How to mix colors for metals in oil paint

Written by nicole pellegrini
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How to mix colors for metals in oil paint
Capturing the appearance of metal in a painting requires colour-mixing precision. (Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Realistically capturing the appearance of metal objects in oil paint can be challenging, particularly with regard to mixing the appropriate colours. Gold, brass, silver and copper each can be represented in an oil painting with different mixtures of predominantly earth tone pigments. Formulas for mixing colours for metal were established by Old Master artists and are equally effective for today's painters. Once mixed, these colours can be carefully applied to capture the metallic shine and reflectivity of metal in armour, jewellery, silverware and other objects.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Palette
  • Palette knife
  • Painting rags
  • Ivory black oil paint
  • Burnt umber oil paint
  • Burnt sienna oil paint
  • Yellow ochre oil paint
  • Cadmium yellow oil paint
  • Titanium white oil paint
  • Venetian red oil paint

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Instructions

    Gold

  1. 1

    Mix a middle colour using yellow ochre and burnt sienna oil paint on your palette. The mixture should be predominantly yellow ochre with enough burnt sienna to turn it a reddish hue.

  2. 2

    Mix a light colour using yellow ochre, cadmium yellow and titanium white. This colour will represent the glare on the gold object.

  3. 3

    Mix a warm darkening agent from burnt umber and ivory black.

  4. 4

    Mix all the gradations in value that appear on the gold object, from the warm dark tone to the middle colour. The darker gold values should have a greenish tinge.

    Brass

  1. 1

    Mix a middle colour from yellow ochre and cadmium yellow oil paint.

  2. 2

    Mix a light colour for highlights from yellow ochre, cadmium yellow and titanium white.

  3. 3

    Mix a warm darkening agent from burnt umber and a small amount of ivory black.

  4. 4

    Mix all gradations of value for the brass object using the warm darkening agent and the middle colour.

    Silver

  1. 1

    Mix a warm highlight colour from titanium white and a small amount of yellow ochre, burnt sienna or a combination of both pigments.

  2. 2

    Mix a cool darkening agent from ivory black and a small amount of burnt umber.

  3. 3

    Mix the cool darkening agent and the warm highlight tone to make all gradations in value for the silver object.

    Copper

  1. 1

    Mix the middle colour from burnt sienna and a small amount of yellow ochre.

  2. 2

    Mix the highlight colour from burnt sienna, venetian red and a small amount of titanium white.

  3. 3

    Mix a warm darkening agent from burnt umber and ivory black.

  4. 4

    Prepare all gradations in value for the copper object from the middle colour and darkening agent.

Tips and warnings

  • Clean your palette knife with rags between each mixing step to keep your colours pure.
  • In regard to midtone application, darker values and highlights to the painting surface will be the same regardless of the specific type of metal.
  • Reflected colours can be added to metal colours with thin glazes of transparent paint, after the base colours have dried thoroughly.

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