How to paint a necklace

Creating portraits full of details such as jewelry and textures can be gratifying but it's a lot of hard work. And for those who create historical and fantasy illustrations like me, we have way too much work to do sometimes.

I'm on a quest to find easy ways to paint all the things I love, from curly hair (tutorial here) to jewelry. The idea is to get a great result with as few steps as possible.

Here is my 6-step process on how to make realistic jewelry, in this case a luxurious vintage amethyst and diamond necklace.

The sum of the process is:

Step by step:

What you're going to need

  • Your favorite digital painting software and pen tablet
  • Reference images for both the shapes and the jewelry
  • A color palette - About 3 values from dark to highlight for each of the gems you'll be painting plus white. You may also add about 4 for the metal depending on how much it appears on the detail. In this case, I'm using a dark value for the line and white for the highlight.

1. Draw the construction lines

Sketch the construction lines first, including the center of the jewel. Depending on what you're drawing this step can be even simpler.

2. Draw the shapes of the elements

Draw all the shapes using a hard brush with 100% opacity.

Something you should notice is how vintage necklaces, especially the ones made between the 15th and the 19th century used to follow a theme. They had stylized flowers, ribbons, leaves, etc. So if you're going for that look, first study how such jewels were designed, and choose some of those elements for your piece.

In this drawing, as this is a frontal view, I drew one side, copied, pasted and flipped the same shape to create the other side. I did the same for all the other steps. That can be done for most portraits with only a few tweaks.

3. Paint the base color

On another layer, paint the base color of all gems with the same brush. Leaves, ribbons and other larger elements are actually clusters of gems. Here I painted their overall shape. I'll define the gems on the next step.

4. Paint the gems' outlines and dark spots

Here, besides detailing the shapes of the gems, I also sprinkled dark spots on the diamonds, and painted the shadow on the large gems.

On close up, small diamonds have lots of facets of different values, but from afar, especially on a portrait, it's not necessary to detail that much (except if you're going to paint an image that requires that level of detail). For an average painting, a few speckles are enough.

5. Paint the light

For the diamonds, you'll notice that the white areas are more numerous than the dark ones, so you'll want to sprinkle more of them on each gem.

For the amethysts, because of their size, you have to follow the shape in which they are cut. That's when reference images are handy. For these larger gems, you'll choose a lighter but more saturated value first, then add white inside the lightest areas. Use the airbrush for the whole process.

6. Cleaning up

 On this step add white on top of the lightest areas of the bigger gems. Clean up the construction lines, and link all parts that may be too far from each other.

The next step in a portrait would be to paint the shadow underneath the piece, using a dark skin value, to make it look accurate.

That's it! I hope you liked this tutorial.

Let me know your thoughts below, and also any suggestions for tutorials that you'd like to see.

XO Cora 💜💫

Cora Lynn

Cora Lynn

I'm an indie artist, who enjoys creating fantasy characters and creatures mixing elements from nature and different time periods and cultures.

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