How to Draw a Waterfall in 4 Steps With Photoshop

The irony of learning how to draw a waterfall isn't about drawing the waterfall but everything else that surrounds it. Through the use of negative space, find out how to carve a waterfall out of a landscape scenery in this drawing guide.

Waterfalls are a place of natural beauty where you can see a lot of what the natural can offer like the various trees, rocks formations, wildlife, and to see water in powerful dynamic action. It is no wonder waterfalls are great tourist attractions.

Visually, a waterfall is a body of water going down a seep ledge into a steep gorge. There are many types of waterfalls that you can potentially draw. The easiest type to draw would be a plunge waterfall, whereby water goes straight down. On the other hand, cascading waterfalls will hit many ledges on its way down.

Cascading waterfalls are a bit difficult to draw but, in my opinion, more beautiful. As mentioned, due to the life giving properties of water, you will always see foliage surrounding a waterfall. The rock formations are always exposed. As an artist learning how to draw a waterfall, these should always be a priority.

How to draw a waterfall: creating a ledge

Learning how to draw a waterfall will require you to draw in a horizontal ledge. How much of the ledge is shown will be up to your own unique perspective. Using a chalk brush tip, create a ledge that will contain the type of waterfall you are going for.

In order to create a realistic cliff, rock formations will have to be drawn in. After you have created a dark backdrop, draw in simple trapezoid shapes of various sizes to indicate rock faces. This step is mostly random in terms of the types of rock that will be created.

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Next, indicate where the waterfall should be located at. Using vertical strokes, block in a general direction of all the possible locations where water will come down the cliff. As part of this step, indicate void areas where water may not hit too.

Lastly, as the water hits the gorge, indicate the continuation of the water as it empties out to form a stream or river. This can be easily done using horizontal strokes. At the same time, consider drawing in more rocks at the river's bottom to give more compositional balance.

How to draw a waterfall: rock formations

Rock formations are very important in learning how to draw a waterfall that is natural. On cliff edges, rocks are rough because there isn't enough force to erode it away. When drawing rocks near the cliff, make sure to include more angles and edges using a chalk tip on the drawing tool or smudge tool.

For rocks that have been eroded or smoothen out over time, you can use a texture brush to add in hints of natural wear. To do that, pick a brush where the textures can be splattered across an area. Sometimes, drawing over the same area will yield newer rock textures.

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In the waterfall area, create random plateaus to show where water can drop from. You can use a dark value in drawing these plateaus as it will be used to create contrast with the water. Unlike the rest of the cliff face, make the textures rounded to give the impression water has worn some of the rocks away.

Finally, the stream that flows away from the waterfall can be easily crafted by dabbing in white areas around rocks to show water splashes. The contrast between the dark and light areas will further give a subtle illusion of reflection from the rocks.

How to draw a waterfall: drawing water

This is step is where you will finally draw a waterfall. Using a white color, simple draw single lines going from the top of the cliff to the bottom. Changing the brush tip to a sponge texture tip will allow you to draw multiple lines at once to speed up the process.

As the water hits each ledge on its way down, this surface area will have the most concentration of water. You can show this by drawing a horizontal rim light. Do this for several ledges at various heights during the plunge to show off a natural waterfall.

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The longer the trail of water, the less defined it will become. In order to draw this, switch over to the smudge tool and smudge horizontally near the base of each outpouring section of the waterfall. If the color of the water is too strong, erase or glaze in a dark value to give a feeling of translucency.

The river away will need to show bits and pieces of how water will travel down stream. Again, with the smudge tool, smudge out the light areas of the river around the rocks to show general travel direction to create a sense of fluidity.

How to draw a waterfall: foliage and contrast

With the waterfall is mostly completed, now would be the time to finish the entire composition. Unless it's a surreal drawing, there will be foliages around the waterfall and above the cliff face. It may seem difficult at first, but drawing foliage can be straight forward.

The best way to approach foliage is to use a texture brush that has the type of leaves you want. Sometimes it comes included within a brush pack. Other times, you will need to draw out a single leaf and then set it as a brush tip.

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With that in mind, set the brush to allow it to randomly splatter your leaves around the waterfall. I've found that changing the shape dynamic of the brush to increase or decrease its size based on pressure sensitivity while you scatter the leaves around will give the best results. Have a tilt function set to direction is also helpful here as the textures will turn based on how the stylus tilts.

You can use the same process to create splashes of water near the base of the rocks or the bottom of the waterfall. Just pick a small chalk brush tip and scatter the texture around rocks. Just be aware that the closer the splashes are to the foreground, the more you need to increase the size of the brush tip.

Depending on temperature, you can create mist too. This is done with a large round brush tip on a different layer. Mist can be found on the ledge or on the base. Once these areas have been dabbed in, you can erase bits of it to reveal the drawing underneath.

Near the end, you can use a global filter to increase the contrast if you'd like. Doing so will automatically add more weight to the water as it clashes with the darker tones on the rocks. If you want to target certain areas instead, the dodge and burn tools will allow you to do that.