While metallic textures in general have their own issues, flat, metallic items pose a bunch of unique problems. However, these problems are incredibly easily overcome through a few simple steps. I guarantee that you will be left wondering why it seemed so difficult after you read this!
This tutorial is not going to be media-specific, but I am using Photoshop CC and a drawing tablet for my examples. As always, click the images to view them bigger.
Are Flat Objects Really Flat?
While you are sketching, make sure you determine the location of your light source. For metallic objects, light sources are what determines nearly every part of how you handle coloring them. Even though you won't be able to tell how the light affects your object in the sketch stage, it's always good to have the finished piece in mind early!
TIP: If you have a habit of forgetting where your light source is, I suggest drawing a circle to represent it. You can always erase this circle after you’re done!
*If you are using a permanent media, or one you cannot add a lighter color on top of, such as markers, WAIT. (unless you have something like a gel pens or white pencils you can also use). Finish reading this tutorial before you begin coloring.
Your object should start looking a bit more fleshed out now, though it probably doesn’t look metallic at all.
TIP: For an even more metallic effect, try to make your brush strokes parallel to each other. Metal often has a grain to it, that while it's not necessarily visible to the naked eye, can enhance the illusion of metallic shine. Even more so, reflections on metallic objects, especially flat ones, are often parallel lines of light and dark (unless you have a mirror or something extremely reflective!)
Once again, remember your light source!
For my machete, I added some white highlights to the blade edge, not only because that is closest to the light source, but also because the sharpened edge is a slightly different plane than the rest of the blade and will therefore be affected by the light the same way as a cube face. I faded the highlight as the machete blade curves toward the tip because the light source is no longer hitting it the same way as the rest of the edge. I also added a thinner bright highlight to the very edge of the curve near the tip to create the illusion that the blade is extremely sharp.
TIP: If you are using markers, I like to use a white colored pencil for these highlights. If you are using a digital program, I suggest using a lower opacity for these.
Imagine if your light source has beams coming out of it like a cartoon sun. The highlights we are adding this time will be mostly parallel to those beams. In the case of my machete, they run perpendicular to the highlight on the blade edge that I added in the last step. While this might not always be the case in every drawing, it will generally work this way.
TIP: Try making your reflection lines in pairs or trios of various thicknesses. I personally like to use pairs, with one line much thicker than the other one.
For these, you will want to make sure that your lines are thin. I would suggest treating them very similar to how you deal with inked linework, complete with tapered ends.
TIP: If you are using markers, consider using a white gel pen or white acrylic paint on a fine brush for these lines. Digital artists will want to make sure their opacity is set to 100%.
That's it! Not too difficult, right? The secret to metallic objects, especially flat ones, is creating the illusion that your object is made of metal. Unless you are doing a photo-realistic piece, all you need to do is convince your audience's mind.
If you have any questions, post in the comments on here, or hit me up on Facebook or on Twitter and I would be more than happy to answer them as best I can. And don't forget to subscribe so you don't miss the next blog!