How do you paint white objects?

I painted this little jug today, just for practice. I'm really not loving it. Honestly, I think that is ok as I know I can learn from it once I take a step back. That being said. The jug is supposed to be white! Lol! And, I don't think that a viewer would be able to tell that this is a white jug from my painting. The truth is, I find white objects VERY intimidating to paint. How do you guys go about doing it? Hope everyone is having a nice weekend so far!


  • Maybe I need to change the background to a completely different colour? Blue and grey perhaps? That might help, I think 
  • Clearly you were intimidating by the white of the jug and then probably more white is needed in the shadows, obviously the white shouln't just white but some various high value greys. I am not an expert, so this is just my opinion to be contrasted with other ones. I like the painting.
  • I think you have purple and yellow colours in the jug which is what makes it look a bit off. Have you got a photo of the original still life so we can give more C&C? :)
  • @Richard_P
    thanks! Yes. I'll see if I can upload it!
  • @Richard_P fyi - i wasn't focused on trying to represent the cloth in the back...I'm sure you can see that! Also, looking at it now, I can also see that I have it completely tilted in my painting. Ugh. I think I"m just having a really off day

  • Paint what you see. I see mostly warm neutrals. 
  • edited August 23
    You're not far off. The key for me is that on the light side your value range is too high - meaning you have some darks in there that are like your shadow values. You observed the tones, but slightly overstated them and lost the sense that it was all one smooth surface. All I did on this was soften the tonal range in photoshop, particularly where the light is falling. I didn't paint over it, just lightened bits. Very quickly - sorry, not precise. And darkened the lip a little. Sorry, lost the shadow underneath.
    I confess I don't have a problem with your colours even though they're slightly different to the photo. A white object will pick up the reflected light around it. Take it into a room with different coloured walls and it will look different. There is often an interplay of warmer lights and cooler darks or sometimes the other way around. In the photo itself the lights lean into the yellow spectrum, and the shadows are greyed out - so towards violet but still in the yellow spectrum. The more important story is in the values/ tones. If they are right, it will look right.
  • edited August 23
    @Allie, I agree with @Richard_P. It's the colours and values that are the main problem. And the gradation from dark to light. Did you colour check carefully and mix your colours before starting? I think that's crucial when painting white objects like this. Also, if you use proportional dividers and Marks "magic line" to do a careful drawing you would avoid the slight problem with form.  Mark has a really good free video on painting simple objects like this - he paints a mug - but the principles demonstrated apply to everything we paint.  Don't be afraid of white objects. Once we learn to colour check accurately, they are no more difficult to paint than other objects. Just click on the Videos and Tutorials tab at the top of this page and you'll find lots of free videos relevant to painting objects of any colour. 
  • @Cabral

    Thanks everyone for the comments and feedback! I REALLY appreciate it. The truth is, I was so "up in my head" about this one that I just mucked it all up and didn't paint or draw all that well! Ugh. I guess it happens. I was hoping I might be able to fiddle with it a little bit to salvage it, but have decided to put this little painting aside for now....It just makes me annoyed to look at it. Once I get a couple of other, more successful paintings completed,  I'll come back to this and try again (when I'm feeling a bit braver to tackle white once again!) 

  • @Abstraction
    Thank you! The photoshopped version of this little jug really helps! I appreciate that so much! I see what you mean that it doesn't come together to look like a smooth surface and that the values are not correct. I did get a little carried away with "feeling" rather than "seeing". When I attempt to try to paint this jug again, I'll definitely come back to this thread to look at and remember your helpful comment! 
  • @tassieguy
    I didn't do any of that! Lol! I love Mark's videos on colour checking, but somehow got lost with the idea of white. I'll definitely have to rewatch and try again!!

  • Color is value

     A few of things going on here. Color, temperature and value.
    The almost total neutral to the violet side is. Cool maybe even cold. And a half tone to dark.

    The value is off by at least a half tone on a 7 value scale.
    The the temperature are off by color. This is a Yellow Blue Color Ramp with white at the bottom and full intensity color at the top.
    The color/value is somewhere just above the lightest light. I might add a kiss of violet at the same value.

    This ramp is oof full intensity primaries. If you were to neutralize the yellow at value and the blue at value.
    Violet neutralizes yellow (compliments). Orange neutralizes blue (compliments).

  • @KingstonFineArt Wowsa! Is that ever helpful!!! Thank you so very much!! The colour chart you posted here is such a useful tool. I'm definitely going to start referring to charts more. I'm a bit embarrassed to say, but I haven't really done that before 🥺. Thank you!!

    It is still a WIP, but with everyone's input, I can already see a big improvement. Thanks again everyone!!


  • Very ilustrative man! color and value and then you also achieved the texture so well I can touch the enamel!!

  • There is only one very small spot of white in the entire source photo, bottom of the shine on the left edge of jug. But even that has some yellow in it.
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