How to Paint Something Pearl White

Written by donna eigen
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How to Paint Something Pearl White
Pearls are prized for their lustrous surface. (white pearl chokers on red fabric image by musk from

Pearls appear to glow from within. Their lustre comes from light reflecting off the pearl's round surface, and from light refracted by the pearl's inner layers into the colours of the rainbow, giving it an iridescent, or pearlescent, look. Natural pearls come in different colours and intensities, but the colour "pearl white" is usually used to describe a cream- or rose-coloured white. Metallic flecks are sometimes added to paint to create an iridescent surface. Cars are painted pearl white by spraying on a base colour, then applying a lighter translucent layer of pearlescent paint on top, allowing some of the base paint to show through. A pearlescent effect can be created in a painting with layers of cream and phthalo blue, a bright, crystalline, transparent pigment that contains copper.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Titanium white, yellow ochre and phthalo blue (also called monastral blue, helio blue or Windsor blue) acrylic paint
  • Palette or plate
  • Medium flat brush
  • Fan tipped brush
  • Water
  • Paper or canvas

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  1. 1

    Blend white with a touch of yellow ochre to make a very pale cream or ivory colour. Paint a background layer with the flat brush. Add water so the paint goes on smoothly but is still opaque.

  2. 2

    Add a small amount of blue to the palette. Lightly touch the fan brush into the blue, then touch it in a small amount of the cream paint so you just have a suggestion of blue on the brush.

  3. 3

    Brush the blue lightly over the cream paint to create a hint of blue. If lines appear, brush lightly across and diagonally over the lines, adding cream to the brush if necessary, until no lines show. You should be able to see the cream background underneath with subtle blue hints on top.

Tips and warnings

  • Buy ready-mixed pearl paint at a hardware store. They will tint it to the desired shade for you. Use the layering technique to paint a three-dimensional object: Instead of phthalo blue, paint on a thin layer of mother-of-pearl paint for an iridescent effect. To paint an image of a pearl, dip a cotton swab in cream paint, saturating the cotton on all sides, then dip it lightly in the blue so a tiny amount is picked up on the tip. Press the tip onto the paper, twist the swab, then lift it off to make a small peak in the centre with a hint of blue swirled around the pearl to create the illusion of a rounded, iridescent surface. Add a reflection by painting a thin white arc on one side with a fine tipped brush.
  • Acrylic paint is permanent when it dries. Rinse any spills while the paint is still wet.

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