Jan 29, 2012

Water Reflections

Painting reflections in water is a very important aspect of painting realistic water.

Below are some photos I took in Venice, Paris and in Utah. They show a variety of reflections .


The reflection under the bridge is darker.

This shows the red and white poles in water that has slight movment, there is a few ripples so the reflections of the poles are not straight. These were taken from the Gondola I was riding in.

Look at how the building is reflected, there is a slight movment of the water so things looks a bit squiggly. 

See how the light coming off the building in the background is reflected on the water.

This is one of my favorite photos, it is the reflection of the water on the underside of a bridge in the canal.

The red poles reflections are on a slant, opposite of what you see above the water.

The blue poles are straight up and down as the water is very still.

These photos were taken at Fish Lake in UT a few years ago. We were sitting on a boat when I saw the beautiful reflections.

The other reflections are very squiggly as they are where the water was moving more.

Notice how the tree that is leaning is not reflected straight but on the same angle as on the ground.

The tree and the deer are reflected straight up and down, a mirror image, notice the bands of ripples


This was a beautiful little town, I loved how the reflections looked on this quiet water in the towns square.

Still water results in mirror reflections

20 Rules for painting reflections in water

1. Light objects reflect darker and dark objects make a reflection that is lighter.

2. Reflections of objects will be somewhat darker and diminished than objects seen directly.

3. The closer the viewer is, the less reflective the water becomes.

4. Calm water directly below the viewer reflects only faint images while the distant water reflects almost as well as a mirror.

5. The sky reflected on the surface of the water is usually a deeper adaptation of the sky above.

6. In muddy water close to the viewer, the general color of the water itself is seen.

7. In clear water, the rocks and objects under the water are easily seen.

8. The nearer the water is to the viewer, the less it reflects an image of the sky and earth.

9. Water in the distant is usually lighter than the water in the foreground.

10. The reflected sky in water close to you will look more blue-violet and greyer and darker than it does far away.

11. In completely calm weather, reflections will look like a mirror, and the upside down image of the objects will appear in a straight line below the objects themselves and will often appear darker and more muted than the actual object.

12. Where there is a slight breeze, the viewer will see some turbulence.

13.From a distance ripples will flatten our and extend out in wide bands across the water.

14. Speckled light will appear where the sunlight catches the ripples; the speckled light will appear very controlled within these bands.

15. If there is a strong breeze lines of ripples will appear to move in consistent angles in one area as opposed to another.

16. The waves on the water will appear flattened out by distance, but appear to contain varied patterns closer to the viewer.

17. Reflections of objects will be completely uneven and unrecognizable.

18. When the water is choppy the viewer will see that the color becomes more grey or slate blue.

19. You will see crests breaking here and there, the more distant ones will appear in rows and those nearby more at hit and miss.

20. Anything that is on an angle will reflect on the water the same angle as it is seen on the land above.

Even though water might seem to be a disordered and multifaceted subject matter, its appearance has certain rules. Remember that the reflections will always appear directly below the object and possess a slightly deeper hue. It changes when viewed in different weather conditions and vantage points. At a distance the ripples will appear as bands the closer they are the less strictly controlled they will appear. Paying close observation and practicing will help the artist paint this mesmerizing subject matter!

Sharon Teal Coray

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