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Mini-Lesson: Painting Glass

Glass, clear or colored, makes a beautiful still life subject


Just by itself, glass is beautiful. It also lends even the dullest objects sparkle and light—and painting it is a fun and challenging exercise.. I’ve been doing a lot of work lately that features glass, so thought I’d share a few tips.

For the paintings for my 2018 Calendar, I chose clear, uncolored glass, so you can see the true color of the objects contained within. I stayed away from textured, faceted or frosted glass because it’s just too hard!

It’s interesting to experiment with what objects look like inside the glass, in water, or behind the glass. Look at the difference between the pencil inside the glass and in water, and the cup behind the glass.

Lemon in glass mug


I suggest taking a photo of your glass or still life to study it a little more closely.

I’m always turning my image on the computer to the side or upside down.

When you do this, the image stops being a lemon, an apple, or an egg in a glass: you can more easily see the different shapes, lines, and colors. And the reflections on the glass are just different colors.

I also pay attention to the value.

Check colors against their grayscale values


Turning your image to black and white is a great way to look at its darkest and lightest values. Just look at the bottom of the apple versus the bottom of the egg to get a sense of what I mean.

The following questions are ones that Carol Marine suggested at a workshop and I loved them. I’m sharing them here with her permission:

Before you begin painting, squint at the image and ask yourself:

  • Where is the darkest and lightest value?
  • What is happening to what I am seeing through the glass?
  • Does it get darker or lighter? Does the color change?
  • Are things distorted, and if they are, how so?
  • Are there areas where the glass fades right into the background with no discernible edge? (If there are, consider painting a “lost edge.” The viewer’s mind will fill in the rest.)

Annie Salness Artist


  1. Bonnielynn Brankey on September 26, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    Wonderful work !!!
    Thanks for reminding me about turning things upside down to see only the shapes and not the objects.

    Good luck on your painting class, and studio tour. Sounds fun !

    Take care.

    • Annie Salness on October 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

      You very welcome, Bonnie! A big reason I do these mini-lessons is to remind myself. 🙂

  2. Judith madsen on January 2, 2018 at 5:27 am

    What a great idea to turn the image upside -sideways and of course B&W. I do the latter but. Thank you for the idea. And I love your paintings, their titles and reflections. Thank you.

    • Annie Salness on January 3, 2018 at 3:23 am

      Thank you, Judith! I always do a painting about 70% upside down or sideways.

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