How to paint glass & reflections with acrylics Part 3 of 3

by Will Kemp

in acrylic painting

stilllifesetupglassofwater

In Part 1 we looked at how to master the basic features of your digital camera, so you can emulate how your eyes see things in nature to give you fantastic reference photographs for your still life painting.

In Part 2 we saw how small incremental changes in your composition and lighting can instantly create a more dramatic and pleasing image for a painting.

So for Part 3, we’re on to the painting…

A step-by-step acrylic painting of a glass of water

The image below is going to be my reference photo to work from for this tutorial. It can be ‘right clicked’ and ‘Save image as’, so you can use it as a guide.

finalglasswater

Here’s my pencil drawing you can also work from:

drawingwater

Materials you will need for this tutorial:

  • 30 cm x 30 cm pre-primed white canvas.
  • Size 6 Black Hog Oil brush from Jackson Arts – filbert
  • Size 5 Kolinsky sable from Rosemary & co – round – (any small round will be fine)

Paints

  • Artist quality Titanium white  – Invest in this white even if you use student quality paint for the rest of the colours.
  • Burnt umber
  • Mars black or Ivory black
  • Yellow ochre
  • 3B pencil
  • Kitchen roll
  • Cranked handle palette knife
  • Jam jar for cleaning brush.
  • Small dipper for diluting paint

1. Draw out the image

paintingwaterinacrylic

Using a 3B clutch pencil, I draw out the main shapes and lines paying special attention to the shape of the ellipses in the water, make sure the edges of the ellipses have a slight curve to them.

Spend some time checking the shapes before you begin the painting. Because it is quite a monochrome study, we’re going to be relying on the drawing to help us create the illusion of realism.

Also notice for this particular painting, I haven’t used a coloured ground, I’m just painting straight onto the white canvas.

Why?

There are some odd occasions when if the subject matter you want to paint is very light in tone, you can use the white of your canvas to your advantage. Having the brilliant white underneath adds an underlying glow to the piece and a luminosity to the water.

2. Establish the warm undertones

workingonwhitecanvas

Just using Burnt umber, I wash in any areas in the picture where I can see a slight warm glow. There isn’t very much in this particular painting but it just helps to add a slight glow for when we add in the darker tones in the next stage. I’m using a round synthetic brush, dipped in water so it is quite a watery wash.

3. Establish the darkest darks

monochromestilllifepainting

I now put out some Mars Black and using the hog filbert, start blocking in the darker tones to the painting. Using thicker paint than the previous application because I know I really want these areas to be dark and don’t want any of the white of the canvas shining through.

4. Mix a colour string with your palette knife

colourstrings

I now mix a colour string using Titanium white and the Mars black. I’m looking for small incremental jumps in tone, that aren’t too big but can still enable me to see a slight difference on the canvas. If you’re just starting painting, working with a stay-wet palette can help to keep the colour strings wet when you first mix them making your painting quicker after you’ve made the initial mixes. You can read more about colour strings here.

paintingglassobjects

The colour string continues right down to nearly white. I don’t go to completely white, but am aiming for the lightest tone to match the brightest areas in the photograph, which in this case is the area in the middle of the glass and on the surrounding tabletop.

5. Painting the mid-tones

transparentobjects

Now with the whole string of colours ready, you can paint quite quickly working between the tones and scrubbing in the greys. I’m keeping the paint at a reasonable thickness to cover over the white and to give me enough paint so I can mix it with the other tones whilst they’re still wet.

paintingdetailswithacrylics I then swap to the smaller round brush painting in any of the grey tones in the detail at the bottom of the glass. Notice how there are still elements of the warmth from the Burnt umber showing through.

6. Introducing Yellow ochre

waterandreflections

Using a mix of Yellow ochre and a touch of Titanium white, I scrub in some of this yellow tone into the background. I’m not going to paint the green as bright as in the photograph, as for this study I want to keep it quite tonal and monochrome.

7. A more muted mix

paintingreflectionsinacrylics

I make a more muted mix using the Yellow ochre, Titanium white and a touch of the black.

This very muted dull green will balance with the painting, yet give a bit of background colour to isolate the clear glass from the background.

Then I can start to use the smaller round brush to paint the spaces either side of the fine rim of the glass. This way by painting up to the rim it’s easier to create a smooth, clean ellipse shape. This superfine line will help to add refinement to the painting, even though a lot of the earlier painting is quite gestural.

Having this mix between fine lines and painterly brush marks really makes this style of painting work.

If we were to paint just using fine lines, you can run the risk that your paintings become too graphic and have an unnatural crispness to their finish.

8. Finishing touches

lightreflectionsinglass

I now add some final white highlights just using Titanium white, also adding small subtle hints of the green/grey tone onto the very bottom of the glass.

This helps to subtly bring the background tones together with the rest of the piece.

finalpaintingofglasswithwater

This painting is quite straightforward and simple, but painted this way really gives you an effective painting of glass and water.

The results are realistic, without getting too hung up on the details within the piece, I really hope you’ve enjoyed the series tackling a perceived tricky subject of reflections and water.

Coming soon…

stilllifemasterclass

 Detail taken from Reflection, Oranges – Still life Masterclass, Will Kemp, Acrylic on board

If you want to take your still life paintings further and learn how to paint more complex reflective surfaces (and discover how simple they can be) I will be releasing my new Still life Masterclass Course later this week, look out for the Introductory 50% offer for Art School readers.

 

{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

Terry Erb September 17, 2013

Thank you, Will.
This was an excellent lesson.
Best regards,
Theresa/Terry Erb

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Will Kemp September 17, 2013

You’re welcome Terry & Theresa, pleased you’ve found it helpful.

Cheers,
Will

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Anne September 17, 2013

fantastic! i find that u give words to some things i intuitively know but cannot express and define ideas i have no concept of…what more cd a brand new painter want?

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Will Kemp September 17, 2013

Hi Anne, thanks for your kind comments, so pleased you’re finding the decriptions helpful in your painting.

Cheers,
Will

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Sharon February 18, 2014

Can’t find you on Face Book.

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Will Kemp February 18, 2014

Hi Sharon, I’m afraid I’m #oldschool and not on Facebook at the moment.

Cheers,
Will

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Virginia Nickle September 17, 2013

Wonderful another great learning experience with you Will. Cannot wait to paint the subject. I want to really get more involved in still life painting and reflections especially with bright colors of fruit and glassware.

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Will Kemp September 17, 2013

You’re welcome Virginia, pleased you found the tutorial helpful.

Cheers,
Will

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Sherrie Richard September 17, 2013

This was a good lesson. I’m just starting to paint and having trouble with the language of painting. For example, “gray-green tones”…I don’t see the “green”?? How can I better understand the language of color, as when I hear “green” I thing GREEN. I run across this often and did just recently when I was trying to mix gray tones (not with any black) and all the reference I could find online, when I was looking for gray tones, were “grayed” colors.
Thanks for your visual demo’s they are so much more helpful!! Love your enthusiasm the most!
Regards,
Sherrie

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Will Kemp September 17, 2013

Hi Sherrie,

Usually when describing hues (red hue or blue hue) and tones (how light or dark) of colours the words used before it help to visualize the colour the artist is refering to.

For example, if I say think of a bright vivid green. The ‘bright’ and the ‘vivid’ help to setup the hue of the final colour, in this example ‘green’.

If I describe a colour as a ‘dull muted green’

Again, the first couple of descriptive words help to set the scene.

Try to image you’re mixing the colours as you read the descriptions.

For the example ‘dull, muted green’

‘dull’ I first think of either a dull brown, blue or black
‘muted’ makes me think I have added white to the mix and I have now imagined either a dull brown blue or black. ‘green’ I now imaging mixing in a touch of yellow to the dull blue in my minds eye.

Then I have an idea of the hue being described by the artist.

You’ll find the more you mix colours, the more you can start to decode and imagine the colour the artist is talking about.

As an experiment, try covering over the images of a step-by-step tutorial (or have someone else to cover them for you) and then, only using the descriptions the artist/teacher has used to describe the colours they’re using – try to mix the colour.

Then compare what you thought the mix should look like to the actual demonstration.

There will be a few hits and many misses! but you’ll soon be able to fine tune your colour mixing language.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,
Will

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Sherrie Richard September 18, 2013

Thanks Will,

Your comments really helped me to better understand the language of color when artists speak of color! Your advise was also great. I know experience will aid me in this understanding, as I learn more about mixing my colors.

You are a great teacher!

Sherrie

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Will Kemp September 18, 2013

Hi Sherrie, pleased it helped you to better understand the language of colour.

Speak soon,
Will

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CHRIS September 17, 2013

Thanks for another amazing lesson, your skill and the ease with which you explain and demonstrate each stage gives so much encouragement to us all to move forward.
Regards
Chris

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Will Kemp September 17, 2013

You’re welcome Chris, great to hear you feel encouraged to tackle a new subject.

Cheers,
Will

Reply

George Clogg September 17, 2013

Steve, professionally talented as ever. I am looking forward to your lesson that includes orange colour. I have used it directly from a tube and tried mixing with red, but never been quite pleased with the hues.

George.

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Will Kemp September 17, 2013

Cheers George.

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Ada September 17, 2013

Great tutorial Will! I also saw your youtube, Impressionistic tutorial. Really loved that also. :)

Ada

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Will Kemp September 18, 2013

Cheers Ada, pleased you enjoyed the impressionistic tutorial!
Will

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Carolyn Neville September 17, 2013

Glass, thar elusive nothingness with substance! This lesson will be saved to review many times. Wish this had been available before attempting a wine decanter painting. Awful, mostly just white! Thank you, thank you. Your instructions are clear and concise, providing an “ahah” moment.

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Will Kemp September 17, 2013

Hi Carolyn, thanks very much for your kind comments, so pleased it helped to provide a ‘ahah’ moment with your painting.

Cheers,
Will

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lori hilbert September 17, 2013

Hi Will,
When composing the picture for this tutorial, was the symmetrical background intentional? Just wondering if an asymmetrical background draws attention away from the subject – glass of water. Also noticed that the table shadows to the left of your subject in your painting are played down in comparison to the photo, was this also done to draw the eye to the subject rather than away from it? I haven’t started to paint yet, but plan to and will be in touch. I appreciate all the information you offer. Thanks Lori

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Will Kemp September 18, 2013

Hi Lori, To answer your questions:

When composing the picture for this tutorial, was the symmetrical background intentional?

Initially I was going for an off centre composition, but when I started the drawing I felt I wanted to concentrate more on the glass and make it more of a study.

Also noticed that the table shadows to the left of your subject in your painting are played down in comparison to the photo, was this also done to draw the eye to the subject rather than away from it?
Yes, that’s right, due to the tighter composition crop from the left, we have more mid-tones in the background on the left (rather than the dark) but this allows us a stronger, wider tonal range in the actual subject – concentrating the viewers eye.

Good luck with your painting.
Cheers.
Will

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Tamara Torres September 17, 2013

Thanks Will, excellent lesson. You are wonderful!!!

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Will Kemp September 17, 2013

You’re welcome Tamara, kind of you to say so.

Cheers,
Will

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Haylen September 17, 2013

It was an excellent class. Thank you very much Will.

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Will Kemp September 18, 2013

You’re welcome Haylen, pleased you’ve found it helpful.

Will

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prema September 18, 2013

thanks Will.I am a beginner and actually finding hard to mix colours and merging.havent used palatte knife or wet palatte.Pls suggest which is the best way to progress as a beginner.

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Will Kemp September 18, 2013

Hi Prema,

Have a look at this tutorial on painting with a a palette knife
and this tutorial on basic colour mixing. For more in-depth look at colour mixing simple colour mixing course.
Cheers,
Will

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Terryll Eloff September 18, 2013

Hi Will,
This is the best glass painting demo I have ever come across. Thanks so much. I have set up many still lifes with glass but never succeeded despite lots of research.
Regards,
Terryll

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Will Kemp September 18, 2013

Thanks Terryll,
Kind of you to say so. Really hope it helps you achieve a new level of realism in your glass painting.
Cheers,
Will

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Irina September 18, 2013

Hi, Will,
greetings from Moscow.
There are no words to express the gratitude I feel. There is love in every painting and every photo)))) Thanks for your time and experience.
Irina

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Will Kemp September 19, 2013

Hi Irina, great to hear from you, thanks so much for your kind comment.
Really pleased you’ve found the step-by-step photos helpful. Looking forward to hearing how paintings turn out.
Cheers,

Will

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Michael September 19, 2013

HI Will, thanks for the great website, I wanted to know when your masterclass still life course will be available, and will it include more than one demo painting?

Regards

Michael

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Will Kemp September 19, 2013

Hi Michael, great to hear from you and so pleased you’re enjoying the website.
The still life masterclass should go live tomorrow morning, I’m just adding the finishing touches now! It will include a limited palette study and a more in-depth, complex still life painting.

Cheers,

Will

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Dianne Laroche September 20, 2013

Thanks Will for the easy instructions to your paintings. I enjoy trying the lessons.

Dianne

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Will Kemp September 20, 2013

You’re welcome Dianne, pleased you find the instructions easy to follow.

Cheers,
Will

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Constance Oyama September 20, 2013

Will;
This was great lesson. I would like to learn how to paint lace on a table for a still life.
Thank you for this great lesson.
Connie

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Will Kemp September 20, 2013

You’re welcome Connie, pleased you enjoyed it.

Cheers,
Will

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Swapniel September 21, 2013

Hi,
In your previous tutorials, you taught us to establish the darkest dark first. And things like painting the background first so that it gives a shape to the focused object… In this painting, why things are not like that? I mean you painted the darkest dark in second layer after warm tone. and then painted the glass before the background. The way you did it, is it mandatory for painting transparent objects? a glass of water along with a bucket of fruit can be complex then….

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Will Kemp September 21, 2013

Hi Swapneil,

I mention the use of white instead of a coloured ground in the article above:

Also notice for this particular painting, I haven’t used a coloured ground, I’m just painting straight onto the white canvas.

Why?

There are some odd occasions when if the subject matter you want to paint is very light in tone, you can use the white of your canvas to your advantage. Having the brilliant white underneath adds an underlying glow to the piece and a luminosity to the water.

So, it can depend if you have the rare occasion of a very white image you are working from that you want to achieve a luminous effect.

Cheers,
Will

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Bob Ballinger September 22, 2013

Thanks Will, good timing for a great lesson that I can use now. (Sun flowers in a glass pitcher).
I have to say you are a really good teacher, you make it easy.
Look forward to the next lesson.
Best regards,
Bob

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Will Kemp September 22, 2013

Hey Bob,

Thanks very much, pleased you’ve found the lesson easy to follow. Good luck with your sunflowers (I’m visiting Arles in France this week as it happens for some Van Gogh inspiration!)

Cheers,
Will

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Felicia September 24, 2013

HI Will

I really enjoy your relaxed & laid back style of teaching, have been attempting to paint for a couple of years but find I’m still at the beginner stage lacking the confidence in my ability. I admire the way you explain & demonstrate your subject & make it look so easy to understand that it inspires one to actually have a go.

Felicia
Western Australia

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Will Kemp September 24, 2013

Hi Felicia, great to hear from you, and so pleased you’re enjoying the tutorials and feeling inspired to create!

Looking forward to hearing how your paintings turn out.

Cheers,

Will

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Alleen October 2, 2013

One just has to love you, Will. I am going to recommend you to my daughter. I wish you many blessings! You are such a generous person, and I can’t express in words how much I appreciate you. Thank you so much!

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Will Kemp October 3, 2013

Thanks very much Alleen, very kind of you to say so, hope your daughter enjoys the site!

Cheers,
Will

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Su-Marie October 27, 2013

Thank you so much !! Tomorrow is my final visual art exam and you have helped me save a lot of time! Thank you so much!

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Will Kemp October 27, 2013

You’re welcome Su-Marie, pleased it helped for your visual art exam, good luck!

Cheers,
Will

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Eileen van der Merwe October 29, 2013

Ahhhh, finding my way around finally! Just what I was looking for! Looking forward to experimenting with acrylics and exploring your site more! Thanks, Will for all the wonderful information you share with us.
Eileen

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Will Kemp October 29, 2013

You’re welcome Eileen,

Cheers,
Will

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maria November 15, 2013

this site is amazing.Will, you give us wonderful information.

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Will Kemp November 15, 2013

Thanks very much Maria, pleased you’re finding the site helpful.

Will

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Anna Maria Stone December 27, 2013

This 3 part series was interesting and useful. Thank you very much.

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Will Kemp December 30, 2013

Great to hear it Anna, really pleased you enjoyed the series.

Cheers,

Will

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Dan January 17, 2014

Hi will After taking your advice as written, I purchased burnt umber , ultramarine blue and titanium white . From these colours I have managed to paint some reasonable portrait sketches and feel i am now ready to add a color or two to my collection. . As I am only interested in portrait palettes I was hoping you may be able to give me some advice on what colors to pick ? . I was thinking of adding yellow ochre and cad red but not too sure ? . I love muted earth tones that can be readily purchased in student grade , and if possible be able to cover all skin tones with a limited palette ,? Any help and advice would be great thanks Daniel .

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Will Kemp January 18, 2014

Hi Dan, have you had a read through this article about a portrait palette?

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Dan January 18, 2014

Yes I have but with so many choices of colors I’m a bit confused . I did look at using the portrait palette you suggested but the light red and English red are not available on Adler rowney system 3 that I use . Thanx

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Will Kemp January 18, 2014

Hi Dan, if you want to stick with the daler rowney, just mix in a touch of warm red (such as a cadmium red) with your burnt sienna, then introduce the yellow ochre and you’re have a great palette to work with.

Cheers,
Will

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Dan January 18, 2014

Thank you will

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Saida May 1, 2014

Hi Will,
You’re simply amazing! You’re a genius. I now feel that painting is more a gift than a skill, how do you get that sense of colours and shades and how do you manage to give life to objects? I’m not a painter but it’s a great pleasure for me to scroll and scramble and try to reproduce pictures I like with no much success I confess and often with passion and a lot of frustration not being able to create and do something personal. Thank you for your dedication and pedagogy and thank you for being such an artist and for trying to instill in us motivation and sense of hope and achievement

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Will Kemp May 1, 2014

Hi Saida,

Thanks for your kind words, and so pleased you’ve enjoying working through the lessons. It can often feel frustrating when you’re first beginning, but if you trust the process the techniques will start to fall into place, don’t count yourself out yet! persevere with your paintings and you can achieve some fabulous results.

Cheers,
Will

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Sherrie Richard May 2, 2014

Well said, Saida. I agree. As a frustrated beginner I so appreciate Willl’s great demonstrations. I learn so much that I can use when I make my painting efforts.

Keep it up Will…..you are so nice to share your teaching with us!!!

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Will Kemp May 2, 2014

Thanks Sherrie, really kind of you to say so.

Will

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Saida May 2, 2014

Thank you all for your kind and encouraging words, I will remember them while trying.It has always been my conviction that with motivation and perseverance nothing is impossible. Our yoga teacher used to tell us what is difficult takes some time, what is impossible takes a bit more.

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lu states October 27, 2014

i asked this question before, but never saw it addressed. i may have put it in the wrong place. i need to paint chrome arms in acrylic on a 50′s chair on canvas. my ” tries ” are awful ( i tried painting a bike too…..yikes ). the glass of water seems close, but where can i find instruction to paint these 1″ arms and have them look like chrome and not the mess i come up with. i end up really gloppy…..need serious help ! where to look ? really appreciate any direction you can point me……it is a gift. thank you, lu states

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Will Kemp October 27, 2014

Hi Lu,

When painting chrome, if you use a palette of ultramarine blue, burnt umber and white you will be able to paint most of the colours, basically its white, greys and blues, and then whatever colour is reflected in the chrome. The first tutorial in the Acrylic Masterclass course< /strong> looks in detail how to paint a silver goblet.

Hope this helps,

Cheers,
Will

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lu states October 27, 2014

thank you…..i’ll give it a try. your tutorials are great ! lu

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