View Full Version : Need Help...tips for painting glass

04-19-2010, 12:22 PM
Can anyone point me in the direction of some good pastel tutorials on painting glass? It's smokey, sort of antique looking glass.

So far, two sheets of paper have gone in the trash. :(

04-19-2010, 01:35 PM
Hi Chuas,

Do you have a photo? I know I say this all the time, but painting anything is just a question of carefully observing the color and the value and trying to replicate it as best as possible. Try to break it down into some basic shapes of highlights and shadows. The colors you see through the glass are always very important. The highlights and reflections are also very key when it comes to shiny or reflective objects.

Here's one link I found that pretty much says the same things:


Good luck!


04-19-2010, 01:55 PM
Agree with Don, it is just a question of: what colour is that little shape, exactly like you did with the candle box. That's the whole secret of glass. Observe, and paint what you see. (I know, it sounds basically meaning-less... it isn't.)

Don's link was great. If you want more advice, post the photo of the glass, and I'll show you what "paint what you see" means when I say it (we all have different ways of interpreting it).


04-19-2010, 02:07 PM
Well, this isn't the photo im working from (on my other computer at home,) but it's very much like this...

Is it useful to discard color information? Paint the whole thing that pale orange color first?
Thank you!

04-19-2010, 03:36 PM
Hi again, Chusas,

Thanks for the pic! Played with it, and I hope I'm not confusing even more... :angel:


I removed all background information, and left just the glass. Then I divided it into three shapes that all had some basic thing common, the bowl (one kind of orange, the stem (many darks, many shapes, and many lights), and the foot (another kind of deep brownish purply orange).

Now, there is not one way to do this, but anyhow you simplify a shape will make it easier.

Within these larger shapes, there are many smaller shapes and areas of colour. The cup is divided in, say, three major shapes, a dark right-tilted X, with a yellower orange to the upper left of it, and a part with some bright oranges to the lower right. These shapes have yet smaller shapes within them: the upper right yellowy has brighter yellow horizontal streaks. There's a nearly pink diagonal following one of the dark arms of the X. Etc.

If your paper allows it, you can paint from larger shapes towards the smaller shapes within shapes.

Another image, where I split up some shapes even more:


The flat areas are a suggestion for a starting point for these shapes, and the other colours and the lights and darks can be worked into and on top of the base colour.

The red lines show how the multiple small shapes in this very complicated stem can be simplified. Each little shape doesn't looks so daunting when isolated, or?

The part of the stem where the cloth pattern is visible is moved. (yellow arrow). The shapes in it can also be subdivided. And as you see, these smaller shapes have even smaller shapes within them.

Some paint the smallest shapes adjacent to each other, with right colour and right value, with wonderful results. I tend to go from larger to ever smaller shapes, as "patience" isn't in my vocabulary. :D

Did I only muddy the waters even more? I mean, one has to know what one sees before painting it. Regardless of if you want to start with the small shapes, or with the large ones, it is this kind of seeing shapes that will make it look like glass.

Notice the rather wide values, from fairly light to rather dark, and then go for sheen rather than shine on the highlights, you can always strengthen the highlights where needed, later.


04-19-2010, 03:43 PM
Great demo Charlie! I was just going to say....don't think of it as glass but shapes and values but you beat me to it most comprehensively!
One of my strengths is to be able to paint what I see, rather than what I think I see. One of my weaknesses is getting my painting to actually look like what I see!

04-19-2010, 04:08 PM
Ah, thank you for the great demo Charlie!

I'm going to take apart my object and see what I end up with. I think going from large to small makes the most sense, and/or dividing up areas according to color.

I can see how that makes painting (and seeing) the whole object less daunting. I just plain didn't know where to start!

Wish me luck!

04-19-2010, 05:42 PM

IMHO, painting glass (or any still life) from a live set up is a worthwhile experience. I paint all my still life's that way. I've painted glass, and speaking from experience, you do see things quite clearly that you just might miss when working from a photo. It may seem overwhelming, but it actually is quite helpful. Maybe try something similar to your photo by setting it up on a table with a spotlight on it, giving you a good light source to work from. Then take Charlie's words of wisdom: I mean, one has to know what one sees before painting it. Regardless of if you want to start with the small shapes, or with the large ones, it is this kind of seeing shapes that will make it look like glass.

(which are excellent and comprehensive), and try to apply them to your approach. Most times I find photos to be deceptive, as well as difficult to figure out. Looking at the real thing just might help you. I know it helps me. Everybody works differently, and you have to do what works for you. I just thought I would give you my 2 cents worth.

I'm looking forward to seeing your progress!

04-19-2010, 06:20 PM
One tool in photoshop (or similar program) that might be of help, is the posterize filter (I think most photo editing software has this filter). You can set it to different levels which simplifies the shapes. The fewer levels, the simpler. I'm not saying that you need to paint the posterized image, but it might be of help in seeing the shapes in a simplified way.

I've taken your photo (left) and posterized it twice - first at 3 levels (center), and 5 levels (far right).



Kathryn Wilson
04-20-2010, 10:14 AM
The thing to keep in mind about painting glass is that you will see the color through it that are behind it, so I basically paint an outline of the glass, leave the background color, and put in some highlights. Once you get the hang of it, it really is simple.

04-20-2010, 11:12 AM
Don, thank you for suggesting that posterizing tool, that may help. I did try Charlie's suggestion and took the glass apart in main sections, but I'm getting so boggled down in subtle gradations...it doesn't look right, it looks like a bad patchwork quilt.

I'm sticking with it though...!
Sad Chuas

04-20-2010, 01:07 PM
Bad patchwork quilt is the word, just keep at it. I had a teacher urging me on the first time I did 'quilting', and I couldn't understand why she said "looking good" when it was positively *awful*. She didn't allow me to quit, and I pouted and painted, and suddenly things started to join into a cohesive whole, almost magically. Just a question of being able to stand the "ugly stage" :-) long enough to actually finish it.


04-22-2010, 08:15 PM
Everyone's given great advice on painting glass. I usually start by doing the darkest shapes, then some mid tones, then highlights, just looking at what color those bits are. But I can shape it with the darks. Or I start with the bright highlights depending on whether it's a sketch.

One thing that helps with stitching together the "quilt" is to notice which areas inside the glass have hard edges and which ones have soft transitions. The smooth shading in some of the transition areas helps make it look real too. If the glass has a color like the photo you posted, it'll somewhat tint everything seen through it -- so on a smoke colored glass, you might go one step darker and duller on anything seen through it. That and look at distortions.

With a photo it can also help to use grid method or tick marks to define the odd shaped areas.