View Full Version : painting metals

10-02-2004, 04:20 AM
...like bronze. I kinda hate to fall back on 'bronze paint', but I'm just not finding combinations that look right. Some violet-yellow complements seem like they might be in the ballpark. There's something I'm missing here, though. When I look hard at it, there's a 'feeling' of yellow to it, but it's not really. I can't really pin down what color it is. Any suggestions?

10-02-2004, 05:40 AM
looked up definition of bronze, it's an alloy of copper, usually copper & tin or cooper and zinc.
Copper has ORANGE tones, Tin is shiny silver/blues, zinc is dull grey/whites
so Bronze could have orange, some blues and whites and greys reflecting..
could be the orange tint is what you're missing???

10-02-2004, 11:40 AM
Like most things painting metals is basically a case of close observation - aiming to paint what you see. Don't worry, I know exactly what you mean about how difficult it is to pin down the colours; there are lots of similar issues where our preconceived notions get in the way :)

Post a photo of a specific example or examples please and we can help more.


10-02-2004, 04:53 PM
Ok, here's a scan of the actual object. I see, in the scan, that the hilt is reflecting some blue from blade...since it's covered with a black cloth on the scanner, it does reduce the confusion some...but how to produce that strange yellow? Is it greenish? It 'feels' warm at the same time.

10-02-2004, 05:28 PM
TINY ref photo, but if i squint real hard I see some orangy yellows some green and purples..boy it's hard work though, you'll need to blow that ref way up for us to really help. and we do want to help we all love mysteries!:D

10-02-2004, 07:48 PM
Here is a slightly out of focus photo of a large bronze urn that sits on my hearth, full of pinecones for lighting my fireplace. I hope it helps with seeing the "color" as well as how little of the object is showing any of the color we normally associate with bronze. It's mostly about reflections - in this case of darker objects in the vicinity.

10-02-2004, 09:19 PM
Here is a color saturation of your picture that just enhances the colors that were already there.

10-02-2004, 10:06 PM
I think this one is bigger..hard to tell on here.

10-03-2004, 04:15 AM
I'll tell you what I see..may not be the same as others..
the curvy outer edges of the points are golden with a greenish tinge(very very slight) on the right hand side point, more orangy on the left side tip, quite distinct in the bottom 'M' shape, inner aspect.. In the extreme curves there are green/blue tinges, and the flat tone blade could almost be tinted very slightly pink..with overall warm tones..no shine, almost a marbled effect..
waht an amazing object, yes I CAN see why you'd have trouble with this one..the colour enhancement above should help heaps..

10-03-2004, 04:29 AM
Somewhere in the archives of Wetc there is an article on painting metals.
Have just tried to find it but failed. Have a search to see what you can find.
Look under brass, copper, gold, silver etc
I know I have used it myself, and thought I'd kept a reference to it.

10-03-2004, 06:43 AM
Bronze can run from coppery red to an almost silvery white depending on the alloy composition. This one looks kind of brass like to me. But, I also see some greens and reds along with the yellow. Difficult to nail down. A different background might help. :confused:

10-03-2004, 02:49 PM
Here is a saturation of your larger image. It looks like the handle is steel, like the sword itself. Anyway, this shows the bronze pretty well--hope it helps.


10-03-2004, 05:32 PM
i use golden's permanent violet dark plus green gold.

i also use golden's bronze. but for areas that i don't want to have a "bronze" sheen to it, i mix the above.

10-03-2004, 08:43 PM
I'm glad you posted a larger pic, it helps for what I wanted to do. Now obviously scanned this way the highlights on the guard are relatively subdued and simplified as you mention but hopefully this will give you some ideas. I randomly selected typical areas across the image and I've just roughly circled where each sample was taken from.


The bottom two rows show the sampled colour on top and the 'base colour' below it, the high-chroma colour that each sample could be mixed from; as you can see most are yellows. How you mix the colours depends to a large extent on the paints you have available to you. For all the light colours you obviously add a lot of white and since they tend to be low in chroma you'll also have to add some of a complementary colour; alternatively you could start with earth yellows that are roughly the right hue - Gold Ochre, Yellow Ochre, hues of Naples Yellow, that sort of thing. With the two central samples as you can see they're greens technically but the saturations are 11% and 12% respectively so you really don't need to start from a colour, mix a grey and add green to it instead, it's much easier to do.

You can do this same sort of sampling to explore colour in an image using PaintShopPro or Photoshop yourself if you have them. Choose the eyedropper tool and just click here and there on areas you want to know the colour of. Each time you click it will sample the colour where you've clicked and if you then click on the foreground colour in the palette (left side in Photoshop, right side I think in PSP) it will show you the basic hue. You might like to do this on the blade for example, where the saturation averages about 5-6%, which is low enough that any hue is indistinguishable, so if your screen is calibrated properly it should look like a neutral grey. In the flesh the blade will tend to reflect the colours around it to some degree (even with a finish like this) so you might want to bear this in mind depending on how you'd like to depict it.

Last point, with regard to the colours of real brass and bronze: brass is a yellow metal that naturally tends towards green as it oxidises - just as you can see in the photo of Jack's urn. Bronze is actually pink and naturally tends towards reddish browns as it oxidises.


10-03-2004, 10:08 PM
Thanks Einion for 'dissecting' the colours. It still amazes me how difficult it is to determine the hue of objects in the world by eye...even guessing the more chromatic colours in the world, I am often shockingly off. Also interesting is just how much colour there is in that metal...mostly very low chroma greens, yellow and oranges. Who'd of thunk?

10-04-2004, 01:21 AM
This has been a great collection of answers! I've never learned to analyze color in terms of chroma like that before. Now that you've told me about adding the color to gray, I'm having a sort of *doh* moment. Seems obvious now! I really didn't realize that some of those grays were greenish. It was more a 'hunch' of green. Your suggestion of using photoshop to see it is *most* useful. I use Corel Photopaint the most, and it samples color in much the same way, I think. Heh, what did we do before computers?

It must be more of a brass finish, then. The sword is a rather fancy fantasy piece--heavy enough to hurt someone, for sure, but not intended to be anything but a prop. Could be steel under brass plating, perhaps. I figured it would be good practice to see if I could paint it.

I too, remember seeing something here on metals, but can't find it either. Would have thought there would be quite a bit on them, for that matter!

Thank you all so much. I'll take a stab at it, and if I don't totally blow it, I'll post the result! :)

10-05-2004, 11:08 PM
I know what you mean Patrick, for years I stumbled around not knowing what I was looking at! The most significant help in identifying colour for me was photo-retouching and working in Photoshop where the palette shows you the entire range of colour for any give hue - which has some interesting lessons to teach us all. One of the most startling is many of the dull 'greens' in this image are not greens but low-chroma yellows as we can see!

Just like with dark reds and crimsons and how violet they can look the dark and/or dull yellows I think are the hardest colours to identify accurately. The yellows still have my vote on being the hardest to actually mix though!

Heh, what did we do before computers?
Spend years in art school learning the craft! :)


10-07-2004, 01:52 PM
Einion--I was so impressed with what you did with the graphics program, I went looking on mine to see if I could do the same thing. I have ACDsee and Photomax Pro. I could not find it on ACDsee, but that surprised me, and I wonder if it is there even though I coudn't find it. I had PS at one time, and could get it again if need be. I found that I could manipulate the color palette on PMP and could get the sample colors and the base colors, and that should be a big help to me. On a four-bit index it is easy to see where the colors are on the picture, but on an eight-bit index it is harder to see where each of those 256 colors are on the picture, and that is the one that might help me in painting; is there a way to do that?

As usual, I learn more about a program I have been using for years only when I need it, or when someone shows me that a feature is there! Don't think I have ever sat down and learned a program all at once.

10-07-2004, 03:26 PM
I have ACDsee and Photomax Pro. I could not find it on ACDsee, but that surprised me, and I wonder if it is there even though I coudn't find it.
ACDSee is probably the best software of its type out there (makes the default Windows and Mac image-viewing programs look like junk!) but it's basically only for viewing pictures. I think to do this you have to be looking in an image-editing program of the type of PS and PSP, or Photopaint as Jaelle mentioned.

On a four-bit index it is easy to see where the colors are on the picture, but on an eight-bit index it is harder to see where each of those 256 colors are on the picture, and that is the one that might help me in painting; is there a way to do that?
You really have to simplify things to be able to see them clearly, even 256 colours, limited though it might be, is too much to take in all at once. With experience you learn to 'tune in' to the important element, as painters learn to do in their heads.