How to Paint Cut Glass in Watercolor

Written by g.d. palmer
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How to Paint Cut Glass in Watercolor
(Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Transparent objects, such as cut glass, are among the most difficult to render in watercolour. Painting them correctly requires careful observation and planning. The nature of watercolour paints doesn't allow erasing or covering mistakes. The process of painting cut glass can be broken down into a few simple steps. Work slowly and carefully, and you'll be able to render beautiful glass in watercolour media.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Cut glass object or reference photographs of cut glass
  • Watercolour paper
  • Pencil
  • Watercolour paints
  • Brushes
  • Water
  • Opaque projector (optional)

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  1. 1

    Draw the cut glass. Use light pencil strokes to render an accurate line drawing of the crystal object you wish to paint. Don't press hard, or you'll risk the drawing showing through in the finished painting. You can also use an opaque projector to project a photograph of cut glass onto your paper, then trace the lines. Remember to include the reflections, as well as the shape of the glass itself.

  2. 2

    Examine the colours. Clear cut glass has no colour of its own. All the colours in your painting will come from reflected light bouncing off other objects in the image. Even coloured cut glass will acquire some colour from nearby objects. Choose which watercolours to use based on the colours of the reflections you see. Plan out what you'll paint before you touch brush to paper.

  3. 3

    Create washes. Add water to your colours to create thin solutions. Don't use colours at full strength – they can overpower your image.

  4. 4

    Begin painting. Use very dilute washes to lay in the lightest colours in the glass. Leave plenty of white spaces to preserve a bright look. Use smooth patches of colour to represent reflections in the facets of the glass. Keep your plan in mind as you paint.

  5. 5

    Add stronger washes. Once you've laid the lightest colours into your painting, you can strengthen some areas with less dilute paint. Be careful not to overdo it – start with very small areas in the shadows, and check against your subject frequently. Continue darkening small areas until you have produced the desired effect. Allow the painting to dry completely before framing.

Tips and warnings

  • Use commercial masking fluid to preserve white areas.
  • Work from light to dark.
  • Lighten or distort objects inside and behind the glass to provide an illusion of depth.
  • Use pure colours, rather than mixtures, to preserve the clarity of glass.
  • Avoid grey shadows, which can make your painting look flat.
  • Paint carefully – watercolour cannot be erased.

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