Paint A Waterfall In Watercolor – Step By Step – With Sujit Sudhi

Paint A Waterfall In Watercolor Final Image - Doodlewash

Waterfalls are a pleasure to watch and a delight to paint. They are challenging subjects but if handled properly, painting a waterfall can be a very satisfying experience. “Deep In The Woods” is based on a waterfall from the beautiful Wisconsin countryside and I’d like to walk you through the steps I followed to paint a waterfall and create this painting.

It all starts with drawing and it’s anybody’s guess that the most powerful arrow in the artist’s quiver is the one that (s)he uses to draw with. If you cannot draw, you cannot paint. No amount of colour can mask poor drawing skills and hence I urge you to practice drawing as much as you can and as often as you can. To paraphrase comedian Jerry Sienfeld – ‘If you want to get better at something, do it every day. Do it on Christmas. Do it on Thanksgiving.’ And I believe that nothing truer has ever been said.

How To Paint A Waterfall In Watercolor – Step By Step

This painting was done on Saunders Waterford cold pressed paper but you are free to use your favourite brands of paper, paints and brushes. I used a 2B pencil to draw the main shapes. Notice how I did not go into the details with the drawing and merely suggested the overall shapes of the elements.

Paint A Watercolor In Watercolor - Initial Drawing - Doodlewash
Stage 1 : The drawing

Once you are happy with the drawing, it’s time to wet your brushes. Different artists take different approaches to laying in their washes. Some start landscape paintings with the sky wash. Some others lay what’s sometimes referred to as a ‘mother wash’ over the entire painting surface. This serves as an underpainting of sorts. But some artists, like me, work on the point of interest to begin with. What I am going to detail out in this tutorial is my way of painting and that by no means is the only way. Whatever approach you choose, make sure you enjoy it because in the end that’s all that matters.

I start by wetting the entire area of the paper above the horizon with clean water and wait for a couple of minutes for the paper to lose it shine before I start applying paint. Always have two jars of water – one to rinse your brushes in and the other for clean water. If you do not use clean water to mix paints or to wet your painting surface you will never achieve the magical transparency that makes watercolor paintings shine. More importantly, you will never be able to get oil painters to wonder ‘How the heck do they do it?’ and lose their sleep over it. Just kidding.

I use quick downward strokes to suggest the rocks loading my ¾” flat brush separately with Raw Sienna, Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue. I allow the pigments to mix on paper and create rock like patterns. When I paint a waterfall, the water area is left unpainted but I make sure some of the edges are soft and some are hard. This not only creates variety but also gives it a very painterly appearance. I also drop in some blue for the sky patch on top and let it merge with the rock shape.

paint a waterfall In Watercolour - First Washes - Doodlewash
Stage 2 : The first washes

While the wash is still wet, I move on to the next step where I work on the foliage shapes. I load my brush with greens and blues and drop in the paint to the wet area and the wetness on the paper carries the pigment around creating the impression of clumps of foliage. I use Raw Sienna at some places to have some variety.

When the wash is dry I use some brush drawing to suggest edges of the foliage and use the long point of a rigger brush to paint the branches. In some dark areas, I scrape out the branches using the bottom tip of my brush. A razor blade or the edge of a credit card would work just fine. I have always used Visa but a Mastercard might work too!

paint a waterfall In Water color - Foliage - Doodlewash
Stage 3 : The foliage

Before I move on to the next step, I need a dry surface to work on and hence I leave the painting to dry. I use a drier when I am in a hurry but prefer to let washes dry the natural way.

Once the washes are bone dry, I use a dark mix (Burnt Sienna + Prussian Blue) to suggest a few more tree trunks and branches. This allows me to create some depth.

paint a waterfall In Watercolor - Adding Details - Doodlewash
Stage 4 : More details

Now I move on to the rocks. I use a weak wash of Ultramarine Blue with a touch of Burnt Sienna to paint in the rocks. I always keep the light source in mind and make sure that the sunlit areas are left unpainted. For those rocks whose edges meet with the water I pre-wet the area to achieve soft edges. Notice how I have used brush drawing to create broken edges on the rocks to suggest their texture. These are small tricks that help you a great deal in creating convincing texture and such. The key is not just to understate, but to also do it the right way.

paint a waterfall In Watercolour - Adding Rocks - Doodlewash
Stage 5 : Rocks in the middleground

The next step is to paint the rest of the rock formation. I use the same colours but make sure that the mix is much stronger since it will be used to depict shapes in the foreground which are closer to the viewer.

paint a waterfall In Watercolor - Adding Foreground Rocks - Doodlewash
Stage 6 : Foreground rocks

All that’s left now is to shape the flowing water. What’s important to remember when you paint a waterfall is what you DO NOT paint. I have taken extreme care to leave most of the water area unpainted. I wet the shadow sides of the water keeping the light source in mind and drop in some blue pigment which spreads due to the wetness on the surface and creates the effect of falling and flowing water.

paint a waterfall In Watercolor - Painting Water - Doodlewash
Stage 7 : Water

If something begins to looks like what you intended it to look like, STOP. Do not work on it anymore. If your goal is to capture every bit of detail, it’s about time you traded your brushes for a camera. As artists, we are here to suggest and to complete a painting in the eyes of a viewer. Always whisper. Loud people are not so popular anyway.

paint a waterfall In Watercolor - Final Painting - Doodlewash
The finished painting

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial of how to paint a waterfall. Please leave your comments and suggestions and I’ll be back with another tutorial soon.

So long. Happy painting.

Sujit Sudhi

Sujit Sudhi is a watercolour artist living and working between Kochi, India and Kenosha, Wisconsin, USA. His work has been displayed in galleries across the United States and his painting titled ‘Morning Light’ appeared in the 18th edition of the North-light books publication titled Splash, which features the work of the top 120 watercolour artists in the world. You can visit his website by clicking here!

Recommended8 recommendationsPublished in Tutorials
27 Comments
  1. SnehLata Maheshwari 3 months ago

    Sujit sudhi , really appreciated the water fall .I found it very difficult to make but u r tetorieal is amazing. thanks for sharing.

  2. Rod Fletcher 3 months ago

    Excellent Sujit. Although videos are nice, personally I have a preference for the written word. I can copy your guidance, add in seqencing numbers, and then have it right by my easel. I tend to forget it inevitably, but I can always track back quickly and do a recovery job. I’ll have a go at this next week when I have a little time. Thank you

    • Author
      Sujit Sudhi 3 months ago

      Glad you like my tutorial. If you don’t mind please do show me your painting when you’r done.

  3. Sandra Strait 3 months ago

    Thank you for the fabulous tutorial, Sujit. You’ve explained the subject simply, but clearly and it’s inspiring!

    • Author
      Sujit Sudhi 3 months ago

      You are welcome. Its indeed a pleasure to know that I ended up inspiring you to paint.

  4. mariz de las nieves 3 months ago

    I enjoy your painting tutorial quite appealing and playful. I like to paint watercolor and reading so its refreshing. It made me remember walking along a waterfall after a long hike. Also it made me once again want to hold my brush to paint for so long not doing it for personal reason. Thank you Sujit Sudhi.

    • Author
      Sujit Sudhi 3 months ago

      Thank you. Please get back to painting. And please do share your work for all of us at doodlewash to appreciate.

  5. Laura Hale 3 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your art, your wisdom and your sense of humor.

    • Author
      Sujit Sudhi 3 months ago

      Thanks. What’s life without a hearty laugh after all 🙂

  6. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 3 months ago

    Brilliant and informative – thank you, Sujit, for an effective tutorial. I liked the humor too.

    • Author
      Sujit Sudhi 3 months ago

      You are welcome. Please come back for more.

  7. Sharon Nolfi 3 months ago

    Great tutorial and beautiful painting. Thank you!

  8. Clelie 3 months ago

    This tutorial is incredible! I cannot wait to play with some of these tips! (I say “Play” because I’m too new to watercolor to be confident about anything…so ‘Playing’ is less intimidating to this novice!) Thank you for sharing your talent and tips!

    • Author
      Sujit Sudhi 3 months ago

      Thank you. Play is the apt word. Painting is never ‘work’. Its definitley ‘play’ 🙂

  9. Shar Kennett 3 months ago

    Love your waterfall and especially how you have achieved the most. Looking forward to trying your tutorial.

    • Author
      Sujit Sudhi 2 months ago

      Please do and show me what you came up with.

  10. Balaji Venugopal 3 months ago

    Excellent tutorial. Enjoyed trying out the steps and managed to produce what is possibly my best work so far. Thank you very much Sujit.

    • Author
      Sujit Sudhi 2 months ago

      Can I see it please?

      • Balaji Venugopal 2 months ago

        I would love to show it to you but how do I do It? I don’t see any provision here to post images.

  11. Author
    Sujit Sudhi 2 months ago

    Please do and show me what you came up with.

  12. Trent Nentrup 2 months ago

    Sujit, that is a really beautiful waterfall. I followed your tutorial and my rendition came out pretty good. With your permission, I’d like to show it to my friends and family here, and on Facebook

  13. tripdupinceau 2 months ago

    Once again Sujit, thank you so much for this tutorial. Not easy but I did learn a lot and enjoyed myself. I will publish on my Facebook Page with a link to Doodlewash.com and your tutorial. Diane

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