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Painting Transparent Water

May 16, 2018
By Richard Robinson
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Painting Transparent Water

Here’s a brief clip from the Chinaman’s Bluff painting lesson.

Many beginner painters see water and assume it’s all blue, or all green, without looking to see what’s really going on.

As the water gets closer to us we see less of the reflection of the sky and we see more easily into the depths of the water, revealing whatever is there. We all know that from experience, but often forget it when it comes to painting water.

The keys to painting transparent water effectively are:

1. Don’t assume you know how water works. LOOK, and look again. Then SQUINT and look. Take your time.

2. Note what the BIG colour changes are in the water from near to far.

3. Paint those BIG areas first.

4. Then paint the details. Note that details like rocks on the bottom will take on the colour of the water around it. The colours are all very similar in any one area. Another way to say that is that the colour contrast is low and gets lower the further away you look.

eg. The rocks under the water in the foreground here are all very greeny-brown and have a low contrast (their lights are not much lighter than their darks). As we look further away the rocks become bluer and the contrast between their lights and darks gets even less noticeable.

Give it a try!

This is just a small snippet from the longer lesson.

Happy Painting,