How to Paint Gold Sequins, Gold Embroidery, and Gold Embellishments

Hi everyone! In this blog post I'm going to go through a few easy steps on painting gold sequins, embroidery, and embellishments in watercolor. Gold is an accent that I love in dresses and decor - so it often comes up as something that I need to paint. Of course, I love gold leaf and gold pigments as well. Those are great mediums to use as accents on paintings. I recommend the Mona Lisa Composition Gold Leaf Kit and Finetec Gold set

If you are just using normal watercolors, I would recommend Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor in colors: Payne's Gray, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre, and Cadmium Yellow. 

1. Find the Sparkle

Before anything else, find where the shiniest part of the gold is, where the reflection is, or where you see "sparkle". That is super important because without the sparkle, the gold will feel a little dull and flat. For the sparkle, mark that area on your painting and leave it alone (don't add any paint to it). In other words, "leave it white". 

In this ballerina dress, the sparkliest areas are on the upper rim of the dress (the row of sequins that make the deep V neck).

Ballerina White and Gold Dress

2. Understanding Light and Dark

- Observing the darkest parts and the lightest parts of the gold is the most important step

- The dark parts can be painted with a blueish dark brown, which can be mixed with Payne's Gray + Burnt Sienna. This combination has never failed me to make any type of dark brown

- The medium parts can be painted with a raw sienna or raw sienna + a little bit of burnt sienna 

- The lighter parts can be painted with raw sienna or yellow ochre, or a mix of the two

- The brightest spots should be left white (this is key). The brightest spots are very important because that will be the reflection, indicating that the gold is shiny.  

3. Don't overdo it

Most of the time, less is more. In watercolor sometimes the more you add to it, to worse it gets. Especially with gold, if you add too many browns and start blending and overdoing it, it can get muddy really quickly. Before you know it, you'll just have a brown blob. 

4. Take a step back and assess

Sometimes it helps to take a step back and see if it looks like gold from a distance.  A good trick is to take a photo using your cell phone and looking at the painting in the photo. It gives you a different perspective and helps you assess what areas need to change. 

If it feels "flat", you might want to add more dimension by adding more dark dark brown. When you add a deep color, you make the light colors pop more, making the object look more 3D. Just remember, it's easier to go from light to dark. Once you darken too much of your painting, it's hard to go light again. 

5. Add any final touches if necessary 

Add any finishing details and enhancements to make the gold pop more. You can make the gradient or ombre effect more smooth by making sure each shade of brown/yellow is accounted for and there is a smooth transition from color to color. 

Here is a close-up of the painting above:

Ballerina Dress Gold Sequins Close Up


Alternative: Gold Ink

Another method is to do everything above and then add real gold ink (like the Finetec mica watercolors - I think the packaging has changed since I bought my palette but the one I have is the one with circle pans below. The packaging now has rectangle pans). 

What I did with the Chanel handbag painting below is everything above but for all the light parts, I used the gold ink (the lightest gold mixed with some of the second to lightest). For the dark parts of the gold, I used burnt sienna + payne's gray. For the medium parts I used the medium levels of the gold ink. This method will allow your painting to really shine and reflect light because it will have real glittery particles on your painting. It really has a nice WOW factor in real life. 

Finetec gold mica paint

Chanel Bag Watercolor Painting gold Chain

Chanel Bag Watercolor painting


Alternative 2: Gold Leaf

Gold leaf is very fun but also very messy. The key is do not use too much adhesive. It is very sticky. The gold flakes are also very sticky. Use just a tiny bit at a time because a little goes a long way. The results are absolutely amazing though - if you want a true gold, this is it. Below is the Mona Lisa set I have and it'll last you about ten years. 

mona lisa gold leaf kit


That's it! The most important thing is to have fun and not overdo it. I would love to see what you come up with so tag me in your paintings @artbyelleaiche (!