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QuikTip #5: Painting Droplets

Author: Pierre Labeau, Contributing Editor

Hi gang!  My latest QuikTip is a response to this recent letter that I received:

Dear Pierre,

Loving these tips! New to serious art, so everything on the site is great, but how about doing the dew? I find all the moisture drops luscious. I'm going to try them from your tips, but a lesson on them would be grand. Thanks for all of your hard work.


Well - have no fear, MSR! Pierre is here with a QuikTip on doing water droplets, frost, and other related sundries. Enjoy!

Anatomy of a Drop of Water:

I've done this on a blue background so that you may better see what is happening. The shape or outline is drawn first, then a dark is added to the area where the highlight will appear. Next, a cast shadow at the bottom of the drop. The highlight is placed within the dark area and a secondary light which is the result of the light passing through the water and coming out the bottom.

A Tumbler with Water and Ice:

Again, on blue. But first a note: REFRACTION plays some funny tricks. In a round glass, if our eye level is below the surface of the water the edge near us will be curved to fit the contour of the glass while the far edge will be a straight line. When our eye level is above the water level the surface shape will be the same as the glass.

Now to render it: The water line is shown by the partial ellipse indicated just below the center of the glass. Since this is primarily a line drawing with a minimum of tone, the ice cubes are treated very simply.

Drops of Liquid on a Flat Surface:

The drops are of different shapes and sizes but they are rendered in the same way as the drops above.

A Frosty Glass:

The melting frost leaves a track as it runs down the glass and forms droplets. The drops of liquid are treated in the same way as in the other examples.