Ask Our Expert

SAA PA Steve Williams is a mine of useful information about art techniques and products, and here he suggests some solutions to your artistic dilemmas

Q In a local shop I found a small packet of four metallic acrylic paints for £2.25 – the colours were copper, gold, silver and bronze. I thought this looked like a bargain and would save me a lot of mixing, and all the trial and error of achieving a copper effect for a still life that I had in mind. I was very disappointed with the end result and painted a copper pot which ended up looking garish and tacky. What went wrong?

A My advice with pre-mixed metallic coloured paints is to use them sparingly, and only ever as highlights rather than for blocking in colour. These colours are generally based upon Mica, a kind of pearlescent medium tinted with transparent pigments, so often the opacity is not wonderful, resulting in a streaky finish. If you wanted to paint a copper pot, I would suggest a couple of things; firstly, have a close look at some of the Old Masters’ still life paintings, and try to analyse what colours they have used.

When you think about copper, try to take away its high reflectivity and look at the colour and you'll see that it’s actually like a kind of Burnt Orange, or a touch yellower, so you could try one of the oranges - depending upon the medium used - and add highlights, lowlights and shadow. But bear in mind that many metallic effects are a sum of the reflections seen in them. Silver is essentially a metallic grey, with reflections, brass is a kind of dirty lemon yellow, again with reflections, and gold is a warmer version, perhaps based upon Yellow Ochre with reflections. You can also achieve interesting effects with pearlescent medium, though remember that any of these metallic effects will be masked and reduced if over- painted or mixed with other colours, especially white.

Q I’m a complete beginner so this may be a stupid question, but I tend to draw my picture first using a 2B pencil then paint it using watercolours. Often the pencil marks are clearly visible when I've finished painting, how can I remove them?

A Firstly, it’s good practice to keep your watercolour drawing lines fairly fine, and a 2B pencil may be a little soft for this, and leave too much graphite on the surface of the paper. Perhaps try a B or HB and see how you get on?

As for removing the drawing lines on a finished watercolour painting, there are two schools of thought on this. Firstly some feel they should stay, because the lines are seen as ‘the working out’ and the analogy is a mathematical problem - you can see how the artist has put in the ‘bones’ of his work (sorry about mixing metaphors!).

However, if you’d prefer not to have the lines visible in your finished painting, so long as they’re reasonably faint, they can be erased with a putty rubber. Also, with care, the pencil lines within the watercolour painted areas can be erased through the dried paint, as long as care is taken not to disturb the surface of the paint. This method can also be used, in certain circumstances, to haze or slightly lighten areas such as sun beams through clouds.


Ask Our Expert

SAA PA Steve Williams is a mine of useful information about art techniques and products, and here he suggests some solutions to your artistic dilemmas

Q In a local shop I found a small packet of four metallic acrylic paints for £2.25 – the colours were copper, gold, silver and bronze. I thought this looked like a bargain and would save me a lot of mixing, and all the trial and error of achieving a copper effect for a still life that I had in mind. I was very disappointed with the end result and painted a copper pot which ended up looking garish and tacky. What went wrong?

A My advice with pre-mixed metallic coloured paints is to use them sparingly, and only ever as highlights rather than for blocking in colour. These colours are generally based upon Mica, a kind of pearlescent medium tinted with transparent pigments, so often the opacity is not wonderful, resulting in a streaky finish. If you wanted to paint a copper pot, I would suggest a couple of things; firstly, have a close look at some of the Old Masters’ still life paintings, and try to analyse what colours they have used.

When you think about copper, try to take away its high reflectivity and look at the colour and you'll see that it’s actually like a kind of Burnt Orange, or a touch yellower, so you could try one of the oranges - depending upon the medium used - and add highlights, lowlights and shadow. But bear in mind that many metallic effects are a sum of the reflections seen in them. Silver is essentially a metallic grey, with reflections, brass is a kind of dirty lemon yellow, again with reflections, and gold is a warmer version, perhaps based upon Yellow Ochre with reflections. You can also achieve interesting effects with pearlescent medium, though remember that any of these metallic effects will be masked and reduced if over- painted or mixed with other colours, especially white.

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