How to Paint a Water Drop | by Birgit O’Connor

Inspired by flowers in her garden, these bold splashes of watercolor by Birgit O’Connor make very interesting compositions. To see more floral painting demonstrations from O’Connor, see “Fancy Flowers” in The Artist’s Magazine (March 2008).

Summer Rain, watercolor painting by Birgit O'Connor
Summer Rain (watercolor, 22×40)

How to Paint a Water Drop
By Birgit O’Connor

There is a very simple painting technique you can use to add water drops to a painting. A realistic water drop creates a three-dimensional illusion and leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.
Get an idea of how this technique works by doing this simple painting exercise.

Materials you need

  • Masking fluid
  • 1/8 sheet Arches paper
  • Large wash brush
  • No. 8 and No.14 synthetic brushes
  • Incredible nib or bamboo drawing pen
  • Color: permanent alizarin crimson, indigo

Draw a Drop of Water
Draw the drop:
Draw an oblong circle approximately 1 inch long, (MM) and then place a small dot of masking in the upper left hand corner.

Use masking fluid for a watercolor painting
Crimson Wash:
After the masking fluid has completely dried, apply a wash of permanent alizarin crimson over the entire area extending past the drop approximately 4 inches (MM) on either side, leave enough room on the outside edges so the effect is not hindered and the drop can stand out.

Use a brush to lift the watercolor paint
Water application:
Once the wash has completely dried, reapply water only to the inside of the drop, allow the pigment to soften then lift out the color from in the inside using a No. 14 synthetic brush, you can vary the size and type brush (acrylic brushes, q-tips and paper towels work—anything to lift color out.

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Add a shadow to the painting of water
Add shadow:
Before adding the shadow allow the drop to completely dry again or the color can bleed back in. You want a nice crisp line. Using a No. 8 synthetic with a mixture of permanent alizarin crimson and a small amount of indigo, then add the shadow just below the drop, tapering up the side to define the edge.

Add color to the shadow of the watercolor painting
Add color to shadow:
Now remove the masking from the drop and lift some color out of the shadow. This helps to show light refracting through the drop.


This demonstration is excerpted from Birgit O’Connor‘s book Watercolor in Motion (North Light Books, 2008). Don’t miss her other online demo: Painting Flowers Step by Step: Radiant Reds.


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2 thoughts on “How to Paint a Water Drop | by Birgit O’Connor

  1. marneys

    before the 2nd step above where you lift the water out of the drop..do you paint another layer of wash inside the drop? it looks like it as the edge of the drop seems so much darker than the outside of the drop.

    hope someone can help, I have been doing some experimenting, wish me luck

    cheers, marneys

    1. Cherie Haas, Associate Editor

      Hi Marneys! Cherie here…I got in touch with Birgit, who kindly (and quickly!) had this response to offer:

      “When applying water inside the drop area, color will lift from the surface pigment and move out to the edge leaving the impression that the inside color is darker. For more dramatic water drops you have a few options, depending on the effect that you’re looking for. For a deeper hue on the petal apply additional washes of color before working on the drop. If you have a lighter petal and need more contrast between the petal and drop, inside the drop area while working on the water application, add a little more color to the top and let mingle and blend while you’re lifting the color out of the bottom area. This will create more contrast inside the drop, giving you a more defined edge. Let it dry, then remove the masking highlight. Once all is completely dry add the shadow, which creates the depth.”~Birgit

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