It can be tricky to draw water on a map. You don’t want to fill areas with a flat blue, but you also don’t want to draw every wave and ripple. The trick is to strike a balance, and provide a visual shorthand that quickly sells the presence of water. When putting this together I was thinking about Mike Schley‘s water style (shown in this map).
Around the edge of the water area, draw in smooth flowing lines. Draw them quickly with a sweeping motion – don’t think too hard about it. This takes a little practice, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it comes quickly. Have the lines loosely follow the edge of the water, and avoid any sharp corners
At this point you can use it as-is – black and white line maps are easy and quick to use. But if you want colour, read on.
2. Base colour
Here I’ve added a grey blue as the base (on a new layer under the lines). Once the blue is in place, I added a white highlights, on the side of the black ripple lines. I’ve added the white only to the edge away from the side of the pool. This way the ripples look like they’re heading towards shore. Add brighter highlights right along the ripple edges.
3. Extra credit
In this step I’ve added the ripple texture from earlier this week as an overlay layer at 8% opacity. I’ve also added a new overlay layer and used a large fuzzy brush set to black and low opacity to darken the deeper parts of the pool. This will darken the blue, and bump up the saturation, but leave the white highlights almost untouched.
That’s all there is to it!
Here’s a video walkthrough of how I draw water on a map: