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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Basic Oil Painting Techniques

Impasto Painting by Van Gogh
Fat Over Lean

One of the fundamental concepts of oil painting. Fat oil paint is oil paint coming straight from the tube. When mixed in oil, it becomes even fatter and increases the length of time it takes to dry completely. Lean oil paint is oil mixed with more turpentine than oil, or oil paint mixed with a fast drying oil. Lean oil paint dries faster than fat oil paint.

Lean layer of paint is vulnerable to cracking when the fat layer dries underneath it. Paints underneath a newest layer absorbs oil from the layers above it. Therefore, in building layers, oil paints should be a little fatter than the previous one of of greater proportion of oil in it.


This technique produces amazing effects to a painting. Glazing is the application of thin colors over a dried under painting. Usually, a dark color paint over a lighter one.

The secret of glazing is to use extremely thin paint. Sometimes, it takes a lot of glazes to do in building up a color to the proper intensity.

Slowly build your colors and tones. Let the paint dries on each application of layers of paint. In this manner, you can easily wipe off new paints if an error is made. In the event that the applied color is too strong, this can easily be mopped off with a stiff bristled brush without destroying the previous dried layer of paint.

With really thin paint application, the opaque colors will appear translucent, almost like transparent. Use opaque colors on the first glazing layers.

One thing to remember is that glazing may not be applied to the whole painting. You can do glazing in a few objects in your painting just to give more depth to your colors.


This technique is somewhat similar to glazing but done in the opposite manner. It is a thin layer of light opaque paint scumbled over a layer of dried dark paint.The result gives a sense of depth and color variation to an area.

A really thin layer of an opaque paint softens an area of a painting, giving a misty effect or almost out of focus look. This is typically used in background objects. However, too much scumbling with thick opaque paint will result to a flattened sense of depth.

Beams of light is painted with the application of a scumbling technique.This is also useful in creating a glowing effect to accentuate an object.

Alla Prima

Alla Prima or "direct Painting" is a technique of painting directly on the canvas with no under painting. This technique was pioneered by a Flemish painter, Frans Hals.

Painting is usually done in one sitting without waiting for the paint to dry. Most modern painters uses this technique but you have to have a lot of confidence and a quick hand with this method.

Palette Knife Painting

Oil paint application with the use of a palette knife is pretty like much spreading a peanut butter on a bread. This is best for producing textured, impasto effect. Impasto is an application of thick paint (like a toothpaste) to provide a texture on the surface.

Related Article: Oil Painting
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