Over the last couple of months, readers have asked how to draw water on various things. Some want to know how to make water look wet; others want to know how to draw a wet street, sidewalk or other things.
The fact of the matter is that I could do a month of posts every day and still not cover everything. But there is good news! There are a few basic things you can do to make almost anything look wet.
I’ll show you those basics with a couple of samples, one this week and one next week.
How to Make Things Look Wet
There are a couple of things to remember when drawing water or wet things. Water does not have a color, so you can’t draw “water color.” What you draw is the way water affects the color of other things, and the way the environment affects the water.
Most of the time, wetness makes a color look darker. Look at the stones in the foreground below. The part of each stone that’s wet is darker than the dry parts. So one way to make things look wet in a drawing or painting is to make the wet areas darker, even if the change is very slight.
Wetness also tends make a surface more shiny. The wetter something is, the shinier it is. The stones closest to the water above are very wet, so they’re very shiny. The highlights are bright and have crisp edges.
The stones in the middle ground are damp, but not as wet as the stones closer to the water. They still have bright highlights, but not quite as bright. The edges of the highlights are softer, too.
In the parking lot shown below, most of the surface is shiny to some degree. You can see reflections in the standing water, but in the places where the pavement is wet, but where water isn’t standing, there are no reflections. It’s shinier than it would be dry, but no reflections are visible.
When drawing water, remember that the edges are almost always crisp and sharp. There are few subtle or gradual gradations between values or colors on water. Those sharp edges are what make the water look wet.
Read Tips for Drawing Reflections on Water.
Let’s take a look at a quick step-by-step showing you how to draw a wet street, parking lot or any other paved surface.
How to Draw a Wet Street or Parking Lot
Step 1: Rough in the Area around the water or wet spot.
Draw the area around the water. For the parking lot, I sketched in the area beyond the parking lot (including the yellow curb,) and the part of the lot that’s not as wet. Don’t go into a lot of detail, but use strokes to define the areas you’re drawing.
For example, I used short vertical strokes and stippling strokes to draw the grass with two shades of green (one light and one dark.) For the curb, I used a light and dark yellow, then toned it down with a warm gray. I drew the parking lot with horizontal strokes of a light-medium brown and a light-medium pink-ish color.
By the way, I’m drawing on Stonehenge Pearl Grey paper, and will be using the color of the paper to help produce the gray-light quality of the reference photo.
It’s important to choose colors that match your reference photo. That’s why I’m not naming colors, since your reference will not be the same as mine.
It’s also important to take into consideration the color of paper you draw on. That color will influence the colors you put on it, and will also influence the overall drawing.
Step 2: Rough in the colors and shapes in the water or wet area.
Use light pressure and horizontal strokes to shade color into the water or wet area. Horizontal strokes because all reflections should be drawn with horizontal strokes, as should all water. Light pressure because you may have to blend several colors together to get the correct colors and values.
Remember that whatever you draw in the water will be a reflection. The gray-blue is a reflection of the stormy sky. The green is a reflection of trees (I’ve sketched in one as a reference point.) The white vertical shape is a light pole.
Also remember that the colors of the reflection are likely to be slightly darker than the colors of the object being reflected.
Step 3: Darken the colors in the water or wet spot.
Remember, anything that’s wet is usually darker in color and value than when it’s dry.
Even so, it’s best to continue using light pressure to layer and blend color. Keep your strokes horizontal (something that’s not always easy to do.) Refer to your reference photo and do your best to duplicate where and how colors and values appear.
I used the side of a pencil to apply color on the left side of this drawing, and the point of the pencil on the right. For smooth water like I’m drawing, the side of the pencil worked better, but try different strokes to get the result you want.
Step 4: Finish with additional color as needed, detailing, and blending.
Finish the water or wet spot to your satisfaction. That may include only more layers of color, or you may choose to burnish or blend with odorless mineral spirits.
I blended the area to the left of the vertical white reflection with odorless mineral spirits. I used a sable round and horizontal strokes.
The rest of the water was burnished with a combination of dark gray and white.
The most important thing to remember with a drawing like this is that things outside your drawing influence the water or wet spot. For example, the colors and values in the sample reflect the color of the sky, which was dark and stormy. I didn’t draw that for this sample, but it still influenced the color of the water and wet areas.
If you want to know how to draw a wet street, sidewalk or any other type of concrete surface, this is the method I suggest.
If I were drawing a scene like this as a finished drawing (instead of a demo piece,) I’d push it further. More color, deeper values, additional details. In other words, I’d want it to look as close to real as possible.
You may want more realism or less, so adjust your methods accordingly.
Next week, I’ll show you how to draw a wet rock.
Is there something you’d like to know how to draw and make look wet? Let me know by clicking on the Ask Carrie button on this page and sending me your request!
This is a great article, I’ve been looking for an explanation of what makes things “wet” in drawing when explaining it to people who are new to drawing.
I’m glad I could help you, Maria!
Thank you for the lesson it really helped
I’m glad to have helped you, John!