Last summer I taught a class to a group of very talented wearable artists in Los Angeles and watched with delight as one of the students, a silk-painter and clothing designer, poured a puddle of Pearlescent Turquoise, then proceeded to add drops of Neopaque Black until she had a gorgeous gleaming pewter.
I decided it was time to try some experiments of my own with that turquoise and at the same paint some very-hot-this-season gladiator sandals. I started with a pair on that were sale from Payless for $14.99. They are called Stella (and that’s the link to them, though they’re not on sale anymore).
When I bought them, I didn’t know what I was going to do to them, but all those straps seemed full of possibility. I toyed with the idea of painting each of the seven straps a different bright color, or painting each one with a different pattern (dots, stripes, diagonals, checks, etc.) Then I remembered the many shades of turquoise my student had mixed until she found the one she wanted. I liked the idea of a subtle turquoise xylophone effect!
I started by getting out a palette with a lid so my paint mixtures wouldn’t dry out between coats. Then I filled four of the wells in the palette about 3/4 full with Pearlescent Turquoise. I added three drops of Neopaque Black to the first well, two drops to the next, one drop to the next, and left the following well untinted. Then I took a popsicle stick and mixed. The results were pretty good. The colors were similar, but could be differentiated. (The real test would be once I painted a sample and let it dry. If you’ve worked with paint, you know it looks much lighter wet than it does once it’s dried.)
Here’s the whole range, with the untinted color in the middle.
Mixing the lighter tones was trickier. I quickly discovered that while a drop of black will tint a whole lot of color, a drop of white just gets lost. So I ended up partially filling three wells with Pearlescent White. Then I played around, adding drops of Pearlescent Turquoise and dabbing on a test sheet of paper until I got three colors that seemed like a progression. The lightest color was white with just a drop or two of turquoise and the darkest of the three lighter tones was about half white and half turquoise.
Once I got the colors to the tints and shades I wanted, I made notes about how I’d mixed them, then I started painting the sandal. I’ll show you photos of the paint job from lots of different angles so you can see the color gradations — they were hard to capture in just one photo since the paint gleams and light shines off it.
Because I knew I would need to do two coats of paint AND because painting lots of little straps can be a pain in the tush (you have to keep them from smudging each other until dry), I decided to make the first coat just the unmixed Pearlescent Turquoise. So I painted all the straps, the back and the insole that color. Once it was dry, I started painting in the other shades.
By the way, there are a number of tricks for keeping the straps apart while painting – you can push them into position and pray they stay there; you can use little clamps to hold them apart; or you can use bits of foam, like cosmetic wedges. Don’t use cotton balls — unless you want your paint job to end up very textural…
Below are a closeup of the strap colors, plus a shot from the side, and a photo taken from the inner side of the sandal.
As you can see, the effect of the color gradation is subtle, but I rather like it. Next time, I think I’ll work more on mixing the lighter colors to see if I can get more distinction between them.
In the meantime, try some experiments of your own. Other colors that lend themselves to this kind of treatment are Pearlescent Magenta, Metallic Bronze, Sunset Gold, Burnt Orange, and Citrine.