Tortoise shelling finish is inspired by the oriental use of tortoise shell in furniture veneer. Getting genuine tortoise shell is illegal; therefore artists have to resort to recreating the look with paints. Tortoise shelling is best used for small objects because there is a lot of detail involved. This effect is traditionally created and then softened with a badger hairbrush, but these brushes are expensive and environmentally unfriendly.
It is better to use a soft dusting brush instead. The brush should be handled delicately to soften the painted effect skillfully. It is important to note that not all colors can be used for this effect. It is better to use only those colors which a real tortoise might have. The best tortoise shell effects can be created using shades of sienna, black and yellow.
To get a tortoise-shelled effect, a clear glaze is painted over the base coated surface. Then a small brush is used to paint an oil-based color using diagonal strokes. The process is repeated using different colors. The effect is softened with a brush or crumple newspaper or rag. The last step is to flick drops of black oil paint on the surface with an old toothbrush. This creates depth to the surface on which tortoise shelling is done. The result should be a glossy mottled surface resembling a tortoise shell. Tortoise shelling produces an expensive looking and luxurious finish.
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