Tropical Fish

Try a new technique: Create the look of stained glass using texture paste and a high-gloss varnish.


  • MDF or Agglomerate board (15-1/2″ x 10″ and 4mm thick), MDF or Agglomerate board frame (18-3/4″ x 13″), MDF or Agglomerate squares, four (111 x 1″ x 3/8″)

  • DecoArt Americana Acrylics: Antique Cold, Asphaltum, Blue Green, Burnt Orange, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Yellow, Desert Sand, Desert Turquoise, Georgia Clay, Hauser Light Green, Hauser Medium Green, Khaki Tan, Lamp Black, Lilac, Marigold, Milk Chocolate, Mississippi Mud, Navy Blue, Olive Green, Orchid, Pansy Lavender, Payne’s Grey, Petal Pink, Pineapple, Plantation Pine, Prussian Blue, Raw Sienna, Red Violet, Salem Blue, Sapphire, Slate Grey, Tangelo Orange, Tangerine, Terra Cotta, True Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Viridian Green, Vivid Violet, White Wash, Yellow Light

  • Silver Falcon Brushes Golden Taklon 1/2″ and 3/4″ angular shader (Series 160), #2 detail/ round (Series 250), #10/0 and #6 short mini liner (Series 585), 1″ wash/glaze (Series 700); Natural Bristle 1/4″ deerfoot stippler (Series 780)

  • DecoArt Americana Decorating Paste; DuraClear Gloss Varnish

  • Sharpie Fine Point Permanent Marker, Black

  • Aleene’s Tacky Glue

  • Miscellaneous: black transfer paper, palette knife and spatula, palette paper, paper towels, plastic knife and fork, retarder (optional), sandpaper, soft cloth, stylus, toothpicks, tracing paper, water basin

How to draw a Tropical fish.


Note: Follow all manufacturers’ label instructions for proper product usage.

  1. Basecoat the smaller board with White Wash.

  2. Transfer the design using black transfer paper.

  3. Basecoat the wooden frame with Lamp Black. Let dry. Sand, and use a soft cloth to remove dust. Apply another coat of Lamp Black.

  4. First steps in drawing a Tropical fish.

    Use Decorating Paste to add texture to both the fish and the bottom of the ocean. Use the spatula to apply Decorating Paste to the ocean sections, creating texture as you work. To create the different textures in the sections, use the tip of the plastic knife to make small lines (Fig. 1), the tines of the plastic fork to make larger lines (Fig. 2), the point of the toothpick to make circular marks (Fig. 3), and the deerfoot brush to work in a speckled pattern (Fig. 4). Create texture in the fish sections in the same manner (Fig. 5). Allow to dry for two hours.


  • Flat painting. Use a flat brush to place layers of color, one on top of the other, until you obtain a defined and homogeneous tone. Use the brush size that best fits the area you wish to cover.

  • Floating. Use floats of color to create volume and depth and to shade a color that is already dry. Wet an angular or flat brush, wipe excess water on an absorbent paper towel, and immediately load one end of the brush with paint; stroke back and forth on the palette until the color is blended on the brush. Rest the brush on the surface, and slide softly over the design in a continuous manner, avoiding interrupted movements.

  • Dropping. Dilute acrylic paint with water or retarder (1:1). Use the # 2 detail/round brush to apply the diluted color drop by drop to the area you wish to color. Let dry well. Do not use a dryer, since this will damage the effect of the technique.

First steps in drawing a Tropical fish applied.


Note: The sections are labeled for ease in applying the colors. Refer to the Worksheets on pages 32 and 33 as guides throughout the painting process.

Ocean background
  1. Use the #2 detail/round brush to apply two layers of Prussian Blue in the channels of the ocean background, allowing the paint to dry between each layer (Fig. 6).

  2. Apply color to the ocean using the dropping technique. Dilute colors with water (1:1). Use the #2 detail/round brush to apply the color drop by drop in the order numbered on the pattern. Fill in the numbered sections with the colors listed below.

    Section 1: Salem
    Section 2: Salem Blue + Desert Turquoise
    Sections 3 through 12: Desert Turquoise
    Sections 4, 5, 6, and 17: Desert Turquoise + Ultramarine Blue
    Sections 7, 9,14, and 19: Ultramarine Blue
    Sections 8,11,15, and 27: Ultramarine Blue + Navy Blue
    Sections 10,16, and 22: Navy Blue + Prussian Blue
    Section 13: Desert Turquoise + Viridian Green
    Section 18: Viridian Green + Ultramarine Blue
    Sections 20, 21, 24, 29, and 37: Viridian Green + Navy Blue
    Sections 23, 33, and 30: Viridian Green + Plantation Pine
    Section 25: Navy Blue + Plantation Pine
    Sections 26, 32, and 35: Plantation Pine
    Section 28: Plantation Pine + Ultramarine
    Blue Section 31: Navy Blue + Viridian Green + Desert Turquoise
    Section 34: Navy Blue + Desert Turquoise
    Section 36: Plantation Pine + Navy Blue

  3. Once the ocean colors are dry, use the tip of the spatula to scrape over the textured areas to improve the luminosity (Fig. 7).

    Color channels - Base color

    fig. 7 (fig. 6)

  4. Use the 1/2″ angular shader to float shading color into each ocean section to create depth.

    Shade any Ultramarine Blue (or Ultramarine Blue combination color) section with Prussian Blue.
    Shade any Desert Turquoise (or Desert Turquoise combination color) section with Payne’s Grey.
    Shade any Navy Blue (or Navy Blue combination color) section with Payne’s Grey.
    Shade any Plantation Pine (or Plantation Pine combination color) section with Blue Green.
    Shade any Salem Blue (or Salem Blue combination color) section with Desert Turquoise.

Tropical fish
  1. Use an angular shader to apply the base colors to the fish sections. Apply the colors in the alphabetical order labeled on the pattern. Fill in the sections with the colors listed below.

    Sections A: Cadmium Yellow
    Sections B: Marigold + Burnt Orange (4:1)
    Sections C: True Blue
    Sections D: Burnt Umber
    Sections E: Yellow Light
    Sections F: Hauser Light Green
    Sections G: Georgia Clay
    Sections H: Orchid
    Sections I: Vivid Violet
    Sections J: Khaki Tan
    Sections K: Lamp Black

  2. Allow the surface to completely dry. Use the tip of the spatula to scrape over the textured areas to improve the luminosity.

  3. Use the 1/2″ angular shader to float highlights and shading on each of the fish sections. Highlight and shade the sections with the colors listed below (Fig. 8).

    Sections A: Highlight = Tangerine + White Wash (1:1)
    Shade = Terra Cotta
    Sections B: Highlight = Tangerine + White Wash (1:10)
    Shade = Burnt Sienna
    Sections C: Highlight = Sapphire
    Shade = Prussian Blue
    Sections D: Highlight = Milk Chocolate
    Shade = Asphaltum
    Sections E: Highlight = Pineapple
    Shade = Raw Sienna
    Sections F: Highlight = Olive Green
    Shade = Hauser Medium Green
    Sections G: Highlight = Tangelo Orange
    Shade = Burnt Sienna
    Sections H: Highlight = Lilac
    Shade = Pansy Lavender
    Sections I: Highlight = Petal Pink
    Shade = Red Violet
    Sections J: Highlight = Desert Sand
    Shade = Mississippi Mud
    Sections K: Highlight = White Wash

  4. Use the Black Fine Point Permanent Marker to outline all sections of the tropical fish (Fig. 9).

Fish eyes
  1. Large fish. Base eye with White Wash. Base the iris with Burnt Umber.

    Use a short mini liner and Payne’s Grey to apply small dots over the sclera (white part of eye) to shade. Wash the brush with water, and place the brush over the dots to dissolve some of the color and create cloudiness in the sclerotic area of the eye.

    Use a short mini liner and Antique Gold to apply three small dots on the bottom part of the iris. Wash the brush with water and put water drops on top of the paint to create a foggy effect. Let dry well.

    Use the handle end of a paintbrush to dot Lamp Black in the center of the pupil. Let dry. Use a short mini liner to apply a small White Wash shine dot on the pupil (Fig. 10).

  2. Small fish. Follow the same eye procedure as used on the big fish, except change the colors. Apply the iris with Ultramarine Blue. Apply dots to the sclerotic area with Slate Grey. Apply dots to the iris with Salem Blue. Dot the pupil with Navy Blue.

Tropical fish - Outline, Eye, Highlights and Shades


  1. When dry, apply two layers of gloss varnish over the painting.

  2. Frame mounting. Glue the 1″ x 1″ pieces of board (mounting squares) in the corners on the back of the painting. Apply glue to the mounting squares and mount the painting onto the frame, applying pressure until the glue adheres.

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