Water Reflection Tutorial

water reflection painting
Saw a nice painting of shallow water which show the gravel under the crystal clear water, it give me an idea on how to paint clear water.


This is my test result and it look quite convincing. Continue reading for more info!

water reflection

Gravel / River bed

The base layer are river bed which consist of stones and gravel. I color reference a photo I took and paint it with the distorted default round brush. Using different texture stone brush with help a lot.

water reflection photoshop
water reflection photoshop
If you find it too hard to paint gravel or river rock, you can use photo for it. Just make sure it is license under public domain. Here's a site you can download texture for free.


There are lots of way to paint water ripple, but I use the following method to quickly "generate" a water ripple.

water reflection photoshop
  1. Filter > Render > Clouds To generate a black and white fractal image.
  2. Filter > Blur > Radial Blur or Filter > Distort > Twirl Convert the image into a ripple cirlce pattern.
  3. Image > Adjustment > Level (CTRL-L) Increase the contrast of the image.

water reflection photoshop water reflection photoshop
Put the ripple image into another layer and set the layer blend mode to screen. In my case, I used this black and white image as a mask on a layer where I paint the color of the water.


I believe this is the most important bit that make it look real. Just add another black and white image of plants and trees as a reflection for the water. Adding a bit of vertical motion blur to the tree images will help a lot.

water reflection photoshop water reflection photoshop


Add another layer with screen or linear doge as blend mode, use a soft round edge to paint glowing area.

water reflection photoshop


To animate 2D water using AfterEffects. We can use Fractal Noise procedural texture and Displacement filter on the reflection layer.


DeviantArt Ripple
Pixiv Ripple


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