The Challenge of Coloring Shining Armor

Posted On: 11/05/14

Jayleen Weaver shiny metal armor portrait with final Copic opaque white

Follow along with Jayleen Weaver as she leads this week's tutorial walking through the concepts you'll need to understand for coloring bright, reflective surfaces—and making your work shine!

Shiny metal is difficult to specify colors for because it's reflective and so it will have colors from its environment. I'm going to color shining armor, going for the look of polished silver. I've taken a bit of artistic license, but overall I think it gives that feel.


I inked the drawing in black, except for the inside lines on all the shiny metal parts. These I inked in a fine cool grey Multiliner. I did this because I wanted the details in the metal to be softer, and I wanted to keep the metal looking smooth and clean and new.

Jayleen Weaver shiny metal armor artwork

Since this tutorial only covers the shiny metal parts of this illustration, I went ahead and colored in the background and other parts. If you'd like to see how I did the background, I did a tutorial on that before; I've also done skin tutorials before.

I link to those—and many more—on my website: GuruKitty.

Jayleen Weaver shiny metal armor second step

To start, I blocked in the darker areas with C1. It's a little pale here but hopefully you can see. The darker areas are where there is a change in the angle of the metal. The curved metal accents will be shaded on the side opposite the light source. The main portion of the chest plate where it curves down in the middle, and the side on her left is shaded from the sun, and concealed a bit by her cape as well. I applied the C1 down with a feathering stroke to prevent too many harsh edges.

Jayleen Weaver shiny metal armor portrait tutorial step 3

Next, I took C2, C3 and C5 and enhanced my shadow areas a little bit. I blended between the 3 colors to make the transition very soft. The darker sides could have been much darker. In the case of chrome I would have gone all the way to black, but for the soft silver I didn't go above a C5.

It's good to find a reference for different types of metals. (I covered specific metals in an axe tutorial)

Jayleen Weaver shiny metal armor tutorial step 4

I added some vertical transitional shadingas well to help with the shape of the metal, and to add some interest to the large blank areas. I also shaded the fish cape clasps some. this should be the last of the C's to be added to this.

Jayleen Weaver shiny metal armor coloring with Copic markers

Now the best part! Because it's so reflective, her armor is going to reflect the colors around it. She's wearing a very colorful cape and all these colors are going to show up in the metal. I use a very soft feathering stroke to add these colors in. I tried to use a color slightly lighter than the colors actually used in the cape so the color of the cape isn't overshadowed by detail in the metal.

We don't want the focus of the image to be ALL on her armor. I added the colors into the chest plate, arm and leg armor around the same approximate areas where they were on the cape.

The final part is tying in the environmentwith the image. She's standing around some trees and grass that will be reflected back in her shiny metal as well. I used some really pale greens and yellows to add a vague reflection of the trees in the background. Again, I've taken it down to a really light color going for the softness, but you could reflect the areas in very dark, bold colors. I angled the reflected trees inward a little to follow the curve of the metal.

Jayleen Weaver shiny metal armor

The last step in coloring is to add some Opaque white. The trick to shininess is to add the opaque white right next to the darkest dark. That creates eye-catching areas of high contrast! I did that on all the darker-shaded areas of the metal and the high points of the accents.

Jayleen Weaver shiny metal armor portrait with final Copic opaque white

To finish, I went back in and touched up the line art with my Multiliners, and added some details and accents to the metal. Done! This one didn't scan very well, a lot of the color didn't come through, but I did my best to adjust it.

Give this a try—I hope this tutorial is helpful for you!

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Tags: Artists, How To, Illustration, Inspire, Jayleen Weaver, Coloring, Edited, Guest tutorial,