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How to Paint a Pond

Ponds can inspire the artist and nature lover in all of us.
pond image by NataV from Fotolia.com

A pond is a small body of fresh water that, like a lake, can be either natural or man-made. There is no precise difference between a lake and a pond. In the northeastern United States, in particular, there are numerous lake-size ponds, including the famous 61-acre Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts, where Henry David Thoreau lived and wrote in the middle of the 19th century. But most people think of ponds as considerably smaller than lakes. They are equally inspiring subjects for painters.

Things You'll Need:

  • Paint
  • Charcoal Or Hb Pencil
  • Brushes
  • Prepared Canvas

Sketch your pond landscape with charcoal or HB pencil on your prepared canvas. Take your canvas outside on an easel or use photos as a reference for your painting.

Draw a horizontal line across your canvas, about halfway down. This will be your horizon line. Above the line is the sky, and below it is your water.

Making objects in the foreground larger than ones in back helps give a sense of perspective.
perspective image by Gratien Jonxis from Fotolia.com

Add trees around your pond. Trees near the horizon line are small, while the trees near the foreground, the front of the painting, are larger. This creates perspective. Add pebbles on the shore and just under water.

Paint your trees with greens for the leaves and browns for the trunks and branches. Paint the sky with light blues or gray colors. Paint the pond water a darker shade of the color you used for the sky. If the shore is sandy, it can be light brown, but often ponds have rocky shores or have grasses or reeds growing right to the water's edge.

Paint reflections of the trees in the pond by using similar colors you used to paint the trees. Mix those colors with blue to make reflections in the water. They should look like mirror images, subtly hazier than the real trees.

Add color to some of the pebbles that are underwater. They should be brown with blue over it, so that the water looks transparent.

Add tones, or shadows and highlights, to your overall painting. The trees should have shadows and highlights. The pond should have highlights from the sun and ripples to show slight movement of the water. Be sure to depict the pond's transparent and reflective qualities to make it look realistic.


Experiment with different pond scenes, like a Koi pond.

If you live near a pond, create a series of pond paintings to show how it changes with the seasons, the weather and the time of day.

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