Gold watercolours behave quite differently from regular watercolours, but it doesn’t take long to figure them out once you know a few tricks. Once you master gold watercolours, the question is: How best to use them?

Painting as usual and then adding gold sparkles here and there might look a bit tacky, so you want to plan to include the metallic paints. Jill Gustavis explores the world of metallic paint in her excellent 90-minute class, and we’re going to take a little preview right now to see how it all works.

Before we begin, let’s briefly discuss how gold watercolour differs from standard watercolours. The most obvious difference is it’s messier — it’s got glitter in it. Jill likes to keep separate brushes and water for metallic paint. Another thing to remember is that gold watercolour needs to be applied opaquely to look metallic.

Activate the paint with some water and let it soak for a minute or two before you use it because you need a thick, soupy consistency for the glitter to work.
Alright, let’s start!

Project 1: Simple Gold Accents

Begin with a light sketch as usual, and give yourself just barely enough detail to work from without marking up the page too much.

Next, wet the paper inside the flower, and drop some magenta.

Add some golden yellow while the rest of the paint is still wet.

Paint the leaves green and gently paint the stems green too.

Take some light gold, such as Etchr’s “Canary”, and colour in the middle of the flower-like so. The result will be somewhat three-dimensional!

Add more shading and details around the gold highlight and along the leaves to increase contrast and believability.

Add a bit more depth and texture to the flower petals with some deeper pink around the edges. Once you’ve adjusted contrast and shading around the painting as much as you want, you are done! This is a nice subtle gold effect you can use on just about anything.

Project 2: Building Contrast with Metallics

For this next painting, we’re going to use more metallic paint to add contrast to the subject. Start with a sketch as usual, and if you struggle to get the circle perfectly round I suggest you use a jar or something to draw around.

Begin this flower the same way you began the previous one, using the wet-on-wet technique to add pink.

We’re also going to add the same golden yellow the same way we did last time.

The leaves are done the same way as before also, but from here on out things will be different.

Use a deep metallic colour like Etchr’s “Coffee” to make a rich, opaque metallic background. Be sure to add some paint between the petals so that the light can shine through and add depth.

Add shading on the petals and leaves again, but this time, don’t blend anything. We want the effect of this piece to be bold. We’ll add more Coffee to the shadows in the centre of the flower and use Canary again for the centre. It’s interesting how just a few design changes can change the entire feeling of a painting!

Project 3: Shimmering Floral Garland

Let’s put together what we learned in the past two floral projects to make another one that combines the techniques from earlier. Begin, as usual, with a sketch.

Start the flower the way you did the previous two, with the pink and the yellow blended together while the page is wet.

This flower will end up looking quite different because when the first layer is dry you’re going to mix some ultramarine into the pink and put a transparent layer of that purple over it. Also, add some ultramarine to the centre to make the details pop.

Using a warm, bright gold, such as Etchr’s “Sand”, highlight the centre of the flower and paint half of each leaf. For best results, make the gold halves each face the flower instead of making them face one direction straight up and down. You want the viewer to be drawn toward the focal point.

Use Coffee once again for more details on the centre of the flower and the other halves of each leaf. Paint along the stem with this colour too. See how vibrant and beautiful a painting is when you spend a little more time building layers and adding small finishing details. It is well worth the time.

Project 4: Golden Star

This painting is an example of a little embellishment you could add to a greeting card or the margin of a letter. Sketch a simple star to begin.

Use one of the brighter golds you have for the middle of the star. I used Etchr’s “Royal Gold”.

Super quick finish to this one, just alternate between Coffee and Bronze to make the star look three-dimensional along the edges. Try making a page full of stars in different shapes and sizes!

Project 5: Unconventional Landscape in Metallic Paint

There’s no need to start with a sketch here, just wet the page and drop in some deep-coloured paint. I used Etchr’s “Steel Grey” because of the grey colour underneath the glitter. You can get some lovely gradients.

You can apply as many free-flowing washes of paint as you like! Just be sure the previous layer dries before you add another.

Once the washes of paint start to look like the backdrop to something, add in whatever that thing is using a lighter gold like Royal Gold. I thought some birds flying in the distance would tie this together well.

And there you have it! Five beginner projects to ease you into using metallic paints. They are very different, but I promise you will get the hang of them with practice.

If you want to learn from the best, check out Jill’s 90-minute class! Be sure to share your creations with us on social media and subscribe to our email newsletter for exclusive updates. Happy painting!

Elsa Wahlstrom is an illustrator/writer living in the southern 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.


  • Kathy Mercure said:

    Love these ideas, especially the gold sky! I’d love to try it with blue water reflecting the gold back!
    Etchr Studio replied:
    Thanks Kathy, we’d love to see that!

    October 11, 2022

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