Painting dark drapery

Painting drapery - dark blue with silver highlights
Dark matter, oil on panel, 40x30cm

A new problem – another scrap of fabric  – this time drapery of the darkest blue (almost black) but looking closely I find it’s shot through with a silvery grey.

The solution for painting dark drapery is the same as any other complex image. It is about breaking it down both the drawing and the tones into their simplest elements and then building on them.

For example:

  • lightly sketch the largest forms
  • paint in the darkest areas first to avoid muddying them with any other colour which may have white in it’s mix
  • paint in the midtones
  • save the lights for last and use them sparingly (particularly avoiding the background because this will help make it stay back where it belongs)

I chose to paint the whole picture as a dark blue fabric and then add the  silvery grey as a second layer, scumbled over the dark blue once that was dry. I mixed two versions of the silver, reserving the lightest for the highlights and a slightly darker for everything else. I was keen to avoid attracting to much attention to less important areas but still get the effect of a multi-toned fabric.