BASICS | Inflatable Plastic (Swim Ring)
  • tool: markers
  • difficulty: medium

Last time I wrote about how I coloured the skin and this image was the perfect opportunity for a second topic: inflatable plastic. When thinking about summer and the beach or pool, swim rings and similar objects like this come easily to mind. So let’s try to colour that.

Step 1

Even for objects like swim rings, several different textures can be applied, from a more matte finish to a highly glossy one. Most of these objects have a very reflective surface, which results in harsh highlights and little shadows. The colouring of course won’t be a portrayal of scientifically correct highlights and shadows, but rather an attempt at what could look like plastic. To make this a bit easier to colour as well, I picked an ‘opaque’ swimming ring.

I decided on Aquamarine (C119) as the base colour. Utilising the paper white for the highlight, I left sharp edges visible on one side of the highlight while colouring the inner side of the swimming ring first. After this I applied a bit of the blender in the white area closer to the sharp edge in order to wet the paper. This little step ensures a better ‘fading out’ of the Aquamarine on the outer side. Here I applied the colour with continuous little feathering strokes towards the sharp edge of the highlight. Due to the fast drying nature of the blender, or markers in general, I had to work faster to avoid the blender drying before finishing the other side.

A tutorial on how to colour a swim ring with markers.
Step 2

The first step was the most crucial one to get the highlights right. This step was all about strengthening the sharp rim of the highlight plus adding a bit of a gradient to the base colour with a slightly darker aquamarine. I also added  some more details on the plastic on the left side (of his neck) with flicking motions of the brush nib. The colour on top was not distributed evenly to give the impression of little bumps and darker areas.

A tutorial on how to colour a swim ring with markers.
Step 3

For adding little accents to the aquamarine colour I picked a very light blueish purple and applied it mainly in shadow areas, such as behind his neck, or the space underneath his arm. This different colour also enhances the reflective nature of the swimming ring.

A tutorial on how to colour a swim ring with markers.
Step 4

To give the ring that last bit of shininess, a darkened the light blueish purple with a medium reddish purple in places. Thanks to the now stark contrast between the darker parts and the highlight, the swim ring appears to have a glossy and reflective surface. I also added a tad of yellow to the highlights on the leftmost sides to tie it better together with the other colours used in this image.

Even though I used a blender with at the beginning for the soft fade-out of the aquamarine, I still wasn’t happy with the outcome. Since the colour was rather light already, I used a white coloured pencil on top to even it out.

A tutorial on how to colour a swim ring with markers.

I hope you enjoyed reading this tutorial and maybe it will help you with your next summer themed picture. Until next time!

© Aileen Strauch, first published on the Letraset art blog in 2013