Saturday, September 5, 2009

Water in a Pond

How to color water in a pond
Here is a reference photo from a lake. This was taken on a slightly cloudy day when the water was still. Look at each of the points in the photo that I describe below.

A couple of basic rules about water reflections-

1. Still water gives crisp reflections, moving water will be broken. The more your water is moving, the more the reflection will be broken, so it's a matter of taste as to how much accuracy your reflection has. It looks more accurate to have still water near the object and gradually make water far away more broken as the light from farther away gets more distorted.

2. Reflections are about the same size as the original object. Reflections are just a trick of light on a body of water, and from a distance the main body of a reflected object looks about the same size. There may be a few stray bits of color reflected in ripples farther out, but for the most part, keep the reflections reasonable. If there is a distortion it will usually be towards the viewer.

Don't go overboard with the reflections! Remember which part of your artwork is most important - is it the objects above water or the reflections. You'll need to make artistic choices to make the important things stand out more.

3. Water is one or two shades darker/grayer than whatever it's reflecting. This is your clue that it's a reflection. Since the sky is usually blue, your reflection water usually has a slight bluish tint to it, which is where we get the idea that water should be blue. Water is not really blue, water is clear. We just draw it blue for simplicity sake.

The mood of the water also is determined by the color of the sky. On a dark, overcast day then you'll get dark water with little light reflected. On a bright, sunny day you'll have bright water with more light reflected off the surface. In this photo you can see that it's a middle day, so the water is kinda dark, but not too bad.

Blank picture to color
Here is a line drawing you can print out & color. You can color with Copics over some inkjet printouts, so test before you print to know if your particular ink will bleed or not. Otherwise, you can print it on a laser printer or photocopy it and you'll have no problems coloring.

Water In A Pond
I'm starting today with anything above water already colored. That way we can focus on just the water. You'll see that my sky is a nice light B00 and my grass is a simple YG03 and YG07 combo. The rocks are a neutral gray and the cat-tails are a simple brown. This is a nice, easy scene to color - until you start coloring the water.

If we start by coloring the water the same color as the sky you can quickly see how flat and fake our scene looks. However, we must remember that the water will be the same tone as the sky - just slightly darker and grayer.

By adding a base tone of our sky color it will give the final picture hints of our underlying blue sky and pull the two elements together more. So go ahead, color your water with the same color as the sky (Other colors I like for blue skies include B0000 or B000, B32, BG10, BG0000)

Next, we need to darken the water and tone it down a bit.

If I add a color that is in the same blending group as the sky then our water will be too vibrant. Remember, water is more gray than sky. In this case I will need to use a blue that is grayer by about 2 or 3 families, so I reach for something in the B30's. The lightest shade is B32, the last digit - 2 - tells me that it will be 2 shades darker than our original color which ends in 0.

I shadow the edges of the pond with the B32 and I leave the middle area still light, as this would have the most direct reflection of the sky. Already this is a big improvement over the flat blue we first had.

Time to add contrast. Remember, contrast makes things more interesting so we should always look for ways to improve our work. To give the water contrast and shadows I reach for a color that is 2 shades deeper than B32, which would be B34.
I darkened things near the shore, and the shadow side of each object near the water. I'm not adding too much, just enough to make it look interesting. Then I take the B32 and smoothly blend the dark blue into the middle color (You can leave yours kind of streaky as long as your streaks are in the same direction as the ripples). I also added a hint of shadow to the ripples to add variation as well.

Now we can add the reflections of objects. This is a matter of personal taste. You might like the water just as it is.

I start with the largest objects. In this case it's the rocks. I take the same two grays I used on the rocks and I am lightly scribbling in the direction of the ripples. Note how it's not smooth and perfect and you can still see blue under the gray. This is OK. This is what increases the illusion of water. You can see that where I have a ripple I left the darker blue alone. This also heightens the idea of water.

The rock closest to us is much bigger and closer, therefore it's reflection is much crisper and deeper. The ripples don't affect it as much when it's that close.

Now I can add the shadow of the grass. I use the darker of my two grass colors and lightly add the illusion of grass. to darken it up I added hints of the B34. This helps give the water a deeper, brighter blue-green feel, and it tones down the vibrant YG. Now our little pond looks almost done.

For the final step today I need to add white back in. To do this I took some opaque white and a very fine paintbrush (or toothpick) and I painted back in a few small highlights. I added some glints of light to the ripples in the water and I gave a dab of highlight to each of the objects in the picture as well. Now we can really feel how bright and crisp our day is with the sun shining on our serene little pond.

Please send me a link of your example if you try coloring this pond. I would love to see your colored picture! Have fun coloring.

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