How to paint reflections of boats on water

Reflections of boats in watercolors

We will now look at how to paint reflections of boats on the water. This stage is done with the paper totally dry.

I start by mixing plenty of reflection water colors. You do not want to be mixing a lot of extra color once you start painting the reflections which will be painted wet on dry.

The colors I used for the reflections are French Ultramarine, a little Alizarin Crimson, and some Burnt Sienna. The mixtures are about the strength of full cream milk; they cannot be so thick that they will not bead when you start painting in the reflections.

I also mix a double cream strength mix of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna which I will use to establish the water line on the side of the sailing boats and distant land on the right hand side.

With all my main water colors pre-mixed I wet the side for my main sail boat’s hull with clean water and let it settle for about 30 seconds till some of the shine has gone off the water but it is still quite wet. I then begin by very quickly painting that boats reflection from the waterline down. Once I have painted its reflection (and with the side of the boat still wet) I then use my dark mix of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna to paint in the waterline. I want some of this color to bleed up as well as down –timing is important. If the hull has tried so much that it does not allow the dark paint to bleed up I get a wet to damp brush of clean water and lightly re-wet the side of the hull, this will cause the dark paint to bleed up and help connect the hull with the surface of the water  on your painting.

Remember reflections of boats are directly below the object being reflected towards the viewer.

As I paint under each boat I sometimes lift some of the reflection near the waterline to give the impression of the reflection of a light colored boat. This is not critical but is a nice touch if you can do it – it has to be done before the watercolor paint has dried.

I quickly continue to paint the rest of the reflections, varying the color here and there, from left to right.  Once the main reflections of boats are dry I paint in the mooring posts with a strong mix (very little water) of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, as well as their reflections.

I go over my painting and make any last little additions or adjustments. Then I sign it and this demonstration is finished.

Watercolor painting Rising Mist boat painting by Joe Cartwright
Watercolor painting “Rising Mist” by Joe Cartwright

Should you have any questions about this demonstration or watercolor painting in general please let me know through my Contact page.