How to Paint White Objects in Oil

Skill Level : 1 Beginner, 2 Intermediate

Medium : Oil Painting

Subject : Still Life

Tutor : Nolan Clark

Avg Rating :

Silver Level or Higher Class

Class Description

In this oil painting class we will paint white objects.

During the class you will learn:
1.    How to give life to your objects
2.    How to paint realistic looking white objects
3.    How to use the techniques to paint any white objects from teacups to snow.
4.    And heaps more...

Note this class is part 1 of a six part series on painting still lifes. You can go to the other parts of the course here:

Part 1 - Introduction to Still Life Painting

Part 2 - Painting Shiny Metal

Part 3 - Painting Folds in Fabric

Part 4 - Painting White Objects (This class)

Part 5 & 6 - Painting a Classic Still Life

Latest Reviews

Painting whites is a class full of practical information about what is white and how it behaves in various environment. Never before was a physic lesson so fun.


You are an amazing teacher you go really deep into colors and mixing thank you!

Sandra van Alphen

Class Tutorial


Carefully study a photo of your scene to see how many different non-white colors you actually have in the still life.  You will be amazed to find hardly a speck of white at all.

Sketch the shape of mortar and pestle to the canvas.  Mask it off if you feel you need to.

Mixing the colours

colors used for mixing white

Determine the colours you will need for the reflections on the white fabric and mortar/pestle.  Use a Color Buster (or similar tool) to help determine the tonal value of each color.  Compare your mixed colour to the reference photo. Remember you will need to mix mid-tone, highlight, and shadow colours.

Painting the background

painting the background

Starting at top right, block in the darkest spots.  Since white tends to be thick, thin it down if you need to.  Block in the mid-tones next.  Then move on to blocking in the lighter tones.   Now blend the colours together – just basic shadings is sufficient.

Painting the rim and inside of the mortar

painting the rim of the mortar

Using the colours that you already mixed for the background, prepare a mixture  for the very lightest and very darkest colors on the mortar. Use the same color comparison technique from above to get your colours correct.

Begin by blocking in the very darkest and very lightest colours on the mortar rim.   Then mix all the other tones as you go by adjusting the appropriate dark or light basic mixture.  Start applying the paint along the rim, then moving down to the inside of the bowl.  Blend the tones as you proceed.  Note that there are areas where there are very subtle differences.  Use your tonal chart to get the right paint mixture for those spots.  Keep asking yourself – is this colour more blue, more yellow, even in some places, maybe more red?

Painting the outside of the mortar

painting the outside of the mortar

Follow the same procedure for color mixing as you did for the rim and inside of the bowl.  Block in the colors on the bowl, starting from the left with the darkest shade.  Blend as you go.  Note that Nolan uses his “artist's license” to put in a very quick shading on the right of the bowl to make it look round. Finish up by painting the outside rim of the bowl.  Carefully blend your tones,  referring often to your reference photo.

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Painting the pestle

painting the pestle

Again, follow the same technique as you used on the mortar as you paint the pestle.  As with the bowl, try to create the the sense of roundness with the pestle.  Move to the bottom of the mortar and paint the base.

Painting the foreground

painting the foreground

Determine the colours on the tabletop fabric, mix the paints, and block in the colours, starting at the right side.  Blend.  Note how Nolan adjusts the highlight to control the size of the fold in the fabric.  Rough in the remainder of the table top fabric around the shadowed area.  Paint in the shadow, softening it as it moves away from the object.  Add the very thin shadow under the mortar.

Painting the peppercorns

painting the peppercorns

Mix the colours needed for the peppercorns – they vary in colour.  Use more than one brush to pop on the peppercorns.  Be sure to work from back to front to make overlapping easier.  Vary the placement of colours and clusters.  Add highlights and shadows to them.  End up by painting the reflections of the peppercorns on the bottom of the bowl.  Don't you just love the way Nolan uses his finger to blur the reflections!

Finishing up

painting white objects

Review your work against your reference photo or shadow box scene.  Make any necessary adjustments.


About Nolan Clark

Read more about Nolan Clark

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