How to create a miniature

How to create a miniature with butterflies or flowers, etc.?

How to create a miniature

Butterfly, miniature 7×7 cm, oil on masonite, by Rineke de Jong

A painting lesson. Step-by-step.

Because I still have to take some time to publish the painting lesson “How to create a miniature portrait”, here you find an explanation of the painting of butterflies, flowers and a bee head in miniature format. The text is adapted to the subject, the technique is the same. The portrait is a gift, so it should remain a secret! Over about 2 weeks I will publish it. Of course in oil painting, my favorite medium for this.

After several 3 cm miniatures I have made, I think it is nice to tell you more about the origin of these gems and show you how to do it.

We must work with pictures, because I have not (yet) any one who can make a video for me to show you the process.

Choosing a carrier

When it comes to jewelery it must be lightweight, because you do not want a millstone around your neck or walk so wear heavy earrings risking they fall through your earlobes.

My choice for earrings fell on a very bright, high quality plywood. This material is laser cut for me in the desired shape.

For jewelry to be worn on a chain around the neck, or brooches, you don’t have that problem. These can be slightly heavier and larger than earrings. So you have a wider choice. Next to the aforementioned plywood, I use masonite. Sawed by myself in the desired size.

Preparation of the support

You simply can not start painting on this material. It has to be well prepared. With about 4 gesso layers on the masonite, which has to be first degreased. On the plywood I bring on 3 to 5 layers of acrylic paint all around. If everything has been applied to your liking and has covered well, then let it dry well. Then you can start with the desired performance.

Choosing a topic

How to create a miniature

The subject with the composition choice

All subjects are possible. From abstract to figurative. Because you will make is so tiny, you also need all the necessary fine brushes. Airbrush is also possible, but I that is not my discipline.

My brushes are the finest. The thinnest starts at 0000 to 5/0. The hairs are sable hair or synthetic sable hair. These brushes can be used in the subsequent and final stages of your painting. For the first scheme you use some coarse brushes, but that will always be fine brushes as well, size 4 to 8. Then you can work with flat, tongue-shaped tip or pointed brushes, depending on your need.

Okay, we’ll start the 1st draft

Because the carrier particles are so small, they have to be stuck on a shelf that can be put on the easel. I do this with double-sided adhesive tape. Do not press too hard, because you need again to remove your painting without damaging it. And you want to keep the back side also beautiful. Stick them in the middle of the shelf so you have plenty of room to maneuver. My board is a sliding lid of a wine box. Gifts with wine bottles are often packed in such boxes. In the empty box, you can immediately store your painting stuff, so you have everything at hand.

The initial setup can be done with pencil, but also immediately with oil paint. As a pencil a watercolor pencil is very suitable, depending on the color of the substrate choose a not too different color. Do not press your pencil, because it must be brought up as light as possible. It is just a tool. Ordinary pencil beats through the oil, but watercolor pencil does not do so and also dissolves into the first coat of paint applied. Are you very proficient, you can skip this stage and do the set-up in oil.

I put the first drawing in one color. On a clear surface use raw umber, on a dark surface a very light color.

I work with the highest quality oil paint and dilute the paint with a homemade medium of walnut oil and turpentine. After much experiences this is my preference. But of course you can also buy custome-made medium. The better the quality of the paint, the more pigment and the less filler, there is in the paint. And you immediately notice this. This paint is of course more expensive than study quality, but the colors are infinitely more beautiful. You can always contact me for more info.

You can make your first on a sketch with pencil on paper (A4 plain printer paper) and search how the composition should be. Or you can print a photo and indicate on that what you choose to paint. Then do you have your design ready for your miniature.

How to create a miniature

phase 1

You see me here mixing raw umber and zinc white mixed and for the dark areas I take advantage of the dark background. Now it has to dry before you can continue. This lasts, depending on the ambient temperature and the thickness of your paint applied, at least 1 or 2 days. Feel gently with your finger if the paint not “sticky”. If that is the case then you can start with the next layer.

The next stages

As you see this is the first sketch, but the proportions and composition should be all right. We do not yet work with colors, but kwe stick to raw umber mixed with more or less sinc white. The details are not yet on the agenda, they come later.

Now I’m going to continue working and I search intensely to get the right form, bringing paint on the brush to obtain the resemblance of my subject.

Now you create a palette with the colors I have mentioned before, put your media ready (I have it in a small jar that I can always close) and your brushes. Now look closely at the form and details of the subject and put the next layer on. It is still zinc white in color and raw umber Zinc white is a transparent white. And you see I’m looking for the dark and light areas of the subject. I work so to speak, from back to front. And I also like to smuggle, I already did some green on the background. This phase will look something like this:

How to create a miniature

phase 2

You see, it’s already more complete. Now it must dry again. Then we can proceed to the next phase.

It may just be that you need some layers to achieve this result. That does not matter because you’re glazing. This is a transparent painting technique whereby each film you make will be visible under each newly applied layer. Each layer must always be dry again!

If you are content then we’ll apply color.

Black I rarely use. If you blend green and red, you also get a nice warm blackish tone. Now there are also colors in the subjects and they become already butterflies and flowers.

How to create a miniature

phase 3

You do not have to make all colors simultaneously, you can always repeat the same principle of application and allow it to dry. Because you are glacing and layering the structure you will get an unprecedented depth in the picture and thus you get a three-dimensional effect. The paintings seems to become alive.

The further we come with the painting, the finer are the brushes. For example, the hairs on the bee head and the dots and legs on the butterfly I did with paintbrush 0000. And the bright spots too, but for that I use titanium white. That is an opaque white, which you can use for all other highlights such as hair, head, wings, short, wherever there is striking light.

How to create a miniature

phase 4

So now we are finalizing all the details  who need a minor touch. We look if the similarity is to our liking. If so, then it is ready. The best part is when you can actually see the subject in reality. You can then see how it moves and much more. That you reckonize in the painting. If this is not possible, ask or make as much pictures as possible, to get your knowledge. Also, it is so that one person, or the animal is more or less photogenic than the other. It would be a shame if your painting would suffer from that.

Here you see the final result: the portrait on the front and on the back I sign if there is no space at the front.

How to create a miniature

phase 5

This way you can actually paint everything. Flowers, plants, animals, insects, portraits, etc. Oil is in my opinion the most appropriate paint for this technique. Want to work abstract? That is also possible, but then you do not have to work in this way.

I wish you good luck if you want to try it and hope my explanation is clear enough. If you want help and assistence, please ask for information about following painting lessons in my workshop.

If you are interested in following other painting lessons, click on the these links, the text is also in English:
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Mythologie is vaak de bron van inspiratie. Ik probeer het goddelijke en het menselijke te verenigen in mijn schilderijen. Paarden en andere dieren, maar ook groente en fruit vindt u terug in mijn schilderijen. Portretten maak ik in opdracht. Regelmatig neem ik deel aan exposities nationaal en internationaal en heb vele prijzen gewonnen. Mijn werk is gepubliceerd in diverse uitgaven en aangekocht in binnen- en buitenland.

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