The trick to painting someone half-submerged in water

Consider how clothes trap air when first entering the water and how fabric behaves when wet

A lot depends on the scenario you choose as to how the water will look. A choppy sea has a very different surface from a placid pond – I'm going with the latter here.

For a start, I choose a dress on my figure of a colour that contrasts with the dark tones of the water. I block in a dark-to-light gradient roughly with the oil brush in ArtRage on a layer beneath the one I paint the figure on.

The Smudge palette knife in ArtRage is great for ripple effects. Similar tools are to be found in other art programs

Between the two, on another layer at the top of the composition, I block in a grassy bank. Refer to details added on this for mark making on the water layer, but don’t worry too much about strict accuracy.

Why? Because next I use the Smudge palette knife to drag the layer pixels left and right to create a zig-zag ripple effect.

You can do the same thing for reflections of the figure, but bear in mind that its reflectivity depends on the angle you regard water surface. Hint at shapes below the surface where the figure is submerged.

Words: Nick Harris

Nick Harris went digital in 2000 after 18 years working with traditional methods. He works mainly on children's illustrations. This article originally appeared in ImagineFX issue 94.

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