How to Draw Water

In this tutorial, I will demonstrate how to draw water. There are many different states of water and here I will show how to draw calm water and water with turbulence. A big impact on believable drawing of water is correct depiction of reflection in the water based on its state. Always keep the following key point in mind.

Sharpness of the edges of reflection in water indicate to our mind the state of water. A still water will have well defined edges and as the turbulence in water increases, the edges of reflection become distorted and hazy. 

Pen and Ink is used as the drawing medium in instructions below but same technique and concepts can be used with other mediums as well.

Drawing Water: Basic Water Stroke:

Following shows a simple horizontal wavy line that indicates a water ripple.

pen and ink tutorial drawing water

This water stroke when combined with appropriate reflection can be used to draw water as shown below.

Drawing Calm Water:

Vertical lines are very effective at drawing still reflection in calm water as shown below. The shape and size of reflection should always match the object for a believable depiction. Reflection doesn’t have to be exact but the overall shape should match. As mentioned above, the edges of reflection should be clean/well defined to indicate calm water.

drawing water

Watch video demonstration of drawing still water on my YouTube channel.

Drawing Water: Edges

Usually edge of water, like a river bank, needs to be drawn when the drawing has water in foreground. In this case, use vertical lines to define the edge of water as shown below. To increase depth of edge, increase length of vertical lines.

drawing water's edge

This approach can be used to draw any edge. By adding water stroke and reflection, presence of water is conveyed as shown below.

drawing water

Key Considerations for Drawing Reflection:

Following are 3 key points to remember regarding drawing reflection in water:

  1. Only Part of Object is reflected in water as it moves away from water’s edge.

Compared to above, the post is set back in the drawing below and hence only part of it is reflected making its reflection smaller in comparison to it’s size.

pen and ink tutorial drawing water

2. The angle of object should be appropriately shown in reflection.

The size of reflection for objects at angle can get quite complicated. It is not necessary to get the exact angle right, instead focus on getting the overall direction correct.

pen and ink tutorial drawing water

3. Visibility of reflection decreases with height of object and clarity of water.

Reflection is most visible/darkest at the base. Reflection of branches and end twigs of the following young tree is barely discernible. Draw reflection in water using small dots or ticks to convey that effect.

pen and ink tutorial drawing water

Drawing Water: Adding Turbulence

Movement of water leads to distortion of edges of reflection in water. Turbulence in water is best indicated by using wavy horizontal lines to indicate distortion in the reflection due to turbulence. Add more ‘wave’ to the water stroke to indicate movement in water as well as discussed before.

pen and ink tutorial drawing water

Watch video demonstration of drawing turbulent water on my YouTube channel.

Increasing Reflection Distortion to Indicate More Turbulence:

Increasing the distortion in reflection and making it darker gives impression of more turbulent water as shown below. Use appropriate level of distortion to indicate the level of turbulence you want.

pen and ink tutorial drawing water

Indicating Reflection Using Water Stroke:

In the techniques above, vertical lines were used for calm reflection and distorted reflection using horizontal lines were used to draw turbulent water with water stroke added as well. Another technique is to use water stroke itself to indicate reflection by using more stroke to darken the area indicating reflection as shown below. Since stroke direction is horizontal, this technique can be used for drawing turbulent reflection.

pen and ink tutorial drawing water

Watch video demonstration of drawing water with movement on my YouTube channel.

The same technique can be used to draw water without explicit embankment as shown below.  In this case, darken the edge of water to show reflection and make sure to keep the edge of water very irregular.

pen and ink drawing water

Following is another example of drawing water flowing across without an embankment.

pen and ink drawing, drawing water

Drawing Water Flowing towards the Viewer:

Above, we learned how to draw water flowing across in a landscape. Another option is to draw water flowing towards the viewer and in this case following ‘ripple’ stroke is used.

pen and ink drawing, drawing water

Following drawing shows use of this stroke to draw water flowing out from the post. Horizontal lines are used to indicate reflection.

pen and ink drawing, drawing water

Following is another example where additional ripple stroke is used to indicate reflection. This technique works well for a wide object like the stones below but for a thin tall object like the post above, reflection using horizontal lines works better. Try both the techniques.

pen and ink drawing, drawing water

The ripples strength usually becomes less with distance though their size becomes bigger. Add some dark’s to increase the strength of ripples near the object and reduce it with distance. This gives a good sense of flow of water as shown below.

drawing water

Drawing Falling Water:

Falling water, like in a waterfall, can be simply indicated by lines to indicate fall of water as shown below. To draw a waterfall at a distance, this is often sufficient. Stroke mentioned above should be used to show water continuing to the viewer as shown below.

easy drawing waterfall

Same technique can be used to draw cascading waterfall as shown below. Use ripple stroke to draw water flowing down a slope and angular vertical lines to draw water falling down.

drawing water

Drawing a Stream/River:

A stream/river is indicated by using flowing lines to indicate flow of water in the desired direction. Click on the following link to learn how to draw a river step by step.

draw a river

Drawing a Stream Through Woods:

A stream flowing through woods is a very pleasing composition. It uses combination of techniques we saw earlier. Click on the following drawing to learn how to draw a stream through the woods.


A very pleasing composition is a waterfall that continues as a stream. Techniques for drawing falling water and stream/river can be combined to create such a drawing from imagination anytime. Following is an example. Learn to draw this waterfall continuing as a stream step by step.


Drawing a Wave of Water:

A wave of water, like in a shoreline, is also a charming addition to any landscape with water. Front of wave of water is very irregular and this should be properly indicated to bring out the feel of wave of water. Click on the following drawing to learn how to draw a shoreline.


Curved broken lines can be used to indicate a wave of water crashing on shore and reflecting as shown in following drawing. Click here for step by step tutorial to draw such crashing wave of water.

Draw water wave
Crashing Wave

Drawing Water: Templates & Workbooks

Click here to download PDF with templates to practice drawing water. Better yet, vol 4 of my pen and ink drawing workbooks covers techniques discussed above and more for drawing water in detail and are ideal for learning to draw pen and ink landscapes. Try them today.


Watch video demonstration of drawing water in pen and ink at my YouTube channel.

Here are some of the drawings where I have used water.

This completes the tutorial. If you liked this content, do consider a small donation to help me develop more of such content. Practice often and have fun.


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Interested in learning to draw pen and ink landscapes? Try my workbooks...You won't find an easier way to be successful at this wonderful activity. Check out their FREE Previews

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