How to Paint Toys

Painting children’s toys in the garden is worth consideration if the artist is stuck for inspiration for something to paint. Furthermore, painting objects from life, particularly in the garden is a great pastime. This oil painting demonstration explores Sgraffito in a still life.


Still Life with Toys


A still life painting can be completed in any location, not just indoors on a table. Setting up a still life study in the garden in sunny weather, for instance, is a great way of breaking away from conventions. In this case, discarded toys after children had finished with them provided a natural looking still life composition.


How to Paint Children’s Toys


The following tips will help the beginner with painting toys:

  • Children’s toys often contain the most outlandish colours. Do not be afraid of mixing bright colours or even of using an oil colour pure from the tube
  • Too many bright colours could rob the painting of any focal point. Be sparing with the amount of bright coloured toys within a painting unless the effect is intentional.
  • Children’s toys provide all manner of textures that provide interesting juxtapositions, such as the soft fur on a teddy bear against a hard rattle
  • Similarly, the shapes and contours found in children’s toys can be used to echo shapes or contours elsewhere in the composition. In this demonstration, the shape of the playpen echoes the shapes of the trees.

Sgraffito Decorative Art


Garish acrylic colours were applied onto the art board before the sketch was laid out. This would provide interesting contrasts to the cool overlying colours when scratched off in Sgraffito. Sgraffito is an oil painting technique originated in decorative art, where the upper layer of paint is scratched off, to reveal a different colour beneath or to add texture to a painting.

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Art Materials Required
  1. A suitable setting with toys
  2. Bright coloured acrylic paint, such as orange, yellow or red for Sgraffito
  3. Oil colours: titanium white, pthalo blue, ultramarine, cadmium red, permanent rose, cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, viridian, burnt sienna and burnt umber
  4. Impasto medium can be used to emphasise the texture of the paint
  5. Art board sized 12” x 16” (30.5 x 40.5cm)
  6. Round sables sizes 3 and 6
  7. A wide bristle brush
  8. A palette consisting of a china plate
  9. Small pot of artists’ white spirits
  10. Pointed objects for sgraffito such as palette knives or combs
  11. Soft pencil

Demonstration on a Still Life Painting with Toys


Once the composition had been sketched out, the paint was briskly laid on before the lighting conditions changed. Sunlit areas were painted on first, which consisted of white, lemon yellow and a little viridian. Half closing the eyes will help simplify shadows and judge tonal values.


The dark areas were then laid on, with ultramarine, permanent rose and viridian. With the background complete, I could work on the toys.


Painting Toys


Bright colours were used for the football, trike and playpen. Minimal detail is required to retain a suggestive feel to the painting. The sky was pasted on with ultramarine and white. The Sgraffito effect was undertaken by using the butt end of a brush, although any sharp implement will do. The etchings followed the contours of the still life objects to add energy and movement to the painting.


Contrasting Sgraffito


The bright coloured underpaint offered contrast to the overlying colours, as can be seen around the chair and playpen. Scratching the paint off at strategic places will prevent overkill with the Sgraffito technique. If an area of the painting does not work out, the Sgraffito marks can easily be erased by soft blending the paint over the ridges and begun again.


This site comprise of pictures and excerpts taken from my two art instruction books. Oil Paintings from Your Garden can be purchased direct from the author via this site, or through Amazon.


My other book, Oil Paintings from the Landscape can be purchased direct from Amazon.


© Rachel Shirley 2010