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Reflections in Acrylic: Depicting Light on Water

Improve the realism of your waterscapes by learning how to paint convincing reflections on both tranquil and choppy waters.
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Discover how to paint reflections on water alongside professional artist and instructor Peter John Reid. Start by practicing blending as you paint a dynamic sky and its reflection on water. Explore how to paint reflections on rippling water and see how glazing techniques can help you finish your painting with smooth color transitions.


Peter John Reid



Peter John Reid is the author of How to Paint with Acrylics. He's a graduate of the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University), and his paintings can be found in galleries throughout Ontario. Reid also started the painting group Studio Twenty, which has raised thousands of dollars for local charities through donated paintings.

By This Expert

Seeing Reflections

01: Seeing Reflections

Meet your instructor, Peter John Reid, before you learn to simplify reflections by looking at the lines, shapes and colors that produce them. Next, Peter will help you paint a dynamic sky with a wet-in-wet blending technique and a dry brush.

22 min
Broken Reflections

02: Broken Reflections

Use the same wet-in-wet blending technique from Lesson 1 to paint water with a reflection of the sky. You'll also see how to use simple tools for painting straight lines as you capture reflections of a shoreline.

34 min
Painting Ripples

03: Painting Ripples

Learn how ripples affect reflections, and how to paint ripples for realistic results. Then, Peter will explain how the surface of the water looks different depending on its distance from the horizon line.

21 min
Painting Depth

04: Painting Depth

Start on a new water scene as you find out how water depth influences color choice and your approach to painting reflections. You'll create a base for the water in your painting using your wet-in-wet technique, and find out how to troubleshoot if you don't work quickly enough. After that, Peter will give you tips for painting the shoreline and land features.

21 min
Choppy Water

05: Choppy Water

Learn to recreate choppy water as you add ripples to your painted scene. Along the way, you'll see how to achieve the look of movement in surface water using rounded, elongated brush strokes. You'll also discover how to capture the subtle color shifts that occur in choppy water.

22 min

06: Glazing

Apply glazing techniques to achieve a variety of dramatic effects. From creating smooth transitions to an enhanced sense of depth and more, Peter's glazing advice will help you finish your water reflection beautifully.

22 min