You Asked – Paint Realistic Water in Watercolor?

Today’s question comes from Winifred:

“Can anyone tell me how to paint realistic moving water in watercolour?”

Do you have any information that might help Winifred?

Please leave your response in the comments box below.  Thanks!


  1. Gary says

    I found with water colors and doing water scenes if you start with the dark color as a base then using water or an eraser start to lighten up to the break of the water this will give the ripple effect as if wind is blowing or a splash against a solid object. If its a flowing stream remember waves always break at the shore line. Go to a river/creek and watch the waves as they come ashore. You can use graphite to do the same thing. I hope this helps.

  2. says

    there is good watercolor instruction book out there. The Watercolorist’s Essential Notebook by Gordon MacKenzie. He has great demos on all kinds of water, reflections, etc.
    It’s worth the investment.

  3. says

    I start with “Z” strokes in a darker mid tone. I start a bit darker at the top where to water is farthest away. Then change to a mid tone in the middle of the water, and then go to the lightest colour in the forefront, where the water is shallower.
    I go back and forth until the section I am painting in is covered, then lighten the colour a bit and overlap a bit my colour with the previous colour, so you do not see a rigid line of demarcation. Don’t forget that water is flat or straight across not slanted.
    Then I go back and look where the dips and tops of the water and darken the dips and lighten to tops, keeping in mind where the sun will be hitting the water and play special attention to the light reflection streaming on top of the waves. And the dips are darker, but not as much as the surrounding areas where the light just barely hits the top.
    Waves are another story, for you need to create dimension with the darks under the waves, and lighter water colour at the back top of the wave. Then apply the white curve of the ripple and down where the water hits the water again… I stipple a bit of the water colour to create dimension and movement effect in the water splashing. Then at the end I spray with a tooth brush and thin down white paint with a hint of pale yellow, just to give that light reflective effect to the water that spray that goes up from the wave hitting the water.
    Hope this helps.

  4. george parkinson says

    water is not difficult to portray ,one of the ways of showing water is to look through and see pebbles,if you contact me i will send you some samples


  5. says

    Painting water in watercolor. You can use different colors, but I like blues like Anrwerp Blue (by Winsor & Newton, a light blue). I give a demonstration in a short video clip on You Tube titled Ron Ridley Watercolors. I show how to lift color from wet paper using what is known as a thirsty brush (watercolor brush with clean clear water and most of the water remove from the brush with a kitchen paper towel).

    Ron Ridley
    Ridley Art Studio
    Elk Grove, CA – USA

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