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Love Coffee Step by step

By October 20, 2016Artist Blog



The first thing that I address is what I want the words to look like, before I figure out where I want to put them. I turn the words into black and white vector images and import them into the plotter software and cut them precisely into vinyl. For this piece I would like the lettering to remain the same natural wood in the background, so rather than painting a color first before applying the vinyls like I normally would, I place them directly onto the wood finish. These will be the last vinyl removed and everything from this point forward is painted on top of these vinyls. This has to be done first, because the illusion is that they are on top or in front of everything layer wise. I chalk a basic layout of what it is I want to paint to help me position where I would like the vinyls.


The first part that I focus painting is the coffee itself. None of the detail in the coffee, just the mixture of what parts are reflecting dark brown, burnt umber, cadmium red and tan in the center of the cup. I look in between the details in the froth on top of my coffee to figure out what colors I see. I get that center circle of browns the color and shape that I want. I started the ivory colored rim on top just so that I could see how accurate my brown edge is. I make sure the paint is dry (with a heat gun) and cool before I cover it up just the coffee with my contact paper.


I cut around my coffee with a very sharp razor through the contact paper. This edge needs to be cut perfect and it needs to be done in one solid line. If I pick up my razor in the middle of the line to re-position myself I will see this hesitation in the line in the end very clearly. I am using a very sharp razor because I need the razor blade to cut the contact paper without any pressure. The slightest amount of pressure on the razor will also cut the surface and show in the overall finish. This is true for metal, plastic, ceramic, fiberglass, plaster etc. This makes painting the rim much easier, but I have to be cautious of how long the wet paint sits on the edge of the contact paper or it will very quickly seep under the edge so I dry it with a heat gun. I get my shape the way I want it in a plain ivory paint.


I add a light shadow with the airbrush to the left side of the rim, and a highlight with white to the right side of the rim. I am not saturating the rim with white or black. I dry it, wait for it to cool down.


Now I cover up the rim and the coffee with another piece of contact paper, and make sure to cut exactly along the line of the rim and the coffee so that both are now covered up.


Now I paint the ivory bottom part of the cup.



Now I take the black in my airbrush and work lightly each layer to build this shadow. If I try to spray all the black at once I would have paint dropping down the canvas. I make this a little darker than it should be, because it will lighten up in the next two steps.


Now I take the white and from the center of the ivory to the edge of the black I lightly layer by layer blend it over. I leave the left side of the cup mostly ivory just letting the over-spray taint it. I want my brightest highlight closer to the black. As much white as I do add, I do not want this to get to a completely white surface. My white is very over reduced.


Ugly stage. Every painting has one! I explain this in another blog, but the ugly stage is when you do a step that is very important to the overall finish, but initially looks like you ruined it. I need this color in the cup or its going to look flat no matter how drastic my highlights are. This cup is reflective, and its sitting on a warm colored wood, filled with brown coffee, and brown coffee beans. Your eyes expect to see some color bouncing off of it. I’m using red-oxide, which is like a burnt orange red and brown mixed together. This is probably one of my most used airbrush colors, because its a base tone for several of the things we see.


I lightly dust the black first, then the white after again lightly blending the same highlights and shadows out but not as drastic this time. Then I remove all the contact paper layer at a time. Once all the contact paper has been removed, I take some rubbing alcohol on a rag and clean the “halo” that is caused by the over-spray outside the originally painted ivory cup. The solid edge of the paint underneath the airbrushing makes it easier to clean up the edges because the airbrushing sticks to the paint better than the wood surface.




There is no white in the foam on the espresso. The foam has yellow and burnt orange tones in the shadows and more tans and suede’s in the highlights. I use cheap paint for this part, because they are mostly resin and preserve the transparency. I am painting this foam partly in the coffee and partly on the cup. I leave parts of the line showing through. I try to leave the centers of the bubbles clear as well.


Next I paint the coffee beans. They are all the same three colors, dark red brown, burnt umber and tan. I paint the middle tone, then the dark tone then the high light.


Time for shadows. This is when it starts to really pop. I give all the coffee bean shadows first. I leave the cup itself alone except for the bottom edge and along the wood below. Then I lightly shadow the letters, and imply a light table edge. Once I am satisfied with the shadows I peel the vinyls off. Next I start outlining my steam.


The wood that I was painting on was very dull and scratched up initially. I cleaned it with steel wool to get the bar grunge off which was important so that I could use masking and contact paper to create this illusion. If I did not do this all my paint would have peeled when pulling the masking off. What is exciting about clear coating this piece in the end is the woods character really popped.


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