How (not) to Paint a Glass of Water

The most common of everyday articles for the Weekly Photo Challenge: Have you ever really looked at a glass of water? Try painting one!

How not to do it.

  • Paint the outline slowly to make sure it’s crooked, and do it in a highly staining colour, so it can’t be fixed.
  • Forget about perspective and paint the oval closest to your eye (here: top) with the strongest curve.
  • Worst of all:  try very hard to leave out fiddly little bits of lighter colour from the very start. This results in the confused lines that you see on the water surface and the bottom here.
Half-empty … and half-full (or getting there, at any rate).

So how do you do it?

Artist and blogger Dayna Bordage often posts beautiful paintings of transparent water containers: bottle, vasesreflections, more. Recently she created this 7-step guide with step-by-step illustrations. What I learnt was this.

  • Instead of identifying the light edges and trying to paint around them, try to identify areas larger areas of at least a little colour, and paint those.
  • Then in the next step identify areas that are at least a little darker. Repeat. This way the pattern of highlights and shadows emerges naturally.
  • Finally add highlights with gouache, or if you’re a purist, sprinkle gum or dab a white oil-pastel crayon before you start.

I’ve often read about the principle of painting from light to dark, but I never understood that it also means painting from large areas to small. I guess in order to learn, you have to do it … wrong.

Published by


I like blue.

9 thoughts on “How (not) to Paint a Glass of Water”

  1. Lovely improvement between the paintings! I also like how you say that it is painting from large areas to small — that’s a good way of putting it that I had not thought about. Great post 🙂

      1. Thanks for the tutorial. It’s really the thing I never understood, how to figure out which reflections to paint. And now I get that you don’t actually have to, it just sort of happens. Got to buy some white, though. 🙂
        And you’re welcome, I really love your paintings.

  2. The glass is neither half full or half empty, denoting subjective observations. The vessel contains half of its volumetric capacity is the correct statement. Neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but rather scientific.Nice painting. (I use an ellipse stencil)

  3. Hello! This is Interesting. I will try your technique. Thanks for stopping by my blog “Exploring the World: Photography Travel, Art” and for liking my post “Weekly Photo Challenge: Big”.
    Kind greetings,

Let me know what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s