. These lines are the banks of the river that is flowing down the mountain.

Draw a few rocks in the middle of the stream. To give the impression of movement, draw light feathery lines parallel to the banks of the river.

Draw a few large stones on the bank of the river as well. Use your imagination and draw confidently free hand. Whatever shape you give to the rock will look good.

Draw some foliage around the banks of the river to give it a realistic look. To make it look natural, draw curly lines and then fill the outlines with tiny leaflike ovals. Draw a few tall trees as well.

Colour the river, rocks and foliage appropriately. Apply shading to give the picture a 3-D look, and highlight the movement of the water in the river. Draw a few clouds in the sky and colour them grey while the sky should be light blue. Make sure that the blue of the river and the blue of the sky are not the same nuance.

Draw a few birds in the sky. You need not do anything dramatic, just a few V shapes across the sky are enough. On the banks of the river draw green grass among the rocks to add life to the picture.


You will need to practice a few times until you get the picture of the river look natural. The rocks and painting should be placed asymmetrically, just like in reality.

Things You'll Need

  • Pencil
  • Drawing sheet
  • Eraser
  • Colour pencils
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About the Author

Michel Charles has been a writing coach since 2007 and became a copywriter in 2010. He is pursuing a bachelor's degree in social work and creative writing from the University of South Florida.