View Full Version : Water Reflections

09-26-2016, 12:12 PM
I have been reading here and watching various artists on YouTube, and learned a lot. One question has yet to be answered: how do you attain the reflections or glare/glisten/shine on water, like a lake?

water girl
09-26-2016, 03:48 PM
Welcome, and great question! I often hear, "How do you make silver objects shiny?" I use to ask that question myself. I thought there was a trick to it. Simple answer? Paint what you see. I think it has a lot to do with painting values and patterns.

09-26-2016, 03:55 PM
We did a Spotlight (our monthly activity thread in Pastel Talk) about reflections a few years ago. Here's a link:


At the risk of sounding annoying - everything you paint is a shape of color at a certain value (degree of dark to light). So observing the shape, the color and value, creates all parts of your painting. Usually, the "shine or glisten" on water is the color of the sky reflecting on the water.

Hope this helps!


09-27-2016, 10:19 AM
I mislabeled my first post. I understand about reflections.

I want to know how to make the water shiny. I can't think of another way to say it.

In oil painting, objects (trees, buildings, etc.) are reflected in the water. Then very lightly pulled down (with a brush) and ever so lightly, brushed across the water to obtain a blurry appearance.

Since pastels do no use a brush, how do I get the shine or glisten on the water?

09-27-2016, 11:35 AM
Welcome to Wet Canvas. Your description of how you paint reflection in oils is similar to how I do it with pastels, but I use the side of my finger. I lightly drag the side of my baby finger down to the bottom of the paper. I have used this method with Uart sanded paper as well as Pastelmat. Practice it a few times on some scrap pieces of paper. This is the way I do it and I am not saying it is the only way. Others might give you different ways of achieving the look you want. Here is a link to a painting I did a few months ago with reflections on calm http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1406872


09-27-2016, 04:13 PM
The "shiny" parts of water are normally the sky color reflections. You can paint the darker parts of the reflections (trees, rocks, mountains, etc) with vertical strokes (often using the side of the pastel, or blending with a finger as Doug has mentioned). You can then paint the lighter shiny reflections with horizontal strokes of that lighter sky color, covering the darker pastel already laid down. If you find that the lighter pastel does not adequately cover over the darker - then you might have to leave a gap in the darker colors where the lighter color will then be placed.

Hope this helps,


Donna T
09-27-2016, 06:09 PM
Your question about glare made me realize that I need to study it more! I took this photo just now when the glare off of the water is blinding.


I learned a few things by observing the light on the water:

It's too bright to look at directly but it does seem to reflect the color of the sunlight, ie. the glare is not pure white but a very light yellow.

Even though it's windy today and there are swells on the surface of the water the area of the glare doesn't show any of this. The brightness obliterates everything.

The glare is the most intense directly beneath the sun and its effect lessens as I scan the areas to the left and right. It's in these peripheral areas that I notice the ripples and sparkles on the water.

Trees between me and the glare appear almost black in life as if they are silhouettes.

If I had to use pastels to paint this I would save my brightest bright for the glare and downplay all the other lights to exaggerate the effect. Areas of glare showing between the branches of the trees are not as bright or intense as those on the open water so I'd be sure to make that distinction. I'd use my softest brand of pastel to lay that glare color down, wiping it between each stroke to keep the color clean and pure. I hope this helps a little!

09-27-2016, 06:49 PM
Glad Donna you added an example of sun glinting on the water. I was thinking mainly of instances looking away from the sun where the lightest area of the water will be sky reflections - and much less bright and less intense. In any case, it is contrast that can help make light areas look lighter when compared to darker areas.

In oil painting, objects (trees, buildings, etc.) are reflected in the water. Then very lightly pulled down (with a brush) and ever so lightly, brushed across the water to obtain a blurry appearance.
It sounds like you are describing the method used by Bob Ross or Bill Alexander in their wet-on-wet painting method. Since the paint is wet, it can be manipulated a bit and made to move on the canvas by using the brush. Pastel particles, sitting on the paper can also be moved a bit (depending on the paper), but not nearly as much. Smudging with your finger can produce a minimally similar blending, but even in oil painting, this is only one of many ways to accomplish making water look like water. In the end, water is often best accomplished by a combination of horizontal strokes and perhaps vertical strokes for reflections. The blurry appearance can be accomplished by making strokes that have a "wiggle" in them or by trying to create that "wiggle" by moving the pastel by blending with a finger or other blending tool. Horizontal strokes using a very light pastel on a darker color can produce that "glint" or "shine", whether using a longer stroke or many small strokes. There are many ways and techniques when using pastels.


09-29-2016, 09:41 AM
Thank you Doug, Donna, and Don. You have given me a number of good tips and techniques, and been most helpful.

I have watched more videos on YouTube, too, showing water painted with white and ultra light blue, then blended with fingers.

Again, many thanks for your help.