Fish Scale Effect – Chris MacMahan

Chris MacMahan shows how to create a classic fish scale effect</h3>

Whether you’re looking for an eye-catching fill or a background for pinstripes or artwork, the fish scale technique is a timeless choice. In this tutorial, Chris uses a traditional circular scale, but other shapes work just as well. With a little imagination and experimentation, you’ll be able to create a wide range of patterns and effects.


Chris MacMahan shows how to create a classic fish scale effect

Step 1 — Drawing the Pattern Guide

Chris uses a template to create the pattern of overlapping circles. Generally, the “scale” size should be big enough to fill the space without appearing busy. Use your best judgment.

Step 2 — Cut the Guide

Your pattern should be drawn on a light cardstock, about the thickness of a business card—heavy enough not to become soggy and tear, light enough to cut cleanly with scissors or a craft knife.

Step 3 — Panel Prep

To ready the panel for the tutorial, it was covered with Deltron® 2000 DBC Bright Silver (5464). Over that, two color layers from the Vibrance Collection® were added, each fogged toward the center—Radiance® II Yellow (DMX210), then Green (DMX217). Each toner was added to a 1:1 mix of Deltron DBC500 Color Blender and DT870 reducer.

Step 4 — Airbrush Selection

Any general-purpose airbrush, single or double action, can be used to achieve this effect. Chris recommends a medium sized tip at 40 psi. “The higher pressure allows me to use the airbrush as a mini paint gun and put on a wash of color.

Step 5 — Spraying

Placing the template against the surface, Chris sprays a line of the Radiance® II Green. The green is solid at the bottom of the “V” and fades upward. Keep the template and the spray motion as horizontal as possible

Step 6 — Row Symmetry

Aligning the scales is simple—the center of each circle slightly overlaps the bottom of the “V” on the row above. Spacing between the rows is a matter of personal taste. Here, Chris uses a tight formation for a more intense pattern.

Step 7 — Template Saturation

The template will be covered with many layers of paint. To maintain a crisp pattern, allow the template to dry for a minute every few rows, or create more than one template.

Step 8 — Solid Border

Once all the rows have been sprayed, Chris fogs the outer edge of the panel with several layers of Radiance® II Green (DMX217) until the color is intense.

Step 9 — Ready for Anything

From here, your options are wide open. The design stands on its own, so you could add a midcoat, or go straight to clear. Chris also suggests that the pattern can be a bed for pinstripes, lettering or artwork (see example). “As a background, fish scales can push any job over the top.”

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