Techniques and Tips

Tips for Rendering Metals in Paint

Tips for Rendering Metals in Paint

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The Three Metals (oil, 40×40) by Ora Sorensen

Shimmering metallic surfaces always add a wow factor to paintings. Walking through an art museum or gallery, we pay special attention to works depicting a flash of gold, silver or other metals. Careful inspection, however, shows that their reflective gleam results from a simple juxtaposition of colors, shadows and highlights.

Of course, metals have different degrees of shininess, and the duller metallic surfaces must be painted differently from those with a high shine.

Low-luster metals
Matte or low-luster metallic objects, such as those depicted in The Three Metals (at top), have these characteristics:

  • blended shadows and highlights
  • a full range of values, determined by the light source
  • diffused or obscured reflections
  • colors determined by the type of the metal being depicted

High-shine metals

A high-shine metallic object, such as the silver cup depicted in the painting above, has these characteristics:

  • hard-edged reflective shapes within the shape of the object
  • a full range of values, determined by the reflected objects
  • reflections tinted by the color of the metal

This article is an excerpt from an article about depicting metallic surfaces that appeared in the December 2009 issue of Magazine.


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