How to Draw Reflective Water

Skill Level : 1 Beginner, 2 Intermediate

Medium : Pencil Drawing

Subject : Landscapes

Tutor : Nolan Clark

Class Length : 1 hour 34 minutes

Avg Rating : No Ratings Yet

Silver Level Class

Class Description

We all love scenes in nature that have reflective water in them, but how do we draw a scene like this?

In this class I will show you how and in the process you will learn:

1) How to draw a mass of foliage
2) How to get a likeness of the scene without trying to draw every leaf in the correct place
3) How to draw reflective water
4) and much more...

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Discuss This Class


  • PatriciaS


    Mea, you did an awesome job too. Your darks are really dark which I am still struggling with at times but I am getting better.


  • Nolan Clark

    Nolan Clark


    great job MaryAnne, well done :yippee: :yippee: :yippee:

    When you are adding the tree reflections in the water, just remember that the more accurate you reflect the background, the more still the water :afro:

  • mea hamo pena

    mea hamo pena


    OK, here is the finished lesson. Great lesson, Nolan. I really enjoyed this.

    I like yours, Patricia.

    Please let me know if something needs a tweak.



  • PatriciaS


    Thanks Nolan, I always appreciate your encouragement. Patricia

  • Nolan Clark

    Nolan Clark


    you have done a fantastic job Patricia, I can honestly not see anything you need to fix :congrats: :cloud9:

  • PatriciaS


    Another very enjoyable class Nolan for which many thanks. Comments and critiques are always welcomed and valued. Thank you, Patricia

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Short Class Video

Class Tutorial

Drawing the background

establishing the tonal values of the background of the water reflections drawing

I start by plotting out the positions of the basic features using a cloth dipped in graphite powder.

As this draws light and has no hard edges it allows me to reposition and move the features around until I am happy with their placement.

While I have the cloth in hand I also shade in the subtle contrasts in the cloudy sky.

Defining the edges of each feature

defining the edges of each feature

I then use my pen shaped eraser to start defining the edges of each feature. At this stage I am basically drawing in reverse.

What I am looking for are edges.

Where does one row of trees start and another end? Where is the water's edge? Where is the tree in the foreground, and so on...

Drawing the trees in the background

drawing the trees in the background

We can now start drawing the forest in the background.

As I am right handed I will start on the left and gradually make my way towards the right. That way I am working over empty paper so cannot accidentally smudge the drawing.

If you are left handed then I recommend working from right to left.

The trees at the back are very dark so I start off with a 6B pencil.

I establish the silhouette of the tree line first as that is the easiest place to start.

I then gradually fill up the tree mass using a scribbling motion.

I can't just colour in the area despite it being very dark. If we do that it would look flat. Using the scribbling motion adds the texture we need to create the illusion of a mass of trees.

As I build up the mass I gradually press harder and harder to create the impression of tree tops inside the mass.

If you look carefully you will see that I am loosely using the lighter and darker areas on the reference photo to guide me where to go darker.

I am however not being pedantic about it. Nobody is ever going to notice that they are not the same because you won't hang the photo next to the final artwork.

I'm now going to do exactly the same procedure for the rest of the forest.

As I move along I'm concentrating hard on getting the outer silhouette of the trees defined by making sure there is a contrast between the front and back trees.

I'm also concentrating hard to match the overall tonal value in each area as it is the different tonal values that defined the various tree masses.

Notice that as I work I keep my left hand pointing to the area on the reference photo that I am currently drawing.

This helps me not to get lost between the various tree masses.

It also helps me find my place in the drawing quickly.

I find that if you don't do this your proportions and positioning on the drawing gradually becomes less and less accurate until you find yourself in a world of trouble.

You will also notice that when possible I will keep my reference photo parallel or aligned to the drawing. That way I only have to look left to right or up and down as opposed to diagonally. This helps a lot with judging your heights, widths and positions.

Drawing the basic impression of the water

establishing the basic impression of the water

For the water I first lay down a basic impression of the reflections using the graphite dipped cloth.

As before this allows me to roughly plot out where the abstract shapes in the water are as well as the basic positioning of the various tonal values.

Drawing the reeds

drawing the reeds

To draw the reeds along the waters edge I use a 4B chisel point pencil and a short, sharp vertical stabbing motion.

Drawing the reflections on the water

drawing the refelctions on the water

To draw the main body of water I once again use my pen shaped eraser to lift out the lighter areas.

From there I alternate between pencil and eraser to create the correct tonal values at the correct places on the surface of the water.

Notice I am working in mostly vertical strokes. These vertical stroke make our pencil marks look like reflections as opposed to the genuine item.

To really sink the reflections into the water, use your pen shaped eraser to lift out a few horizontal ripples on the water.

I am now pretty close to the tree trunk that is half submerged in the water so I roughly sketch in where I want it to go.

I then continue to lay in the reflections on to the lower part of the water.

Now I use a Q-tip or ear bud, as well as my fingers, to smudge the surface of the water.

The tonal values should roughly blend into each other. This makes the reflections appear even more out of focus which further separate them from the actual trees.

For the tree trunk I roughly scribble in its shape.

To suggest a bark effect I scribble along the length of the tree leaving some of the paper exposed.

Adding more character to the drawing

adding more detail and character to the drawing

To add even more detail and character to the front of the drawing I add a few patches of grass and some smaller branches too.

For each of these I also add their reflections into the water.

As these reflections are close to us we won't soften them like we did in the background.

We will however erase some horizontal ripples to separate them from the real item.

With that our landscape drawing is complete.

Final drawing

final drawing of reflections in the water
We all love scenes in nature that have reflective water in them, but how do we draw a scene like this? In this class I will show you how and in the process you will learn:  1) How to draw a mass of foliage 2) How to get a likeness of the scene without trying to draw every leaf in the correct place 3) How to draw reflective water  To follow the real time draw along version of this class you can visit our website:
Nolan Clark

About Nolan Clark

Nolan Clark has been painting and drawing since 1996. He enjoys working in many mediums and styles, but realism is his favourite. He teaches drawing, painting as well as scratch board classes on the site.
Read more about Nolan Clark

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