Looking at a waterfall evokes feelings of joy and wonder. You may be wondering: how can you capture the beauty of a waterfall landscape in your drawings?
A waterfall is the result of a river flowing from the top of a mountain, cliff, or steep land formation. It cascades down, sometimes over great distances, surrounded by rocky terrain and lush vegetation.
Drawing a beautiful waterfall landscape may seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be. Even if you’re a beginner, I encourage you to try this step-by-step tutorial. With a basic outline and easy shading techniques, you’ll be surprised at what you can create.
In this tutorial, I will show you how to draw a realistic and stunning waterfall landscape using pencil. Let’s get started!
Use a Reference Photo of a Waterfall Landscape
To begin, find a reference photo of a waterfall landscape. This will serve as a guide throughout the drawing process. For this tutorial, I have chosen a reference photo of the Iguazu Falls in South America, bordering Argentina and Brazil.
Please note that I have made some modifications to the reference photo, such as replacing one of the waterfalls with a tree. This allows us to focus on the central waterfall.
Materials Used for This Drawing
Before we start, let’s gather the necessary materials. Although I will provide a list, please keep in mind that you can still create a beautiful drawing using just a regular pencil and eraser.
- HB, 2B, and 4B graphite pencils
- 8″ by 10″ drawing paper (90 lb., medium rough surface)
- Kneaded eraser
If you need to purchase any of these materials, you can find them at your local art store or use the affiliate links provided.
How to Draw a Waterfall Video Tutorial
If you prefer a more comprehensive tutorial, I have created an extended video version of this tutorial. It includes step-by-step demonstrations and oral explanations from start to finish. You can access the full 3-hour and 5-minute tutorial through the link below.
If you are already a member of the Let’s Draw Today Club, you can access the tutorial directly from your courses.
Draw the Landscape Outline, Sky, and Top Trees
To create a waterfall landscape, we’ll start by sketching a basic outline and then work on the sky and trees at the top of the drawing.
Sketch an Outline of the Waterfall Landscape
Using the reference photo as a rough guide, sketch the contours of the main elements of the landscape. Begin with an HB pencil, drawing a sloping zigzag line near the top of the paper. Then, draw two almost parallel, mostly vertical lines to represent the sides of the waterfall.
Next, sketch two squiggly lines under the top of the right cliff. These lines will help create the appearance of the cliff jutting out. Above the waterfall and along the top edge of the cliff, outline the shape of the upper trees and bushes.
Draw a rough outline of the cliff to the left of the waterfall, along with the outline of additional foliage. Keep your lines loose and don’t worry about matching the reference photo exactly.
If you’re replacing the left waterfall with a tree, sketch the outline of a tree now. Feel free to shape the tree differently from mine. Additionally, draw the outline of the foliage at the bottom of the cliff by outlining the top of the bushes, about halfway between the top and bottom of the waterfall.
Complete the outline by drawing the contour lines of the plants and rocks in the foreground, as well as a small piece of land for our tree to live on.
Begin Drawing the Sky and Top Trees
In the reference photo, the sky is clear. We’ll aim for the same in our drawing. Leave the sky mostly untouched, except for a few lightly-sketched clouds (if desired). If you want to draw clouds, you can refer to a previous tutorial on how to draw clouds.
Now, let’s focus on drawing the foliage for our waterfall landscape. Trees and bushes are composed of clusters of leaves and branches. Starting from the left side of the drawing, use the side of a 2B pencil to create shaded patches within the foliage. These patches represent areas with less sunlight.
Instead of drawing every individual leaf and detail, we’ll suggest the leaves by making tiny marks within the highlighted areas of the trees and bushes. Add a few marks along the outer edges. Draw some branches poking out from the open spaces between the leafy clusters.
Apply the same technique to the foliage near the top of the waterfall. Sketch random shaded patches within the foliage shape, making some darker than others. Gradually transition to lighter areas as you move towards the highlighted parts. Draw a few branches within the leafy mass, as well as some branches extending beyond the outer edge.
Continue this process to finish drawing the trees and bushes along the top of the cliff. Establish the shadow areas of the foliage, ensuring that some leaves overlap the top edge of the right cliff. Then, add a darker layer of graphite over specific spots to create more depth. Draw visible branches to complete the top trees and bushes.
Draw the Landscape to the Waterfall’s Left
Now, let’s shift our attention to the landscape to the left of the waterfall. We’ll draw the left cliff, trees, bushes, and a boulder below it. Instead of a waterfall, we’ll replace it with a tree on the far left.
Draw the Rocky Texture of the Left Cliff
Start by creating a rocky texture on the cliff just to the left of the waterfall. Use the reference photo as a guide while drawing lines and shapes that resemble the outline of a rugged cliff. Include a narrow shape along the base of the portion that juts out, and add cracks, grooves, and lines to enhance the texture.
To enhance the appearance of a rocky texture, use a combination of light and dark values. Apply dark tones within the shapes, cracks, and grooves you created. Add lighter tones between these darker areas.
Repeat the same process for the middle part of the left cliff. Vary the direction of your lines to create a more realistic texture. Add extra shading near the top of the cliff to separate it from the trees and bushes above. Apply a very light base layer of shading on the far left side of the drawing, as we’ll draw a tree in that spot later.
Draw the Bottom Foliage of the Left Cliff and a Boulder
For the trees and bushes along the bottom of the left cliff, use the same techniques as before. Shade to establish the different clusters of leaves and sketch short markings in the lighter areas. Remember, you don’t have to draw every leaf.
In the base of the foliage, add an outline for the boulder visible in the reference photo. Use curved lines to define the major faces and planes of the boulder. Apply dark tones to the right face and lighter tones to the left face. Leave thin strips of white along the edges and cracks to create a range of values on the rock’s surface.
Finish up the shrubbery at the base of the cliff by using a 2B pencil. Emphasize the darker areas to enhance the contrast with the lighter areas. Add additional shading on the lower surface of the cliff, just above the foliage, to create more contrast and distinguish the cliff from the bushes.
Draw the Left Tree
In place of the left waterfall of the reference photo, we’ll draw a tree. Start by shading the negative spaces (dark patches) between the leaf clusters. Rather than sketching oval shapes, we’ll suggest the leaf clusters through shading.
Next, sketch the indications of leaves. Begin in the darker areas and gradually move into the lighter areas using a mixture of short markings and small circular strokes. Leave the lightest values along the outer edge of the tree.
Draw a few branches between the leaf clusters, and show glimpses of the trunk running vertically behind them. If the values used in the tree are similar to those on the surface of the cliff, use a kneaded eraser to brighten the clusters along the edge of the tree. Apply another layer of shading over the cliff, especially along the edge of the tree. Draw a small piece of land as the base for the tree, and create more contrast between the tree and the cliff as needed.
Draw the Waterfall and the Water Below
Now, we’ll focus on the centerpiece of our drawing—the waterfall! We’ll learn how to draw a realistic waterfall step by step, along with the water beneath it.
Draw the Waterfall
With an HB pencil, lightly draw curved lines from the top of the waterfall to the bottom. The lines should curve over the edge of the cliff and then descend at the same angle as the waterfall’s edges.
Continue sketching more lines within the waterfall, adding wiggle to some of them, especially near the bottom. Draw additional lines along the edges to depict areas where the waterfall is thinner. Include fewer lines in the central portion where there is more water.
To add volume and thickness to the waterfall, sketch more lines in different directions. Use the side of your pencil’s graphite to go over some of the thicker, wavy lines. Draw thin lines with the tip of your pencil, particularly near the top and along the sides.
Use a 4B pencil to shade the left edge of the waterfall to create contrast. Add small spots in the water along the edge to show how the falling water separates, revealing the cliff behind it.
Continue building contrast along the edge and top of the waterfall. Contrasting values, such as a dark cliff next to light water, help frame and enhance the beauty of the waterfall.
Draw the Water Beneath the Waterfall
No waterfall is complete without glistening water below it. Our waterfall features mist and rippling water. There are various ways to draw water ripples, but we’ll start with a simplified version.
Using an HB pencil, draw thin, sideways shapes to indicate some of the ripples. Then, shade between the shapes using a sideways motion. If some of the ripples become less visible, use a kneaded eraser to lighten them, while applying more shading along the ripple edges with your pencil.
Draw the Landscape to the Waterfall’s Right
With the waterfall drawn, let’s complete the frame by drawing the cliff on the right side and adding foliage at the bottom.
Identify the Darker Areas of the Right Cliff
To draw the cliff face, start by identifying the darker areas. Use a 2B pencil to draw mostly vertical lines and tall triangle shapes to represent the rugged surface at the top of the cliff. Draw thin, irregular shapes below the top part of the cliff to depict the rock under the upper portion.
Apply darker tones with a 4B pencil to shade the thin shapes on the cliff’s face, creating shadows and emphasizing the texture. Add a heavy shading layer just below the top portion of the cliff to create the illusion of rock protrusion.
Finish the Rocky Texture of the Right Cliff
Using a 2B pencil, shade the open areas of the upper cliff with a midtone value. This value should be darker than the shadow areas created by the 4B pencil but lighter than the foliage overhead. As you shade, gradually transition to lighter tones near the darker areas. This will give the rocky surface a three-dimensional effect.
Continue building the rugged texture by using midtones and highlights between the darker crevices. Draw additional grooves and cracks for a realistic appearance. Remember, irregularity and asymmetry are key when drawing rocks and cliffs. Emphasize shading near the top of the cliff to separate it from the foliage.
Draw the Bottom Foliage of the Right Cliff
Shape the shadow areas of the trees and bushes along the bottom edge of the right cliff. Sketch abstract shapes to form the various leaf clusters within the foliage.
Apply the same technique used for the other foliage areas to suggest leaves and create tonal variation. Use short circular and choppy markings for tighter areas, and longer hatch marks for more open spaces. Add darker tones to the cliff area if more contrast is needed between the cliff and the top of the foliage.
Draw a few tiny branches emerging from the darker areas into the lighter areas of the leaves. Remember to taper the lines as you move from the bottom of the trunk or branch upward. Although these branches are small and far away, the process for drawing them is similar to larger branches.
Draw the Foreground and Finishing Touches
We’re almost there! Let’s draw some rocks and plants in the foreground, and add the finishing touches to complete our waterfall landscape.
Draw Rocks in the Foreground
Begin by drawing a few rocks in the lower-left corner of the drawing. Sketch a light base layer of tones along the bottom edge, varying the direction of your pencil strokes to mimic the shapes of additional rocks. Create a combination of darker and lighter surfaces, keeping the overall layer light in value.
Establish more details on the rocks by applying shadow tones to areas that are already slightly darker in the base layer. Don’t forget to add additional bumps and cracks for texture.
Continue building up the rock texture, ensuring that each face has different values. This will make the rocks appear more realistic.
Draw Plants in the Foreground
In this drawing, we’ll take a different approach to drawing plants in the foreground. Begin by drawing a series of short markings near the top of the plants’ location.
Next, create irregular patches of shading near the bottom-right corner of the drawing. These patches will shape the highlighted areas of the plants. Use a 4B pencil to work in another layer of shadow within some of the negative spaces, increasing the density of the mass of plants.
Between the rocks and the previously drawn plants, there is another type of plant with tall leaves and a few flowers. Outline these tall leaves, allowing some to curve and overlap. Include visible flower petals too.
Shade the areas around the leaves with a 4B pencil to create shadows and add volume to the foreground. Use a 2B pencil to carefully shade the individual leaves, applying lighter tones than those used for the background. Leave some areas of highlight on the leaves.
Add the Finishing Touches to the Waterfall Drawing
Take a moment to review your waterfall drawing and consider any final touches you’d like to add. The finishing touches may vary, but here are some ideas:
- Use a 4B pencil to add more contrast to the shadows on the cliffs. Shade alongside areas of light value, such as where the waterfall meets the cliff on the left edge.
- Draw smaller rocks in the water near the big boulder, and add more ripples next to the tree. Enhance the tree by adding additional leaves and highlights to the trunk using a kneaded eraser.
- Shade the water with horizontal pencil strokes, gliding along the ripples and mist at the waterfall’s base.
- Apply another layer of tones to the dark shadow areas of the right cliff.
- Finally, add a few sprigs of thin grass between the rocks in the foreground.
And there you have it—a stunning waterfall landscape drawing!
To recap the tutorial, refer to the image below. It shows a progression of the main steps for drawing a waterfall landscape.
Keep Drawing Waterfalls
If you have the opportunity, try drawing a real-life waterfall. If that’s not possible, use photos as references. Practice using the techniques from this tutorial, and apply them to other waterfall drawings.
Remember, the beauty of drawing landscapes is that you don’t have to replicate every detail from your reference. You can rearrange elements, add or remove things, and make the drawing your own. As long as your drawing represents the essential components of the landscape, you’ll end up with a pleasing and satisfying artwork. With practice, your waterfall drawings will radiate the same beauty as your sources of inspiration.