A step-by-step warm & cool still life acrylic painting using only 2 colours
This is the final post in this limited palette painting series using acrylics, I have been posting a weekly video on my YouTube channel so 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 final 7 steps
Step 1 – Washing in reflected Light.
The main light source is a cool blue light, this is bouncing off a wall out of view to the left. This gives a subtle blueish light on the edge of the jug that is in shadow.
So I mix a watery grey, just to wash over this area so the lighter tone of the underpainting doesn’t affect our judgment as much when we add the warmer Burnt sienna in the next stage.
Step 2 – Blocking in Burnt sienna
I dilute the paint slightly with water and then paint the top of the jug. The Burnt sienna hasn’t been mixed with any other colours at this point, I’m just changing the consistency of the paint to reflect the different tones I can see in the jug. The thinner the paint the lighter the result.
Notice how the colour looks lighter at the bottom of the jug due to the lighter underpainting showing through the watery thinner mix.
Step 3 – Glazing the Jug
I then mix in some Acrylic Glazing Liquid (gloss) with the Burnt sienna and glaze it over the shadow side of the jug. This helps to form a unity to the jug and enable a subtle optical mixing of the colours on the viewers eye.
I then enhance the lighter area by adding a touch of white to the Burnt sienna. White always cools down the colour so is perfect for this part of the painting.
Pro tip: A glaze is always the warmest version possible of a pigment.
Step 4 – Refining the darks & Drawing
Working with a thicker mix of the black we mixed in Part 1 I check the drawing of the jug and make the shadow side a more solid black.
Notice how the spout of the jug now has a crisp dark line, this really helps draw your eye to that part of the jug and gives an elegant shape.
Step 5 – Warm shadow Glaze
I now blush a thin glaze of the Burnt Sienna over the cast shadow of the base of the jug, this helps to soften the edge and throw a warmer light onto the first part of the shadow.
Step 6 – Reflected Light
I revisit the reflected cool light as I can now judge the colours better (as we’ve painted in the warmth of the jug) I add a muted light blue so it helps to contrast against the warm glaze we’ve just put in.
Step 7 – Adding Highlights
Now I refine the edge on the top of the jug and add a few bright white highlights, these have been left until last – so they sit on top of the form underneath.
It is tempting to paint them in sooner but if you can resist the urge it will help you now.
The final tweaks to the background are just to readjust any drawing that grabs your eye and soften any lines that you’ve painted in too hard to start with.
The finished painting, time for a brew!
Limited Palette still life acrylic painting – Free video Course | Part 3
The video below shows the final steps in the acrylic warm & cool still life painting.ARVE Error: Invalid URL
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. How to paint a warm & cool still life painting (using only 2 colours) – Part 1
2. How to paint a warm & cool still life painting (using only 2 colours) – Part 2
3. How to balance warm and cool colours
This Post Has 60 Comments
Once again you have done a wonderful job making painting an understandable art, you have the ability to describe what you’re doing in a straight – forward and entertaining format. The music is eclectic and yet fits the video wonderfully (I wonder who the artist is playing)
Your videos motivate me to get out my paints and make sure I work in time each day to paint. If you are looking for ideas, I personally would be interested in how you present a woodland scene, typical countryside, or farm scene.
Thanks again for doing such a great job.
Thanks for your kind comments, so pleased you are finding the videos motivational in your painting, the music is a mix of ukelele tracks, no one specific artist. Thanks for the suggestions for future tutorials.
I want to thank you for this wonderful website where I have learned so much, it’s so great someone with your qualifications care enough to help beginners like me to learn the basics, and especially for the awesome free step-by-step tutorials.
I’ve followed this one about warm and cool still life painting (you can check the result at my blog (theonepaintingadayproject.com).
And more than that, thanks to the links you have on your site, I discovered amazing websites, like Expert Enough, Live Your Legend and Lateral Action, and the result was me creating the mentioned blog as the first step of my journey to challenge my limits.
For all this, thank you SO MUCH!
Thanks so much for the comment, really pleased to hear that the website has helped spark your creative journey!
I had a look at your painting and I think you have done really well. The drawing is great and the colour mixing is nicely balanced throughout the piece. The line of of the table (that goes through the handle) could be slightly tweaked as it isn’t the same angle as the table line to the left of the jug. It is only very slight but it takes your eye away from the jug.
Your comments about the different pigment strength and saturation are also well observed, often artist quality paints do have more saturation (intensity) of colour in the pigments. So a touch brighter pigment would just hep to bring the intensity to the lighter side of the jug.
But for your first ever still life painting this is a brilliant achievement.
Looking forward to helping you improve as a painter (and blogger!)
I appreciate you taking the time to give it a look and helping me with advice.
I made a second one of the same, now that i got a Burnt Sienna similar to yours, more warm and orangey.
The problem with the table happens again in this one. I was assuming it looks odd because of the colors, the part on the left being so brighter than the part behind the handle (i didn’t get mine to look right like yours) it sort of look like the too parts don’t belong to the same table. But yes, now that you mentioned, I see there really is a difference in the line. in both. (sigh)
I’m really impressed with the possibilities of the limited palette, we can make almost everything with those two colors.
Yes, it is fascinating how much can be achieved with such a limited palette and the quality of paint can really give you that punch of colour you’re after!
The joy of Acrylics is that any of those little issues with drawing can be painted over, a couple of brush marks and you’ll be back on track.
Thanks for pointing it out, Will!
I took your advice and went over those issues, it looks SO much better now (before and after photos are on the blog in case you want to check).
Also, since I was changing thing I also tried to improve that flat and boring-looking wall behind the jug. I’m so happy I did it! The result really gave me the impression of being improving. yey! one small step at a time, but as long as they go forward I’m over-happy.
Super super thanks for your help!
I’ve just had a quick look on your blog, what an improvement! Isn’t it amazing how a simple line change can make such a difference in the piece. Also, the painterly style in the top left corner has added an extra dimension to your still life.
If you study paintings you’ll begin to notice that there is often a darker corner, this helps to bring the viewers eye into the centre of the piece and it is a technique I encourage my students to adopt, a slight darkening and added brushstrokes really makes the painting.
Hi Will, just wanted to say thanks so much for your videos and tutorials. I just finished painting the 2-color still life of the jug, using burnt sienna, ultramarine blue, and white. I think it turned out pretty well for a beginner, and i had a lot of fun painting it.
Great stuff! Really pleased you enjoyed the tutorial, you can always send a picture of it to me direct as I’m looking to do a success page of students work.
Can you tell me that which colours can I use instead of phthalo blue, hansa yellow and
Is it a case of, that you can’t get hold of these pigments? As they do such specific jobs I need to know what you are trying to achieve? I can them point you in the right direction,
Thanks for the video tutorials. I’m learning a lot watching them. I tried the jug painting yesterday and here is how it came out.
I didn’t have ultramarine blue, so I used cerulean blue. I think the painting still came out alright but I think there could be some things I can tweak to make it better.
I have one question on ultramarine blue though. I use Liquitex paint, and there is a red shade and green shade, so I’m not sure which one I should be using. A lot of painting sites and tutorial videos suggest using ultramarine blue. How would I know which shade I should be using because Golden also has ultramarine blue, but they don’t divide it into shades?
Great to hear from you. Really pleased that the videos are helping your paintings.
The Ultramarine blue that I use has a red bias, so I would go for that one.
Then you will have a warm blue and a cool blue. The Cerulean has worked quite nicely though in your painting. You’ve managed to capture some lovely greys in the shadows and the painting really feels like it has a warm light hitting the jug. The only tweaks on the painting are more due to the drawing than the painting. If you tweak the shape at the bottom of the jug so it has a more even curve the jug will feel more like it’s sat on top of the table.
Thanks Will. That’s interesting that you suggest getting the red shade ultramarine blue because the green shade in the store matched Golden’s ultramarine pretty closely so I ended up buying that green shade.
I just completed this wonderful jug painting and I am thrilled with how beautifully it turned out. With your clear, simple instructions I was able to create something realistic from only two colors and learn so much about tone and mixing. I am somewhat of a beginner, but your articles and videos have given me the confidence I need to pursue an art I never thought I had the talent for. The pleasure I feel at creating something from my own heart and hands is simply incredible.
Thank you for using your talent and education in your lifes passion to help anyone who wants to learn. Well done, Mr. Will Kemp! I love hearing your cheery voice greet me with “Good morning, class!”
Lovely to hear from you, so pleased you’re thrilled with the results from the jug painting, with those few colours it can be amazing what’s possible.
And great that the tutorials have given you the confidence to create with paint! really glad to hear it.
Just wondering if you need the glazing liquid or can you achieve the same look with just using a watered down version of the burnt sienna?
You can just use a watered down version of the Burnt sienna.
Just be careful if you’re working at an easel it doesn’t run too much, if you’re working on the flat you’ll be absolutely fine.
Thanks a ton for the wonderful materials you have put up here. It’s been inspirational and helpful for me as I picked up acrylics. The articles here have been very useful.
Here’s my go at the jug.
Appreciate your comments.
Hey Caleb, great job on the jug, it looks ace!
The colours are looking spot on and you’ve really got a sense of depth and form on the side of the jug.
The background blue has been really well judged and the shadow tone inside the jug is nicely observed.
Just watch the line of the table in the background as there is a slight difference between the angle of the tabletop inside the jug handle and outside it – hold a ruler against the line to check it, but apart from that really good work.
Your site has really helped me with confidence to face the canvas. I’ve always wanted to paint but had no idea what I was really doing, or why I should, or shouldn’t buy certain supplies. Watching your video progression shows me it really is easy.
Hi Christian, thanks for stopping by and great to hear the site has helped you to gain the confidence to face the canvas, good one!
This one and the cherry painting tutorial was really very helpful. Simple tricks made big changes.
But fruits, jugs – these are solid object and has a distinguishable shape. Light does not scatter a lot on their surfaces. But, I think, softer objects like flowers, clothes are difficult to paint because of their shapes and the lights on their surfaces… Maybe liquids will be more difficult to paint… Recently I tried to paint a simple flower but it did not come out as good as the solid object paintings (fruits, cups, jugs etc.). Will you make a tutorial on such things please?
Pleased you enjoyed the tutorial, often translucent objects appear to be harder to paint, but the same principles apply, especially using glazing techniques.
I am having some troubles with establishing the ‘darkest dark’. Should it be always some cool earth colours (burnt umber, raw umber..), or I should produce a darkest version of the base colour? I saw in cherry painting tutorial, you used burnt umber for darkest darks and in this one, you darkened the burnt sienna (base colour) with ultramarine blue. I am a little confused here so. How should I determine the darkest colour?
And most of the time, I can recognize a colour, but have no idea how to produce it by mixing…
In result, when I painted watching your tutorials, it turned out to be well and satisfactory, but when I tried to paint something myself entirely, it turned out to be crap and in shame I had to tear off the page. Twice.
I am doing something wrong while painting, just I don’t know what…
Maybe I am having artist’s block too. This is disappointing.
Often I use just burnt umber on its own to establish the fist layer of dark tone and then adjust from there if I want it to be cooler or warmer (adding either burnt sienna or ultramarine blue).
To determine the darkest dark just squnit your eyes at the image and it will help to simplify the tones.
Yes, but for example – a green vase…the shadowed area of the vase is a dark green colour. Now what is the effective method to get it good – by establishing a earth tone and then colour the base colour over it (as you did) or sometimes we should use a deeper shade of the base colour – like a dark green for green object. Which one is effective?
Last time while painting a jug I used cobalt blue which was not covering on the dark area, then i found cobalt blue is transparent :P Then I had to mix ultramarine for it.
Btw, I read blue was in cold colour category and red, yellow were in warm, but then I learnt each of them has a warm and cool shade. But I don’t know which ones. can you tell me the colder and warmer shades of the colour?
For the green vase example, you can use either. Establish an earth tone and then judge the exact colour from there or try to mix the dark hue firts time. However, a green vase shadow isn’t always dark green (unless you’re viewing it in isolation) as other objects surrounding it will effect the percieved colour on tne surface. You should have a look at my simple colour mixing course which addresses the differences between warm and cool colours (its on a summer sale this week)
Like i promissed you before here is a link to my forst paint from your tutorials , if i count it good more than 15 years i did not paint anything
feel free to to tell me what you think and how to cary on
Great work on the jug painting. you’ve captured the tones of the cast shadows really well, and have kept the background colours lovely and soft and muted.
Also the drawing is looking good and the form of the jug is working well.
You could soften off the shadow line in the jug slightly just so it doesn’t grab your eye. But for your first painting after 15 years you should be really proud!
Thanks for sharing Ty, looking forward to seeing your next pieces.
Obviously the curves don’t match up, but I did learn a lot about color mixing, glazing and light. Thank you, Will!
Hi Jake, great work on the jug! the tones and mixes are looking really good. The jug feels like its got a good form to it and lovely subtle colour (the reflected light on the left of the jug could be toned down a bit with a glaze so it doesn’t pop out as much).
The inside of the jug has been handled really well, great colour mixing on the subtle hues. Any other tweaks are really more drawing based, rather than painting based, so great job Jake, really pleased you found it helpful, thanks for sharing.
Hi Will – I’ve spent the last week going through your site and being inspired to pick up the paints again. The knowledge you share is an incredible gift to us.
I’m kind of just struggling with my skills – managing the paint on my palette, lighting my work space, etc. But I figured better to just start instead of waiting to get everything perfect.
This is my first try. I think that rather than painting from the image, I was trying to paint your painting as you were painting it. My next step will be to paint this again with more confidence in interpreting the image myself. I feel like I need to work on my painting skills – thus following along with you gave me some confidence.
Nice to hear from you, the painting looks fab!
The cast shadow has been handled really well and the whole surface of the jug has great movement and nuances of the burnt sienna within it. Also, the handling of the inside of the jug has been especially well handled. As your first try it’s a triumph! so pleased you’ve found the tutorials helpful to get painting again.
Thanks for sharing Mary.
I like actually realistic drawing like Marcello Berengi. So I have an interest to panit a really good beck round to paint over whit polychromo colored pencil. I watch a really long time your videos from you tube and decide to repaint one whit you. And amazing. I am use ever first Acrylic art. And I am impressed. Thank you for all your advice, kind energy by teaching. I am so glad to draw with you together.
Cheer Nilgun, so pleased you enjoyed it.
I just wanted to say THANK YOU so much for the time and effort you put into this website and the videos, into helping others get the courage to start painting. You have such a fun personality and an easy way of explaining/describing things.
I’ve always been interested in drawing/painting but have been too afraid to start. My hubby and I just went over to Slovakia and visited my grandfather there, I was inspired by my great great grandfather’s paintings (Maximilian Schurmann), to just give it a go, just start. Then on the way back to Australia I came across a video of yours on youtube and you made me feel like it was possible for me to paint!!
Thank you so much for giving me that hope and helping me start. Here’s a link to my first painting, the jug –
It’s a bit wonky but I’m proud of it for my first painting. :-)
Great to hear form you, and thanks for posting your first painting, looking great! Love the handling of the surface on the jug it really feels like that glazed ceramic surface. The cast shadow has been well observed and the shadow inside the jug lip has been handled nicely, not too dark, just right with that cool tone to bring out the warmth in the jug. Also like the way you’ve mixed subtle colours on the wooden worktop, really well done Svetlana, your great, great grandfather would be proud!
Thanks for the encouragement Will! :-)
I just started painting, and I find your instructions to be so helpful. I have no assumption that I am good but I do enjoy painting.I wanted you to know that you web site and videos are of great help in my learning and enjoyment.
Hi Robert, thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, so pleased you’re finding the articles and instruction of help to your painting progress.
Love your tutorials Will. Really informative.
Thanks Jenny, pleased you’ve been finding them helpful.
I’ve been watching all your video tutorials and have been blown away by how you teach. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you sir, are amazing. This jug is my first attempt at one of your tutorials. Its such a joy to understand how to go about painting this and so relaxing too.
I’ve shared the link to my completed painting below. I’d really appreciate your feedback.
I only had a flat brush, so it was a bit challenging. Also, I didn’t have any glaze so I just used watered down paint instead. It was tough getting the colors right and I actually dropped my painting on the floor once. But now that its finally done, I feel amazing. The way you teach and demonstrate really brings results!
Next, I’m going to start on the Beginners Impressionistic Seascape course. I’m pretty excited!
Hey Roy, great to hear from you and fantastic work on the jug painting, it’s looking really good. Love how you’ve created a nice variety in tones and marks in the background yet still kept the colours within a compressed tonal range. The cool blue in the background helps to bring the warm of the jug forward and really come out of the canvas. The fine white rim of the jug is excellent and gives that sophistication and refinement to the painting (the shadow tone inside the jug is also good).
On the shadow side of the jug just watch for the very light edge within the cast shadow. If this was darkened down it would help to give more of the illusion of form. But great work Roy, even with a couple of drops on the floor it’s looking fantastic!
Really hope you enjoy the seascape course.
Hi Will, thank you very much for this fantastic on-line course. I have had some acrylic paints for several years now and have been to a few classes but I was never taught how to mix the paint or use the brushes properly. I have been using the recent snowy weather to learn some of your techniques, watch the videos and practice. I really feel I have learned so much in the past 10 days and am looking forward to learning even more. Thank you for giving your time and expertise. I really appreciate it. Vanessa
That’s very kind of you to say so Vanessa, so pleased you’ve been enjoying the tutorials and making good use of snow days!
Just wanted to let you known how delighted I am to have stumbled across your website. I am 72 and have wanted to try painting for many years. I took a few lessons with watercolors maybe 30 years ago, but the interest waned. Your tutorials are perfect for me. I love watching how you accomplish each step in the painting and listening to your description of why you are doing what you are doing. The pace is excellent. This is my first attempt at acrylics. After watching your tutorials I want to paint every day. THANKYOU!
I completed the paintings of the cherry and the apple and I was very happy with the results. I don’t feel as happy with the painting of the pitcher. Link https://pix.sfly.com/qABX_b
I felt I had to work the paint much more than I wanted to to get the blending of colors that I wanted. I used Grumbacher below artist quality paints, rather than the Heavy body artist quality paints you recommended. That may be part of the problem. Also a problem I have had right along is that if I make too many strokes with the brush in an area, I end up actually removing some of the paint I have just put down. Is that a function of the paint, or my technique? Maybe using not enough or too much water.
Thank you for any suggestions you can make. I so enjoy your sharing your expertise with all of us beginners.
Hi Peter, great to hear from you and so pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons. What a fantastic result with the jug painting! The cast shadow looks brilliant and you’ve achieved a lovely balance between the warm and the cool colours. The blending will come down to the quick-drying nature of acrylics in general, the heavy body paints would give a little more opacity and brush marks but wouldn’t add extra blending time. Using a glazing liquid can help as it will give you more working time and doesn’t evaporate as quickly as water.
Hope this helps,
Again thank you so much for your tutorials. It really helped me to start painting (again). I do consider myself a beginner and your tutorials and all the information you share on your website are very useful. I tried a few beginner’s paintings, one of them the jug.
I struggled a little bit with the rim of the jug and feel kind of in a hurry when painting. Especially today where it is very warm and the paint dries almost instantly!
Anyway, just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated your work, and your welcoming and cheerful ‘good morning class.’
Hi Karin, so pleased you enjoyed the jug tutorial and working with the warm and cool hues.
Hi again Will, great lesson, here is my attempt, cheers. http://www.ckaramihos.com/illustrationgallery/2018/3/27/ceramic-jug
Lovely blending Christopher and nice balance of warm and cool.
Hi Will. I simply love your tutorials. May last painting was in 1985 back in college. Wasn’t very impressive. But you inspired me to open my old acrylics and try again. I jumped right into this Jug painting. 100 mistakes are made here including wrong ground color, paint so thick I lost the feel of the canvas, poorly drawn pencil rendering so I had to repaint the left side of the jug, etc.
And yes, I have to rework the tabletop. I am just starting to understand the concept of cool/warm colors.
Last thing I did was to repaint the top/inside of the jug. I am fairly happy with the result, even though the jug is about twice as thick as in the photo. But one thing became apparent. I seem to like paintings that are more ‘realistic’ looking than more ‘impressionistic’ or as you said in the lesson, more ‘painty.’ Is this wrong?
THANK YOU for your inspiration and Cheers from Long Island, New York, USA.
Hey Jerry, great to hear from you and so pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons. Yes, you’ll start to find your own style and level of realism you prefer as you paint. No style is wrong, it’s just personal preference.
Here’s the whole image. Thanks. Jerry
Great stuff Jerry, the shadows inside the jug works really well and love the reflected light on the handle, brilliant start.
Have just come across your web page. Thank you so much for all the free work you have uploaded. I am just starting out and finding the information so very helpful.
So pleased you’ve been finding the lessons helpful Glenis.