Macro Reflective Studies

  • Software:Photoshop CC  ·
  • Difficulty:Beginner

Rules of the Exercise

  • 1
    Download and open the practice worksheet for this exercise
  • 2
    Showcase your knowledge of the four objects and how they each reflect lighting.
  • 3
    Submit your work under the "Submissions" tab for grading!


  Exercises are coming back on a scheduled basis as we prep for the new site launch! The first monday of each month will reveal a new Exercise and the last Friday of each month will show a tutorial and results on how to complete the exercise. So to start off the new schedule, we are taking a focused look at reflectivity on a macro lens scale. Zooming in to each small item and put the focus on how even at a tiny scale, reflections and lighting work the same and become even more intricate with it's size. So for these 4 objects, take a closer observation on where the highlights fall and how they work with the shapes and curves of the object. You can download the practice sheet and use the outlines in the provided .PSD as a template for your own paintings and drawings but remember to find and use reference for these.

  1. Button - We see them ALL the time, yet how often do we take a close look at how they respond to lighting with their bubbled surface? Don't forget about the small edges and curves. I would recommend looking for a plastic reference more than a wooden one.
  2. Zipper - This ingenious little device doesn't receive the recognition it deserves. For this zipper there are no sharp edges, they are all curves and should receive the proper lighting shading techniques.
  3. Safety Pin - Although the smallest of the four items, the safety pin may be the hardest. This is because of the level of detail needed to be applied to create the reflective properties of such a small cylindrical surface area. Be patient and be sure to add in the contrast of values to imply the look accurately.
  4. Small Key - This is a fun one that incorporates both flat areas with curved ones. There is a difference between them and this item will perfectly showcase that as you work through creating it.

Below is the practice worksheet that you can grab from the “Downloads” tab (find it under the header image near the top of this exercise). Exercise_52_PracticeSheetDownload_Tim'sCopy



  • USE  YOU OWN REFERENCE! Find a reference of each to properly see how to shade the values accurately.
  • These are reflective surfaces, be sure to focus on the contrasting values and the placement of them.
  • Don't rush. Take your time with these objects and push yourself to best showcase the 4 items with a good sense of reflective understanding.

This exercise is a great observational practice and if you would like to see some further tips and suggestions, check out our facial reference packs below!


  This challenge is fun as well as challenging since the reflective properties of each object is very high! Being on such small objects, it can get difficult adding in all those bounce light parts but just take your time and be patient. Wait to add in the subtle textures and details till the very end. It's all about building up a strong contrasted foundation first. For the exercise let’s break down each step and see how to paint each object from start to finish.

  1. Refined Outline – Use reference and create a clean outline of each object to the best of your ability.
  2. Solid Base – Start with a solid base color to work on top of. Usually it's easier to build up lighter values with a slightly darker base.
  3. Build Up Values – Using a lighter value color, start building up the values based on where you believe the light source is coming from!
  4. Add Lighter Values and Bounce Light – Continue to build up the values with even lighter ones and then remember to add bounce light around the edges of these objects.
  5. Remove Outline and Refine –This step will show you how well you added values without the help of lineart. If it's too blurry to read and distinguish the edges, keep the lineart on until it's good enough to refine the edges clearly. The edges themselves also might be a little rough so be sure to touch up those as well!
  6. Highlights and Final Polish - This is the step to make magic happen! The objects will pop and the texture will start to feel ingrained. Some touches like a hint of rust or scratches can really make an object appear to feel real as well.

Exercise52_StepbyStep_TimsCopy When you finish the exercise, remember to submit the result to the “Submissions” tab near the top of this exercise. You can see other submissions alongside your own!