I can’t get the hang of painting dust in my environments. Please help!
Wallace O’Brian, Canada
Dust is made up of many things, some of which you’d likely rather not know about! From common household dust to hazy desert scenes, a key characteristic is that dust obeys the laws of gravity – even if very slowly at times. Dust kicked up into the air will eventually settle. When this happens it’ll reveal and accentuate forms, much like a light snowfall.
Let’s look at a common depiction of dust: heavy accumulation of indoor dust over time. In most instances, indoor dust will settle on horizontal surfaces and is roughly monochrome. Wash out the colours on visible surfaces to accentuate this effect. When you handle the details of your scene, remember to keep visualising the dust settling from above. Heavier dust can gather in corners, and cobwebs can be placed strategically to enhance the effect.
I paint the table and objects on top of it, and then make a Screen layer for the dust. I use a grainy brush to create instant texture, and choose a blueish grey. Once I’ve painted the main dust layer, I make another layer with a lighter grey for highlights. Introducing desaturated darker blues in the shadows gives a sense of depth to the dust coating. If things start looking too bright or snowy then reduce the Opacity of your dust layers.
Notice how the dust accumulation tapers off as the surface of the bottle curves slightly towards the vertical. Here’s the sketch with the dust layers removed. Creating the scene helps me to visualise where and how the dust will accumulate.