Can you help me choose the right colours to paint metal please?
Jose Castillo, Canada
The environment that surrounds the metal object is almost as important as the depiction of the object itself. It’s actually that simple. If a metal ball is in a field of grass with a blue sky then it would be green at the bottom and blue on top. If a metal ball is in a room that’s lit by both an artificial light and natural light through a window, and the room is beige, then it would be light brown at the bottom, yellow on top and a desaturated blue on the side from the window. If a metal ball is depicted as if it were in an 80s sci-fi movie, then it would probably have a cold blue spotlight on top and neon light on the side.
I could go on all day, but I think you have plenty examples there! The environment has a significant effect on metal, even if it’s painted metal. Now, the second thing that’s crucial to painting a metal object is to desaturate whatever colours from the environment are affecting it. This means that most colours will become quite cold; our eyes see the colours going towards a blue-ish tone, even though that’s not what’s really happening. I then apply a few dabs of blue tints with a texture brush.
Finally, don’t forget about rust, if appropriate. Whatever the surroundings, rust will always have a brown, red or yellow appearance.
Here are four common environmental settings that would affect metal. Placing another material alongside a metallic object would reinforce the effect. Notice how the rusting metal has a vibrant appearance. The top one is from another planet and the bottom one from the ocean.