Wednesday, 6 October 2010

How do I Make Glass Look Real in My Painting?

Trying to paint glass in a still life may seem impossible for its elusive quality. The artist strives to make glass look solid, and yet it is partially invisible. In other cases, the artist may struggle with reflections and shadows on the glass resulting in a glass painting that look confused. How does the artist make glass look real?

How to Paint Glass
Painting Glass in a Still Life
Rachel Shirley
Before making improvements to a still life with translucent objects, the artist must identify the causes of the problems with making glass look real in painting which might be:

Subconsciously making the assumption that glass is completely transparent, and painting the objects seen through the glass without altering the palette.

Not taking into account for refractions or distortion of the objects caused by glass, causing the artist to paint the objects as though seen through a flat plane of glass rather than one with contours.
  • Outlining the glass with definite dark lines.
  • Using neat white for reflections and highlights.
Why Glass is Difficult to Paint

Unlike opaque objects, glass consists of several elements on different levels, often causing confusion when still life painting. These are:
  • Reflections on the glass’s surface, such as windows, people or furniture.
  • Shadows cast on the glass from neighbouring objects.
  • The glass’s own shadow which appear solid on some places, ethereal in others.
  • Highlights from light sources.
  • Refraction of the objects seen through the glass causing them to appear displaced.
  • Imperfections on the glass’s surface, causing warping or distortion of the appearance of objects.
  • The colour of the glass itself, which may appear translucent in some places, greenish, bluish or grey in others.
With so many elements to consider simultaneously, it is small wonder that the beginner may feel trepidation at the idea of painting glass.

See my youtube clip in how to paint glass with just 3 oil colors

How to Paint Glass

The secret to painting glass is simply to simplify. Forget about the different elements and what the brain knows about them, but to simply paint what the eye sees. This may seem difficult at first, but practice will make perfect. Try the following tips.

Paint glass from a photo at first. Painting from a two dimensional image will take away the concept of the space the glass occupies and the changing lighting conditions. Turn the photo upside down in order to make it appear more abstract.

Pay attention to how objects are seen through the glass. Do they appear displaced? Are they warped?

Look out for distortions of the objects through the glass. An object with a straight line such as a playing card may appear curved or have wobbly lines. Contours will often steepen towards the edges of the glass, and may appear to disintegrate altogether.

What Colour is Glass?

The palette of objects will often have tonal and chromatic shift when viewed through glass. Some may have a greenish or mauve cast which will appear richer through thick glass. The tone will often be (but not always) darker.

Not all reflections and highlights are white or grey. Look for other colours, such as violets, creams, beiges and blues. Never use black to darken a colour but a complementary (an opposing colour). Darkening bottle green, for instance can be achieved with the introduction of a little crimson.

Does Glass Cast Shadows?

The shadows glass casts has a diverse quality; dark in some places invisible in others. Use a soft brush to blend areas that gradate from pale to dark. Light sometimes refracts through glass creating bright spots and odd patterns on surfaces almost like water. Exploit these to capture the essence of glass.

External Links to Still Life Painting


Lefrontier said...

I'v been browsing your blog at full throttle all night - its now 6 a.m. and yes I DO work ttomorr...err today - and I know I'll be back again and again. As a beginner very far away from any art school or in fact ANYONE that can give advice, I consider you a GIFT FROM GOD! :)
Thank you.

Rachel said...

Thank you for your kind comments. I am glad you find my blog to be helpful.