How To Paint Reflections In Acrylics
Knowing how to paint reflections in acrylics is a great skill to have.
Reflections can really make a painting as people who don’t paint are often mesmorised by the reflections. The great news is creating realistic looking reflections in a painting is easier than what you might think.
The key is to know what to put into a reflection.
You don’t need to put in every detail … the mind of the viewer will usually fill in the missing details.
So there is not a lot to learn to paint great looking paintings with reflections in acrylics.
In this post I will break down how I painted this ‘Noosa River Reflections‘ painting with the reflections in the water of the distant trees and the rising sunshine in the morning.
This is a project from the Learn To Paint Club so if you want to see the full length video then you can join today for just $1 and get access to the video and follow along.
As always with the Moore Method of Painting I start out in step one by doing a rough drawing.
I use a small flat brush and some Ultramarine Blue paint. With just a little water in the brush you can thin the paint out a little for the purpose of doing the drawing.
In the Moore Method we focus on just the few big shapes for our drawing. What is important here is getting the right shapes in the right place. Note the horizon line being just below the half way mark of the canvas. I draw in the distant trees and their reflections.
Then I draw in the foreground embankment. My first attempt was a bit high so I drew in a second line to indicate where I want the embankment to finish.
So with step one finished I now move onto the second step which is the block in.
My first goal is to establish the warm glow from the rising sunshine. This needs to be painted into the lower part of the sky and then reflected into the water.
I use Yellow Ochre and Titanium White. Mix a nice light tone and keep in mind acrylics always dry darker.
Note – Use a lot of paint. Most beginners do not use anywhere near enough paint and they struggle to apply it to the canvas and blend it before it drys out. By using a lot of paint it gives you more time to work with it before it dries out.
With a 1″ Gesso Brush I paint in horizontal bands applying the sunshine to the canvas.
I continue working this sunshine colour down into the water as a reflection of the lower part of the sky.
A good tip is to paint this in beyond where you think you will need it. Don’t paint up to the lines … paint past them as it will make it easier to connect this section to the next in the painting.
Now I mix up Ultramarine Blue and Titanium White for the upper part of the sky.
Again I paint this in horizontal bands starting right at the top.
With each band I lighten it a little by adding more Titanium White.
When I reach the part of the sky with the Yellow Ochre I then lighten my strokes so I am barely touching the canvas. I want to apply the blue mix over the top of the yellow mix rather than blend them together.
For the river I do the same as in the sky only in reverse.
The big difference is that the lower part of the river is painted darker than in the sky. This is because this part of the river is the closest thing to the viewer of the painting so it will naturally be darker in tone.
Next we want to block in our shadow colours for the distant row of trees.
This is just a mix of Ultramarine Blue and Alizarin Crimson. With the 1″ brush I am able to block this area in quickly. The brush is well loaded and I am varying my brush strokes around to create some interest and texture. At the tops I use the edge of the brush to create the effect of tree tops.
Next is the reflections.
To get these to look right I load the brush then place it at the edge where the river embankment would be and drag the brush downward.
So the reflections of the trees (at least the shadows) are a serious of downward strokes of the brush. Refer to the video to see the technique in action.
For the foreground embankment I use a warmer mix which is mostly Alizarin Crimson and Yellow Ochre. This creates a great earthy tone and is ideal for blocking in the under painting for the foreground land.
Using the same dark mix of the distant trees I paint in the foreground tree.
I use the small flat brush and start by developing the tree trunk and main branches.
Start out small and grow it larger rather than start out too large initially and then having to figure out how to reduce it in size.
The same mix is used to apply the trees foliage with the 1″ Geso brush.
As this is a foreground tree there is more details needed in the tree. So take your time with it and think about how the shape of the tree would look. Notice I have plenty of the sky colours showing through the foliage of the tree.
Now it is time to add in some midtones and highlights on the distant trees and their reflection.
I mix a slightly greyed down green with Ultramarine Blue and Yellow Ochre. Then I add just a pin head of Alizarin Crimson into the mix. By adding the third primary it reduces the saturation of the paint giving the effect of some distance to the trees.
Notice how I use the 1″ brush to indicate the tops of the trees that would be catching some of the sunlight as the morning sun rises.
To capture this effect in the reflections I am using the same process only the half moon shapes of the tree tops are upside down.
Later I will brighten up the highlight tone by adding just a little Cadmium Yellow to the mix and just touch it into some the tree tops for a brighter effect.
It’s time to focus in on the details.
With a small script liner brush I start to apply in smaller branches and twigs etc to the main tree.
Last minute touches such as the posts to tie up your boats, the river embankment on the far side and the water ripples all serve to finish of the painting to great effect.
This is a beginner level painting and is really easy to complete when you follow the instructions given step by step.
The full length video of this project is now available in the Learn To Paint Club.
You can take a $1 trial in the club right now and have full access to more than twenty painting projects and more.
Special Announcement – Join the Learn To Paint Club in AUGUST and you will also receive 2 complete painting courses as a BONUS for joining now.
The first of these courses is the Acrylic Painting Introduction course which is a 3 1/2 hour course with three painting projects and is available to you immediately when you take the $1 trial to the Learn to Paint Club.
The second course is currently in development and will be available at the end of August.