David Cunningham
David Cunningham

How to Paint Glass and Reflections in Oil

Nothing brings me more pleasure than pulling back the curtain on the “mystery” behind how I paint glass or silver.  “How do you make it look so real?”  “Do you use special silver paint?”  The truth no one likes to hear is that the “secret” involves hours of close observation and meticulous matching of color, shape and edge just like it does with painting an apple or a nose.  So, most of the time I tell people what they want to hear: it is just magic.  However, it is obvious that you are more intellectually curious than most or you wouldn’t be reading this.  Below you will find an illustrated step by step guide through my process (click image to enlarge).  Of course there are many different ways of painting, but this is a method that works well for me.

Indirect painting How to

Indirect painting How to 

In this demonstration, I break down the process into 4 steps.  As stated in the post 4 things you need to turn paint into reality, accurate drawing is the essential first step.  I then put conte on the back of the drawing and trace to transfer the drawing to the panel.  Drawing is essential all the way through the process.  Drawings easily disappear or get off during the painting process.  As a result I draw with my brush throughout the painting, always correcting and re-correcting my drawing.  In the drawing, I also am going beyond exterior contours of the objects.  I look for significant value or color changes and draw small contour lines to help remind me where I need to visually change gears.

The purpose of the value under-painting or grisaille, is to break down the painting process into manageable steps.  The value serves as guidelines for the first pass in color.  I think that accurate value creates three dimensional illusion and that color gives us the sensation of the temperature of light.  Taking the time to get the values correct is essential.  So, if you don’t have 3 dimensional illusion after the value painting, rework it until you do.

Color requires careful observation of hue, value, and intensity to make sure that what you are mixing up matches what you are observing.  Mentally avoid naming the “local color” of the object (ie pink cloth, blue background) because this is a gross oversimplification from what is observed.  Taking the time to really see shapes of colors within the objects is much better.  It usually takes at least two passes of color to get the color richness that I want in my work.

I hope you picked up a few tips that help you along the way.  Good luck and get to painting!

How to paint glass in 4 easy steps




1 Comment

  1. Julie Robinson - 10 years ago

    Thank you! As a complete newbie, understanding how others approach the process is very helpful.