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How to Draw Water in Nature

This post is part of a series called Drawing Nature.
How to Draw a Flower
How to Draw Clouds and Sky
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Water is very tricky to draw, because we can see it through its interaction with objects nearby, and it doesn't look like an object itself. But "tricky" doesn't mean "impossible"—with a proper method you can create believable water using pencils only!

In this tutorial I will show you how to draw waves under an object, a reflection on a big body of water (like a lake or sea), and a waterfall.

What You Will Need

  • Some sheets of paper
  • Hard pencil (HB)
  • Medium soft pencil (2B)
  • Soft pencil (5B or lower)
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Eraser (optional)

1. Draw Water in Close-Up

Step 1

First, prepare some kind of object—water will reveal itself by what's reflected in it.

how to draw a swan
how to shade a swan

Step 2

Use a hard brush to sketch the outline of the reflection.

how to draw reflection of a swan

Step 3

Draw a wavy pattern under the object. The farther the waves are, the tighter they should be.

how to sketch waves

Step 4

The waves intersect with each other, creating outlined areas. Fill some of them:

how to shade a wave
how to shade waves

Step 5

Cross the white areas between the shapes with thick lines.

how to draw waves

Step 6

Take the softest pencil and press strongly to darken parts of the shapes. Which parts?

  • If your object is bright, darken the parts outside of its reflection.
  • If your object is dark, darken the parts within its reflection.
how to draw water reflection

Step 7

Take a soft pencil and fill in the areas between the dark shapes.

how to draw reflection in water

Step 8

Use the same pencil to sharpen some of the shadows within the reflection. I also added a shadow under the tail.

how to draw bird on water

Step 9

Take the softest pencil and use it to accentuate some parts.

how to draw water with pencils

2. Draw a Lake/Sea

Step 1

Technically, we could use the same method as before to draw a reflection on a lake or sea, but because they're so big, it wouldn't be very effective. Instead, we can use a shortcut.

Of course, first you need something that will be reflected in the water. You can use my tutorials to create it:

how to draw shore

Step 2

It's very important to use a proper perspective for the reflection. You can't simply mirror the shore!

how to draw reflection on a lake

Step 3

Use a hard pencil to sketch the reflection. It doesn't need to be a very faithful copy of the shore.

how to make reflection on a lake in drawing

Step 4

Take the softest pencil and draw the waves under the dark objects. The sky is very bright, so it doesn't need to be reflected. That's how we'll save some time!

how to draw little waves on a lake
how to draw lottle dark waves

Step 6

Press even harder when close to the shore to make the border between water and land more visible.

how to draw lake or sea with pencils

3. Draw a Waterfall

Step 1

The waterfall is basically water flowing down over something, so we need to create some kind of base for it first. A pile of rock will be perfect for this purpose. You can learn how to draw it from my tutorial How to Draw Grass, Ground, and Rocks.

how to draw rocks

Step 2

Use a hard pencil to shade the ground under the water very subtly.

how to draw space for waterfall

Step 3

Use the same pencil to draw the streams of water flowing down. If necessary, use an eraser to lighten some shaded parts.

how to start drawing a waterfall

In the "vertical" parts, don't draw the streams as simple vertical lines, but create 'V's out of them.

how to sketch a waterfall

Step 4

Shade the "cave" under the waterfall by filling some space between the streams. Use a softer pencil for this.

how to shade a cave under waterfall

Step 5

Make the rims of the rock shelves shiny by accentuating parts of the streams on them.

how to make waterfall shiny

Step 6

Accentuate the streams by shading parts of them. Make sure that 'V's and rotated 'V's are clearly visible in the pattern of flowing water.

how to shade waterfall

Step 7

Take the softest pencil and accentuate some parts of the streams, especially in the shadow and next to dark parts that could be reflected by water.

how to add details to waterfall
how to draw reflections on a waterfall

Step 8

Take a hard pencil again and sketch the foam under the waterfall.

how to draw waterfall foam

Step 9

Draw the direction of water coming radially from this point.

how to draw ater under waterfall

Step 10

Draw and shade the water in this area using soft pencils.

how to draw waves under waterfall
how to shade waves under waterfall
how to draw details under waterfall

Step 11

Use a clean eraser to add some shine in the most illuminated places.

how to draw a realistic waterfall with pencils

Good Job!

Did you like this tutorial? Make sure you try others in the Drawing Nature series. And if you want to make your drawings even prettier before posting them on the Internet, try these tutorials:

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