No, we’re not talking about swimming here! “Floating” in decorative painting refers to the application of colour to an object to create shadows and highlights.
It is a basic skill decorative artists learn so that they can paint realistic, three-dimensional objects. This skill is used in painting many subjects including fruits, flowers, inanimate objects, even teddy bears.
What are shadows and highlights anyway? In painting, there is something called the “light source” which is basically something the designer or you yourself can decide. It is the direction in which light is coming from in your painting. This determines where the shadows and highlights will fall—shadows occur in parts which are hidden from the light and highlights occur in the brightest parts where light hits the object.
Floating colour is done by loading a flat or an angle brush with colour on only one side. Only a little colour is applied to the brush. The brush is then blended back and forth on a palette until the brush paints a stroke which ranges from a solid colour of the paint on one end of the brush hairs fading into nothing at the other end. This colour is then “floated” on the object usually at the relevant edges where you want to create the shadow or highlight.
The colours used depend on the object being shaded or highlighted. Highlights are floated in colours lighter than the base colour of the object and shadows, with colours darker than the base colour.
This fruits project illustrates the use of the floating technique to create shadows and highlights.