How To Paint Reflections On Shiny Objects In Watercolor

This lesson shows the basic principles for painting reflections on a rounded object.  Like most things, it’s easier than you think.

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Shiny Objects and Reflections

Anything that has a reflective surface can be a challenge to paint. The shiny surface creates unexpected changes in color and value along with introduces unexpected shapes.  Reflections interrupt and disturb the light and shade patterns.

One of the most important difference between reflective and non-reflective objects is the type of edges that exist between light and dark areas.  Changes between value shapes is often abrupt on reflective objects, while it is gradual on non-reflective objects.

There is another lesson on painting cylinders here – be sure to try that one as well.

Rounded Objects Change The Shape Of The Reflected Object

You may have walked through a hall of mirrors at some point. Usually these attractions feature many different mirrors with unusual curved surfaces.  You certainly noticed that your own reflection looked pretty funny in these mirrors.  The effect of the curvy surfaces distorted shapes in odd and very amusing ways.

Normal rounded objects that are also reflective also distort the shape of objects reflected on their surface. Although you may not find the distortions funny at all, it is important to be aware of the effect.

Rounded Objects and Reflections

In this lesson we’ll be painting a cylinder. It’s the same cylinder you might have painted showing light and form in this lesson. In that lesson, the objective was to reveal the form of the shape by capturing light and shade.

In this lesson, we’ll show how the form of the shiny cylinder – which is a stand in for any rounded object – reflects and distorts the form of other objects.  And how those distorted forms appear on the reflective surface.

There are usually large value changes and harder edges between the reflected objects and the plain surface reflecting only the general environment. There are also subtle gradations both on the “un-reflecting” portions of the surface and within the reflections as well.

We’ll cover all the techniques and process needed to successfully paint reflective surfaces.

What You’ll Need:


There is another lesson on painting cylinders here – be sure to try that one as well.

Related Lessons

Simple Shapes

Reflections and Reflected Objects