Paint realistic Metals and Gems!


There are a lot of ways to paint metal and gems but hopefully these tips will help.

Light and Surfaces

Metal surfaces are very reflective and some metals are more reflective than others like gold is more reflective than iron. So I will give tips on the most reflective metals. The examples I will use are gold and silver.

Skin and Plastic and Silver

We must discuss a bit about light and surfaces before we discuss how to render metal.

Skin ball: Light is diffused on skin so skin is a less reflective surface, so no matter what the skincare companies say our skin is pretty dull compared to other surfaces. The contrast is mainly between the shadows and the mid-tones with the skin ball and the highlight is softer.

Plastic ball: Plastic in general is a combination of reflective surface and a diffused surface. Notice how the highlights on the skin ball are less than the one on the plastic ball. The blue plastic ball has contrast between the shadows and the mid-tones as well, but the highlights are sharper than skin, so this is how light behaves with plastics.

Silver ball: Furthermore, metal is a very reflective surface; it can act as a mirror at times. Metal will reflect the source light intensely and it will reflect light that is bouncing off of the objects in the area as well. Notice how there is strong contrast in the silver ball between the highlights and the shadows. The contrast is so strong that the mid-tones are less prominent. Also, the sharp contrast makes some of the highlights and shadows look sharper on metal surfaces.


We will now apply these rules using a gold ball.

I don’t know how to draw a perfect circle so Clip Studio will do it for me! Yeah! First, go to the “direct draw sub tool” then choose the “ellipse tool.” Make sure the “ellipse tool” is set to fill to save time.

We are establishing the places where the light hits directly on the ball. The light is coming from the side at an angle and we are going to add some mid-tones, highlights and a bit of shadows. Go to the “airbrush” tools and select the “soft” brush tool. The “soft” brush is a default brush in Clip Studio. Use this tool to lay down basic mid-tones, then select the “highlight” and the “shadow” brush for the basic highlights and shadows. Adjust the opacity and density if you need to.

What shapes should I make the highlights and the shadows? Where should I place them?

This can be a tough one with metal but in general:

Shapes: The shape of the highlights and shadows all depends on the object's shape. Rounder objects of course tend to have curved shadows and highlights.

Placement: The placement of these shadows and highlights on metal depends on the light and what objects surround it. Many times metals will reflect close objects or the room that they are in which may make the shadows and highlights look random.

1. Highlights/Shadows
In general, have the highlights strongest where the light is hitting directly and have the form shadow near. This is because there is less of a transition between highlights and shadows on metal. For example, skin often has a smooth transition from highlights to mid-tones then shadows. With metals we often see highlights next to shadows.

2. Reflected light
Also account for the reflected light that bounces off of other objects that will create more highlights on the metal (sometimes it can appear random). For example, the light hits the gold ball, bounces off the table's surfaces so this adds more highlights to the ball, and some of the light also bounces off the ball onto the table.

At this point we keep rending the metal until it starts to look like gold. When we are happy with the soft highlights, mid-tones, and shadows we can add sharper ones. With metal highlights and shadows are often sharp so we will use a harder brush. In the “airbrush” category select the “hard” brush and begin to add sharper tones.

Also we need to make the shadows and highlights more intense so we will continue to use the “shadows” brush and “highlights” brush until the tones appear almost white and black. Do not be afraid to use white in black with really shiny metals like gold.

We add a cast shadow and a reflective light under the gold ball using the "shadow" and "highlights" brush with the color gold and we are done! Also feel free to have fun with the highlights on metal because shiny is good!

All of this was done with only two colors because of Clip Studio's "highlight' and "shadow" brushes we were able to get a range of values.

Applying to Jewelry

Now that we know some basics about how metal behaves we will apply it to painting an actual piece of jewelry. I drew a gold chain for this demonstration.

First we lay the base color to our chain. As we did with the gold ball, we will mainly use these 2 colors. We use Clip Studio’s “fill” tool and then select “refer to other layers” to fill in the base. Adjust the “close gap” setting as needed. Then we establish the lighting (which is from above) then we start to add our highlights.

Use the "highlight" brush tool to make the highlights brighter and more intense.

Now we add shadows with the “shadows” brush as we did before. The chain links overlap so we will have to add shadows at the edge to create contrast and form. In this example, the shadows will be form shadow and cast shadow because the links overlap. For example, the form shadows are on each chain link. The cast shadows are where each chain links meet and are the darkest shadows here.

Now the shadows and highlights are established we will now use a harder brush to make them sharper. Since we want fine details we will use the “G-pen.” Go into the “Pen” tool and select “G-pen.” This pen is a default of Clip Studio.

When we have sharpened the edges and the tones feel free to use the the "finger tip" blender tool under the category of "blend" to stretch some of the tones. this tool is also a default tool in Clip Studio. The blend step is optional. After that we are done.


There are so many gems and stones and different ways to paint them. This is a vast category so we will be looking at 3 common gemstones. In general, if one knows how to paint these gems then it will help you paint others.I will give you tips on painting pearls, diamonds and round gems.


If you know how to render a 3D sphere then that is essentially most of the work in order to create a realistic pearl. Pearls in general are very reflective almost like metals, so I will not go into too much detail about lighting here.

A common mistake when painting a realistic pearl is using one color such as white, but many pearls often have at least 2 colors, such as yellow, blue or pink.

1. Like before we use the “ellipse” tool to create a circle. We start off with 3 colors.

2. We use the ‘soft” brush tool in the “airbrush” category to lay the 3 tones on top of each other, until we get a rainbow/half-circle. We only do this at the top of the pearl because the light source is above so it will show more colors within the stone.

3. Then we add our 4th color which is a highlight. We add this color to the sides and the bottom of the pearl in a curved motion to give the pearl a round shape.

4. We do 2 things in this step, we add a shadow to the edge of the pearl with our 5th color. Also we use the “highlight” brush to add highlights to the pearl.

5. In this step we are using the “soft” brush tool again with the base color from step 1. We use this over the pearl to better blend the colors. Feel free to change the opacity of the brush if you like.

6. In this step we are using the “shadows” brush to darken some of the pearls colors at the top to create a little more contrast.

7. We use the “soft” brush with the base color again to blend the tones. Then we use the “highlight” brush to intensify the highlights and then we are done.


Diamonds look intimidating and scary, but if you keep adding details the more realistic it will look. This is a general rule that has helped me with diamonds.

1. A general tip for realistic diamonds and diamond like stones is to create a lot of small shapes within a larger shape. This may sound scary but it is not that bad with the easy trick I will show you. Basically, I will give you a tip on adding diamond texture.

2.Also, diamonds are very reflective so adding a lot of highlights along the edges is a great idea.

3. Since diamonds are very reflective if you add a little bit of color this can make it look very realistic. The colors you use are dependent on the colors in the environment, but if we had a white diamond on a white background you can add some blues to add a little dimension.

4. Like metal, some highlights on a diamond appear white and some shadows can appear black.

To start we will be creating a heart shaped diamond. Use Clip Studio’s “direct draw” tool and chose the “straight line” tool. We will use this tool to create the shapes within the diamond. You are free to use other shapes in this step. You can also drew one side then copy and paste it so the diamond can be perfectly symmetrical (or life can be easier).

1. Draw the diamond with the shapes. we can use a darker color for the line work that we can change later. Also, choose your light source, the light source in this example is directly in front of the diamond. Note, we will be creating the diamond on 1 layer (this is important for later). You don't have to but I would suggest to merge the layers later on.

2. Add the colors and change the line color. We lightened the lines in this step with the “fill” tool to better hide them. We will be using 6 different colors. The overall color that we want for the diamond is placed in the center of the heart. Next, we will use most of the shadows and darker tones on the edges, but you can see I also placed them in different areas because of how diamonds reflect light.

3. You will need 3 copies of your diamond. So copy the original layer.

4. This step is VERY important. This step will add texture to the diamond and make it realistic.
.-Change the sizes of both copies to be a little smaller than your original diamond.
-Then go to layer>overlay for each of the copies.
- Make sure each copy does not align perfectly with the original. The reason why we changed the size of each copies was to create smaller shapes within the diamond.
-adjust the copies (adjust the opacity or lightly erase) each copy until it looks like the diamond in step 4.

5. Trace the heart shape in the middle of the diamond with the “straight line” tool. Fill in the shape with one for the lighter colors. Lower the opacity until you can see some of the shapes within the stone.

6. Use the “soft” eraser tool to erase some of the edges from the middle shape. This will add a sharp highlight on the diamond.

7. Now use the “highlight” brush to add a stronger highlight.

8. This step is optional but you can use the “G-pen” and choose a light tone that is close to white and trace along the edges then you are done!

Round Gems

In general round gems are similar to pearls. They usually have a gradient look to them and they can look great when you add texture to them. They are often the easiest types of gems to paint. An example of a round gem would be an opal.

1. Use the “ellipse'' tool to make an oval and then add a gradient. the light is coming from the bottom. We will be using 2 colors for this gem.

2. Select a lighter color from the base color. Go to the “gradient” tool and then click “foreground to transparency.” This gradient is the first in Clip Studio's default gradients.

3.Add a more intense highlight with the “highlight” tool.

4. Use the “soft” brush to add the second color to the highlight. Then use the “highlight” brush to add a peak highlight at the top of the gem.

5. Use the “shadow” brush to add shadows along the edges.

6. Take the “highlight” brush and add to the highlights to intensify them and add the highlights to the bottom of the gem.

7. Use the “soft” brush with one of the mid-tone colors and blend the edge of the shadows with the mid-tones to soften it and create more of the gradient effect.

8. This is optional but you can add texture. I used the “running color spray” brush under the “airbrush” category to create a sparkle effect within the gem. This brush is also a default brush in Clip Studio.

-Create a separate layer with a light color ( light magenta was used for this example because the gem is red) and then set the blending mode to “overlay” and adjust the opacity until you are satisfied.

Thank you!

There are many ways to paint metal and gems. Remember that light is very important when it comes to metals and gems. Metals often have sharp tones and intense contrast. Gems can be the same way as may are reflective. Keep creating and remember to have fun when painting metals and gems. Thank you for reading! I know this was long but I hope these tips helped you out.



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