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How to Paint Water and Reflections

How to Paint Water and Reflections

Free Painting Lessons for Beginners

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Easy to Follow – Step by Step Tuition.Paint in oil paint or acrylic paint.
With this very simple and straight forward method you will learn how to paint water and reflections that look like glass.
There are a few rules that must be followed
Let’s say you are painting water which is on a fine day with blue sky above.

Paint water to look like a mirror

Paint-reflections-straight-towards-youPaint the water in before you paint the banks.
Undercoat the whole water area with white. While your white undercoat is still wet blend your blue into the white from the bottom up.
This is the reflection of the sky dark blue at the bottom and white in the distance. (your banks and reflections will be painted over the white to blue water). Keep a large area of water in the distance ‘pure white’ this is important. The reflections can then be placed over wet or dry paint.
Copy items on the bank, upside down in the water below (reflections come straight down).

No need to copy the items exactly, just have similar items, then with a wide soft brush and while the paint is still wet brush over all the reflections once, straight down, smudging them. The banks can now be painted in place. Have a dark line at the water’s edge but only on the banks that are across the water from you. White ripples may be placed horizontally over the waterpaint-river these can be close together in the distance and apart when close. A short tutorial video showing how to paint water and reflections in acrylic or oils. This short video is one of three lessons on the FREE DOWNLOAD
Remember when painting anything that comes towards you, it gets bigger or wider as it comes near, so your river might be 1 inch wide in the distance and 12 inches wide in the foreground Try not to curve a river bank towards you this will cause your water to appear to be running up hill. A zig-zaged bank if a better effect.
Complete training DVDs are available at SHOP

Go to – List of free painting lessons

by Len Hend

Updated: February 27, 2015 — 3:17 pm


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  1. Dear Len, first of all, thanks a lot for your dedication in helping us, beginning artists – I am just starting in acrylic painting in my 54 and enjoy it. And your tips, videos and advises are a great help to learn. If you let me ask, I got two questions:
    1) You wrote above “Keep a large area of water in the distance ‘pure white’ this is important…” Why? Since you cover that area anyhow with dark grey & green shade of reflections, so why is that pure white area?
    2) Do you think that the same water reflections can be done using acrylics? I am especially concerned about smudging effect that I still can not make happen after 3 attempts… I even tried Liquitex Slow-Dri Blending Medium yesterday but it did not work for me either as paints got sticky and I could not soften the reflection edges as you do in your videos.

    Thanks a lot!
    Chicago, USA

    1. Hi Oleg
      The white in the distant water is to give a 3dimensional look – it looks further away – it looks like a reflection of a distant sky.
      We do not always end up with much white in the distant water but it is wise to always try for it.
      The reflections are done wet-on-wet therefore with acrylic you need to work very quickly in that area and sometimes re-do the white to dark water before dragging the reflections down.
      I have not used Liquitex Slow-Dri Blending Medium or similar so no comment.
      The canvas needs to be the proper primed before you buy it type for best results.

  2. Hi Len,
    thank you so much for sharing your vast knowledge. I just love painting. I am very much a learner. You have helped me to try harder. I find it great therapy and fun to give to friends & family.

  3. Hi Len!
    I have not started painting yet. Been thinking about it for some years and today I bought some supplies.
    I have to pick up a couple of more brushes like the ones you use, the fan brush and the 1/2″ and 1″ house paint brush and I think I am going to give it a go and that would be because of how well you instruct.
    Thank you for putting these lessons together and I will keep watching and learning.
    My youngest son got married and I want to give him and his wife a painting for their home. So I must practice.
    What other material than canvas can I use to practice on and will acrylic paint suffice?

    1. Acrylic paint is fine to start learning the skills of using the brush etc.
      You can splash around on any sealed surface – old cupboard backing is a favourite, coated with acrylic under coat.
      remember you will learn by your mistakes
      Good luck and enjoy

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