How to Paint Underwater Light

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Water that filters through water usually angles toward the source of the light, so you'll want to have the light in your painting of an underwater subject to do the same.
Water that filters through water usually angles toward the source of the light, so you'll want to have the light in your painting of an underwater subject to do the same. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Light filtering through water usually appears angled toward the source of the light. When light hits objects sitting in the water, the light bends into stripes that mimic the shape of the surface of the water. This sounds more complicated than it really is -- painting light underwater is actually relatively uncomplicated. If you feel less than confident beginning this painting project, study under water images by typing "underwater" or "underwater images" into your web browser.

Things You'll Need

  • Paint (acrylic or oil, variety of colors, including blue and white)
  • Paintbrushes (variety of sizes and types)
  • Painting surface (canvas or paper)
  • Paint thinner

Painting Light Filtering Through Water

Paint the water a dark blue on your canvas. Apply the paint evenly so that the entire underwater background appears to be blue. To make a dark blue, mix blue with a small amount of black.

Paint two or three straight (not parallel) lines of light, angled toward the same source so they create a rough V shape. Paint the rays of light through the wet paint you just laid down in Step 1.

Blend the light rays into the blue water with a flat, dry paintbrush. If needed, paint more light into the water and blend again to create a clear line of light passing through the water.

Painting Light Hitting an Object in Water

Paint the water a dark blue. Apply the paint evenly so that the entire underwater background appears to be dark blue. To make a dark blue, mix blue with a small amount of black.

Paint the object in the water just as you would if it were not in water.

Mix a light-colored paint with the color you used to paint the object you painted in Step 2. For example, if you just painted a gray rock in the water, mix a yellow or white paint with the gray you just used. Create a glaze of light-colored paint by mixing this new color with a paint thinner of some kind. If you are painting with oils, mix this new color with turpentine. If you are painting with acrylic, mix this new color with water.

Paint stripes on the object that mimic the diamondlike shapes of the waves above the object. The paint should be applied as a "glaze," meaning that the paint is so thin you can see the paint you applied underneath it. If you're having a hard time creating realistic lines of light hitting the object, then study images of objects under water. Look at pictures of light as it fractures in the water then falls on the objects in the water. Try to replicate the shape of light in water as you see it in the pictures.

Use a dry, flat paintbrush to blend the light on the object that you painted in Step 1.

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