How to Draw a Realistic River

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STEP 1. Draw lightly with your No2 pencil. Start with two horizontal lines that are almost parallel. To your left draw the landmass that looks like a greater sign >. To your right draw the second landmass that looks like the lesser sign   STEP 2. The red 90-degree angle to the left of the river bank gives the height of the trees. The long 45-degree angle to the right of the river bank also represents the tree heights. The triangle in the center with a a small connecting line represents the trees in the distance where the river curves out of sight., Draw these lines lightly and watch carefully where they appear on the page.   STEP 3. Are they marshmallows or cotton balls? A good way to capture the shape of the tree is using nature's shapes like cylinders, cones, spheres or cubes. Here I chose oval-looking spheres for the placement of leaves clusters and cylinders for lines for the tree trunks. Don't forget to add the mirrored look of the trees in the water. Drawing the trunks will suffice.   STEP 4. Here I left the background guidelines gray for your reference. See how the tree lines connect. Now draw the fluffy leaf clusters and tree trunks.   STEP 5. Now draw the river's current in the background and its reflections in the foreground.   STEP 6. Your sketch should look something like this.   STEP 7. Here is a line drawing without full shading that is made up of simple lines and dots. This gives you a simple approach to the technique of filling in the trees and river. Notice the squiggly horizontal lines that represent the river's currents. That adds a touch of reality. Also the vertical lines in the water represent the reflection of trees and landmass.   STEP 8. This step and the following include techniques for detailed pencil drawing. You can use line strokes to fill in the trees and blur with a tissue. However, to get quicker results, I used firm pastel color sticks, ranging from light, medium, to dark gray. You can literally save up to two hours or more. With a tissue, I then rubbed lightly to blend and fill in. Afterward, I sprayed the picture with a workable fixative (Krylon). The spray adheres the pastel to the paper so it will not smudge. After the fixative dries, you can work more on your picture. Notice also my penciled lines did not disappear.   STEP 9. I had mentioned nature's shapes. They are represented in this picture. Notice how the shading follows the shape. Also when you do a realistic picture in pencil, tone, shading, shadow, and texture all breathe life into your picture.   STEP 10. Holding your pencil in writing position, drawing with the point gives details and nice lines. This technique is great for those thin current ripples in the lake and the detailed tree limbs. Getting that nice texture of thousands of leaves is by holding your pencil on its side and making dabbing strokes for that nice leaf angle. A chiseled pencil is great for shapes of leaves.   STEP 11. This is where you can practice your pencil strokes on the trees and river. Here is a tip for getting that nice realistic mirror look on your river. In the darker areas (mirrored trees), blend with a tissue downwards. Also stroke up and down in the depth areas of the water. The lands masses have that hairy up-and-down stroke too. Make sure you leave a lighter area in the water that mirrors the sky.   STEP 12. Since my kneaded eraser did not work on this picture, I used opaque white watercolor to get the whiter highlights. Even the river has some of the highlights, which are those little horizontal lines near the left landmass.   STEP 13. I added more white dots on the trees, lightened the tree limbs, and added some more definition on the tree trunks. I darkened the tree leaves and added more at the top, especially to the right. Also, if you haven't noticed before, I've added dark areas to the sky to give a cloudy look. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial on How to Draw a River. For me it was a new and fresh experience. Please don't hesitate to comment, fave or vote. Thank you.   Step 1. Step 2. Step 3. Step 4. Step 5. Step 6. Step 7. Step 8. Step 9. Step 10. Step 11. Step 12. Step 13.