Q&A: polished metal
Answer Melanie replies
Polished metal is a pretty interesting element to paint, and it’s something I really like to add to my characters because of the touches of light and dynamism it brings to any painting. However, to achieve a realistic metallic element can be difficult.
I start by deciding on the shape of the metallic element, bearing in mind that it might change during the painting process. I usually do few preparatory sketches to see what will work and suit my character. This enables me to focus on the main painting and the metallic texture.
The main trick is the texture, and it’s the most complex part. I start with a very limited colour scheme: the base colour, the light and a shadow hue. The colour scheme is important to get right because it’ll define the type of metal that your object is made of: gold, copper, iron and so on. However, this is only the base; metal is a highly reflective element and so you have to take into account the surrounding colours in the final design. The more reflective colours you introduce, the more realistic the texture will look.
The light is the other key aspect. Metal is a reflective element and so the light should be intense. Here. I control the strength of light so that a lot of light hits the crown, but not too much because it could end up distracting the viewer from the focal point of the composition: the character’s face. To this end, I soften the light if it’s too much.
The metal colour scheme starts off being simple, but I’ll add more colours like those of the reflected environment, and a more intense bright light later. You can choose to paint clean, polished metal, but I like to add some scratches and dents, to bring more colour variation and realism to the texture.