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From a past Class........

Bluegill Painting Instructions
by Ed Walicki

All colors used were lacquer unless noted.
Brands used were Polytranspar, Lifetone and Createx

Step 1
(Click on any of the photos to enlarge)

Besides the white base coat of Superhide White the first step is to spray a coat of medium olive green over the back and down the side just below the mid point.  Darkest along the upper back.  Hit the dorsal, pectoral, and caudal fins lightly, don't darken them up too much, leave the light base color showing through.  Let the green overspray fade away as it nears the lower half. 

I mixed this medium olive green color by adding black to a bright lemon yellow.  I use these two colors to mix the greens used on freshwater fish.  For a lighter value use more yellow to black and for a darker value use more black.  It produces a nice soft olive green.

Step 2

Using waterbased Createx Satin Pearl Gold hand tip every scale above the lateral line and a broken pattern of scales below the lateral line to a point just above the center of the fish.  Also tip the cheek scales on the head.  Work slow and steady keeping the gold color on the top of each scale covering a good portion on each.  Take your time with this step, it will make or break your final look.  It may take several coats of gold to build a solid looking scale color, just keep at it.  Don't try and stretch the paint while tipping, apply a good wet coat on each and reload the brush often.

For a quicker application dry brush 24K Rub & Buff Wax over the raised scale texture for a quick uniform scale tipping effect.  I find that a good stiff china bristle brush works best.  Work the colored wax into the brush on a piece of wax paper or plastic playing card.  Lightly brush the excess wax from the brush on a soft towel then using a low angle dry brush the colored wax over the scale texture.  Brush ONLY from the head to tail, never from the tail to head.  Working from head to tail will cause the colored wax to stick to the high portions of the scales leaving the dark green colored background around each scale untouched.  Working in the wrong direction - the sharp edge of the burned scales will scrap the wax from the brush bristles filling the crevices around each scale.  Done properly the dry brush wax methods looks more realistic than hand painted scales in a fraction of the time.  After the application is complete apply a light coat of clear lacquer to seal the wax and prevent smearing.

And best of all, if you make a mistake you can simply wipe it all off with a soft towel and a little mineral spirits and start again. 

Step 3

Using waterbased Createx Silver Pearl tip the remaining scales on the lower half of the fish and the lower scale rows on the head.  In the mid section of the body where the silver meets the gold apply the silver over the gold allowing a little gold to show through.  This gives the fish the broken scale coloration you will find on bluegills in my area.  Apply the silver heavy in the side of the fish but let the silver run thin as you near the belly area.  Adjust the tipping color to whatever type of fish you are working towards. 

Again the wax method described above works the same with the silver tipping.  I use the color "Silver Leaf" in the Rub & Buff Wax line for this step. 

Step 4

Next lightly spray a very light mist of pearl silver over the lower half of the fish to soften the silver tipping and even the tone.  DON'T paint out the light green background, just brighten the side of the fish.  A little misting is all you need. Leave the upper back alone, you want loud individual scales so they can punch through the darker green barring colors later in the paint process.  Then hit the ear with a coat of black paint using a brush, apply the paint in a head-to-tail stroke leaving the brush stroke show.  This gives the ear a soft skin look if done right.

Step 5

Next lightly spray a little mist of over thinned purple pearl to give the hint of purple over the silver in the side.  Stay below the lateral line and above the belly, more in the center of the fish.  Then using a very thin blue metallic, mist a little on the lower jaw line and on the body above the base of the anal fin fading into the purple mist.

Step 6

Next using Lifetone Candy Vivid Orange lightly spray the breast and blow a little into all of the fins to warm the base color.  Your silver scales will still show through the orange on the breast making them look almost gold in the light.

Step 7

Next, apply a medium coat of clear lacquer to the now tipped and tinted fish prior to starting this step. This will seal and protect all that you have done up to this point.  So if you make a mistake during the barring process you can wipe the dark green color off with denatured alcohol and it wont affect the colors below the clear barrier coat.  CHEAP INSURANCE.....make sure and do it.

Place you reference picture upside down in front of you and place your fish between you and the picture.  Now alternating between transparent water based greens like Polytranspars Medium Bass Green 61 and Dark Bass Green 62 stipple in thin layers of dark and light green where the bars are in the photo.  Work fast and loose, leaving dark and light areas in the bar patterns.  Don't just paint in dark vertical bars, break up the pattern with negative spaces and different values of green.  The vertical bars should have an irregular and broken pattern to it.  It may take 10-15 layers to build the color to the proper look.  As you begin the build the bars darker work toward the center of each leaving the middle of the bars the darkest.  Also build in the small blotchy spots between the bars and the blotchy areas on the top of the head and cheek with the darker green.  Again use you reference pictures, these bars are not perfect lines, for the most part they are straight and evenly spaced but the dark areas shift from side to side up and down the bar.

If you make a mistake just moisten a towel with denatured alcohol and lightly wipe the surface clean and start over.  You always have the safety net of the clear lacquer to save your day, provided you applied a few layers to seal in the colors to this point.

Step 8

Using the same color as in step 7 mottle the background of the eye with little lines and blotches over the light green background.  Mist a little over thinned Polytranspar Superhide White to the areas in front of the eye and just behind it to give it a soft fleshy look.  Also hit the nostrils, operculum separations and behind the maxillary with this thin transparent white while you are at it.  I then touch up any overspray at the fin bases of the pectoral and pelvic fins leaving this soft white color in those areas.   Then once dry apply a medium coat of clear lacquer over the entire fish and allow it to dry and harden up.

Step 9

Rub some gold wax on the lower 2/3rds of the eye over the dark green mottling you just did.  Give the eye a soft gold sheen but let the mottling show through.  Then hit the eye with a quick shot of clear lacquer to seal the wax so the water based gold and black don't peel away from the wax with the final wet clear coat.  Nothing likes to stick to rub on waxes but lacquer.

Step 10

Using waterbased Createx Satin Pearl Gold paint in a egg shaped pupil low and forward on the eye, slightly larger than you wish the pupil to be.  If you make a mistake simply wipe it off and try again, the clear is there to protect the previous colors.

Step 11

Using Black and a small brush paint in the egg shaped oval pupil just inside the gold pupil you just did.  Leave the gold band around the pupil as thin as you can.  The shape and size of the pupils should match from side to side.

Step 12

Lay the fish flat on a towel and mix a small batch of Clear 5 minute epoxy slowly as to not stir in air.  Once mixed, using a tooth pick apply a thin film over the eye and around the socket where the hard edge of the eye meets the body.  Don't worry about it not looking smooth at this time.  Work quickly as you only have a minute.  Then once the epoxy is in place give the eye a quick shot of clear lacquer and the epoxy will flow out smooth instantly.  Giving the eye a clear lens and a soft wet look where it meets the body. Only do one side at a time and wait for the first side to cure up hard so you don't smudge it.  Use the excess left on a scrap piece of paper to gauge the hardness of the epoxy on the carving before flipping the carving to do the other side.

Step 13

Paint the gills a dark red with a very small brush and give the fish a final wet coat of clear lacquer and set it aside to dry well. 

I got away from using Triple Thick, I use regular spray clear gloss lacquer from Rustoleum.  I have had problems over the years getting paint to stick to the Triple Thick once it dried.  There is some sort of oily film that forms on the surface giving it that super gloss.  Which is fine if you never have to go back and touch up a broken part on the carving over the years.  It just isn't worth the risk, stick with regular lacquer, you will be glad you did if you ever need to make a repair. 

Carving the Dragon Fly for this water splash diorama.

Using the same hardwood dowels we used to make the flower stems carve a dragon fly body.  Us the pictures on the disk I gave you to print your wings, using the body in the image as a pattern to carve your wood to.  Roll the body between your thumb nail and finger pressing ridges into the wood body forming body segments.

Then simply cut out the wings leaving a small tab to insert into the body, and glue them into a slot made with a woodburner or knife.  I find it easier to paint the body first then add the wings with a bead of white glue on the back and belly where the wings insert, forming a small fleshy joint.  Use the CD pictures as painting reference.


Then attach the insect with a drop of Crazy Glue and you are done.


Details of building the entire water splash are covered at length in my new Creating an Artificial Water Splash DVD Course, available on


Some close ups of fish from class below.  Click on any of the images for a closer look.

Side view


Karls fish

Kens fish