Valentine’s Day is almost here, and what better way to celebrate than with a box of heart-shaped chocolate truffles wrapped in shiny red foil? In this painting tutorial, we will master different shiny textures to create a realistic picture of this sweet treat.

All you will need is a watercolour sketchbook (I used the Etchr Cold Press Sketchbook), some watercolour paints (like the Etchr 24 Half-Pan Set) and a small round brush!

We’re going to start by examining the reference photo and making a strategy for painting. This is a good idea with any observational picture you make.

You’ll notice that everything in the picture is smooth and shiny, but the foil has a more metallic shine with more colour variation than the unwrapped piece of chocolate does.

Read here to learn more about how to paint shiny and metallic objects in watercolour. 

You will also notice some reflected light on the edges of the unwrapped chocolate. In this painting, we’re going to be suggesting formless with outline and more with light and shadow, so take all the time you need on this observation stage.

Once you’re ready, you can start painting!

Step 1: The Sketch

Make as light and clean of a sketch as possible, suggesting as many lines as you need in order to have an idea of the proportions, but not so precise that you overwork the paper and lose texture. It’s also a good idea to lighten the sketch with a kneaded eraser if you can do that and still see it enough.

You’ll notice while sketching that the subject is a lot simpler than it looks because it’s just the same shapes over and over! The main thing is to get them arranged together right at the beginning, then the rest of the process is a breeze.

Step 2: Adding Paint

Leave spaces for the white of the page at the very lightest highlights. I used Rouge Red for the foil and box, Brick Brown and Burnt Sienna together for the unwrapped chocolate, and a mixture of Ultramarine Blue and Brick Brown for the box interior.

This stage is more about establishing contrast than about anything else, so if your blends are a little rough, that’s okay. We’ll smooth things out later on.

Step 3: Getting Bolder

Use Simply Red to deepen the colour on the foil and the box, still leaving room for white and pink layers underneath to show through and create dimension. With some Brick Brown, paint over the unwrapped chocolate and give that some more depth.

My favourite trick for smoothing gradients at this stage (as you can see, there are a few messy gradients right now) is to take a damp and clean brush and scrub it sideways over the gradient. That always creates a nice blend.

Step 4: The Magic Ingredient

I call this the “magic ingredient” to bright red subjects because it may not be an obvious choice, but it really pulls the image together: Add pink. I used Pretty Pink from the 24 Half-Pan Set, and it worked beautifully.

Go around the edges of all the chocolates as well as the box with a loaded brush of Pretty Pink, then use the nearly dry clean brush trick to blend the gradients. You will notice right away that the red is deeper, with more different undertones, both warm and cool, and this resembles reflective foil more than the plain red did earlier.

Also, by using the pink on the dark areas of the unwrapped chocolate, you get the reflected light that we were looking at earlier!

The other thing I did here was take some water and smooth out the gradients in the box liner. Some of the tone shifts are sudden, so you’ll want to keep some of the stark edges in there, but it is a matte surface despite reflecting lots of light.

You don’t want it to have the same amount of sheen as the foil. The beauty of using a mixture of brown and blue instead of a plain black colour is that the pigments will be spread a little differently throughout each area, which gives the painting personality.

We hope you enjoy this tutorial! When you paint your own chocolate box, show us on social media! We love to see your creations! Also, you can subscribe to our email newsletter for updates on more lessons like these. Happy painting!

Elsa Wahlstrom is an illustrator/writer living in the south Idaho hill country. She  loves to create cozy, homey pictures and populate them with funny little creatures  having surreal little adventures. Her biggest inspiration is the music and comedy that  came out of England in the late 60s. When she’s not busy making art, she goes for long  hikes, plays a few instruments, and collects vinyl.

Leave a comment