How to paint a warm & cool still life painting (using only 2 colours) – Part 2

by Will Kemp

in acrylic painting

limited palette acrylic still life

A step-by-step warm & cool still life acrylic painting – Part 2

In this limited palette painting series using acrylics, I am posting a weekly video on my YouTube channel that you can follow along at home. It’s free to subscribe to the channel so you can keep updated with the painting progress…

The next 3 steps

cool and warm painting

Step 1. Blocking in the background

I mix a muted blue by adding a touch of the Burnt sienna to the Ultramarine blue, working around the shape of the jug pay particular attention to the negative shape in between the handle, this will help you to adjust any drawing mistakes.

The paint handling is quite a loose technique, to add energy and interest to the background.
As it is only one colour on the reference photo I want to bring life to the background using these gestural marks. Notice how I also leave odd areas of the tonal ground showing through.

Step 2. Mixing a shadow tone

still life cast shadows

Using the black that we mixed in Part 1, I add a touch of white and some more blue so I keep all of the darker shadows with a cool blue hue. This will help to both unify the background and send the shadows back when we introduce the warm of the jug.

In the next step, we can start to introduce tiny amounts of warmth into the tabletop.

Step 3. Bringing warmth to the foreground

warmth in the shadows

limited palette shadows

For the tabletop shadow, I mix a warm grey and a cool grey. Much like Velázquez used a warm black and a cool black in his portrait work.

The same principles apply and you can learn how to alter the balance in your painting through the use of warms and cools, rather than adding stronger brighter pigments.

I also add a bit of warmth to where the light hits the tabletop in the foreground, this is in preparation for the stronger orange of the jug, so we have elements of warmth in other parts of the painting.

acrylic painting shadows

I now add some of the dark shadow colours into the shadow of the jug and swap to the round brush to paint in the white rim of the jug and to check the drawing, it shouldn’t be too neat to maintain the painterly feel we’re after.

adding detail to a still life

end of stage 2

The still life painting at the end of Part 2.

Tune in next week for the final Part 3, when we start to paint the jug.

Any questions just drop them in the comments below.

Limited Palette Still Life acrylic painting – Free video Course | Part 2

The video below shows the second steps in the acrylic warm & cool still life painting.

You should follow me on my YouTube Art school Channel so you don’t miss the next video.

If you want to take your still life painting further you should have a look at my Still life Painting Course

You might also like:
1. Warm & Cool Jug still life painting (using only 2 colours) – Part 1
2. Warm & Cool Jug Still life Part 3 (video)
3. The 3 Steps to Becoming a Better Painter, by Painting Less
4. How to balance warm and cool colours

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric GUILLERM November 4, 2012

Hello sir, I have very recently started to paint and, I love it. I came across our your courses on youtube, and I think you the best one out there, you are so easy to watch and listen to, you are not show of not condescending. Thank you. It’s a Real pleasure to follow you.

PS. I am a French man, who lives in the UK.


Will Kemp November 4, 2012

Hey Eric,
Thanks for your kind words, so pleased you are enjoying painting and finding the tutorials helpful.


Andrik Sim April 13, 2013

I feel a great energy of need to paint arising and am beyond thankfulness for your site. You’re absolutely brilliant, so easy to listen to because of your humility and warmth. You’re a real gift!


Will Kemp April 13, 2013

Hi Andrik, thanks for dropping by, really pleased to hear you’re feeling inspired to create! thanks for your kind words. Let me know how your paintings go.



Shirley May 19, 2013

Hi Will, I have spent one of the best days of my life watching your acrylic painting workshops. You are so inspirational, encouraging and make the complexity of colour mixing exciting. I can’t wait to get started. Thank you! You are a fantastic teacher!


Will Kemp May 20, 2013

Hi Shirley,
Thanks for your lovely comments, really kind of you. Great to hear you’ve been inspired by the painting tutorials and colour mixing doesn’t seem so complicated!



alizeh aneel January 12, 2014

i love painting cuz of you sir!



Will Kemp January 12, 2014

Thanks Alizeh, very kind of you to say so.




Wende Sanchez July 11, 2014

Hi Will,
I just finished painting the still life jug picture – it was my first adult painting ever! My husband said “very, very nice” and my daughter’s comment was “amazing”! Thanks for a great tutorial and I can’t wait to try another one of your suggested projects. It was fun!


Will Kemp July 12, 2014

Hi Wende, congratulations on your first painting! an ‘amazing’ and ‘very, very nice’ are high praise indeed! so pleased you achieved some great results.



Diane Robert August 3, 2014

Love your explanations. Hope to see more.


Will Kemp August 4, 2014

Thanks Diane, pleased you’ve been enjoying them.


Mimi October 14, 2014

I’ve just found your video randomly through internet searching.
Your explanation is so clear and easy to understand.
( I’m Korean and studying visual art in Austalia but somtimes it’s hard to understand in english)
Thanks for sharing your technical painting skill.


Will Kemp October 14, 2014

Pleased you’re finding them helpful Mimi,


Linda December 31, 2014

Will, I discovered your website Christmas Day after receiving an art kit containing acrylics, oils, pastels and colored pencils for Christmas. I’ve since painted both the cherry and jug with (I think) great success. I appreciate your ability to both show and describe steps in such a clear and direct way and especially appreciate the confidence you instill! I’ll be signing up for your on line classes soon.
Thanks so much!


Will Kemp January 1, 2015

Hi Linda, thanks for your kind comments and so pleased you’ve been putting your art kit to good use. Hope you’re pleased with your results from the lessons.


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