Fun Ornament Tutorial!

5:54 AM

While drawing round ornaments is very fun and satisfying, especially when we add in all the gorgeous details with a little bit of gold and glitter, after a while it can be great fun to explore other shapes and sizes. Using a little creativity and imagination, we can expand on the basic circle to make more exotic shapes!

To do this tutorial, you'll need:

  • a circle template OR assorted bottle caps and jar lids in a variety of sizes
  • pencil
  • tracing paper
  • permanent black pen
  • watercolors
  • eraser


  • gold gel pen
  • white gel pen
  • Other metallic or pearlescent pens and markers

Draw a straight line on your tracing paper. This is your base line.
Choose a circle on the template or bottle cap. Resting the bottom of the circle on the straight line, draw a circle.
Then move either to the left or right and draw a second circle the same size. See example.
The further apart the circles, the more of an "oval shape" you'll get. Experiment with the width of the combined circles to see what you like best. Add a small rectangle and a circle for the top and you have your first ornament.

In the next example, choose a large circle or lid and again, using a straight line as your base, draw one half of the circle. The circle will be divided in half vertically.
Now move the template or cap and draw the other half so that it overlaps the first half as seen in the image below. Another way to do this is to draw one large circle on the tracing paper and then cut it in half. Overlay the edges until you are pleased with the shape. Tape the edges of the paper to hold the shape.

Make sure to use the straight line as your base to keep the sides even in length.  Add a rectangle, circle and string at the top and you have your second ornament!

One variation on this is to deliberately offset the second half so the "circle" is wider at the top than on the bottom. Play around by moving the template or cap around to get different shapes and lengths.

Moving to a more complex image, let's try stacking the circles to make a longer ornament:

These two ornament shapes use a vertical base line to keep them balanced. The ornament on the left using two circles that barely overlap the larger circles to create the "joint" that holds the balls together. The example on the right simply overlaps the edges of the circle to merge them all into a larger shape. Play around with different sizes of circles to create different ornament shapes. Try a small circle at the top and bottom with a larger one in the center. Another variation on this shape style would be to add a point to the bottom circle. (See example below.)

For the last example, you'll need several different circle sizes:  
After starting with the double circles like we did in the first example, I added a second row of three circles (second image). I then added a long spike. The second row of circles and spike are the same height as the large circle. This helps to keep things in balance, but it would be easy enough to go much longer with the spiked shape if you wanted to play.

In the last example, I used a row of three circles to get an extra wide ornament. I then added a second row of circles and the long spike shape. Last, I added another circle as a "dome" over the first row of large circles.

There are any number of combinations of shapes you can come up with with a little experimentation!

Let's Add A Little Paint

Since the ornaments are all drawn on tracing paper, turn the paper over and trace the outline of your ornaments onto the watercolor paper. Experiment with different arrangements by drawing thumbnails to quickly see what you like. Avoid drawing all the ornaments the same size and at the same level on the paper. I opted to split my ornaments into two groups to balance my page. Overlap the ornaments for more interest:
Next, paint around the ornaments with clear water and drop in some green watercolor paint. Keep an eye on the edges to keep them soft, as if they're fading away. While the paper is still wet, drop in other colors if you like.

Study a real bulb for ideas on where the shadows fall and where the highlights and lowlights are:

Notice how the lights are different on the frosted red ornament and harder on the shiny bobbles but they all have soft and hard lights in the shapes.

Playing around with color is half the reason I like painting ornaments so I dropped in red orange and pink. I used a granulating violet in the shadowed areas and left white skips for my highlights.

The way the image looks at the moment, it looks like the long ornament is in front of the smaller one. It takes a few tricks to move it to the front of the red ornament!

On the right side, I used cobalt teal blue and violet to paint in the ornament. I left the strip and smaller circles bare until the painted dried and then went back and added orange. I again used violet as my shadow color.

To make the two ornaments on the left look like they were overlapping, I painted the smaller ornament over the large one as if it were not there. After it dried, I added in the details in white pen on the larger ornament with a permanent ink. Once the ink dried, I washed over it with same watercolors we can see in the small ornament.
Once the wash had dried, I then added the details to the smaller ornament with a metallic gel pen and wrote over the ornament in the background. This helped to push it back behind the smaller ornament. 

Technically speaking, there should be swirls on the backside of the smaller ornament, but I found out the hard way the ink in the metallic gel pen was not permanent and there was no way to add the swirls without lifting paint so I opted to leave them out.

If you've enjoyed this tutorial, I invite you to check out the free tutorial, "How To Sketch and Paint The Eiffel Tower," as well as "'Tis The Season Holiday Class" (just click the class title for more info!). We'll be creating awesome holiday art all year long and you can do as little or as much as you want based on the class option you choose.

And once again, I'd like to take this moment to send my wishes for the season's best to you. I hope your holidays are fun, happy, healthy and full of those you love!

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