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"Alla prima" And "Grisaille" In Oil Painting

Updated: Jun 16, 2023


Alla Prima Oil Painting

"Alla prima oil paintings are usually completed within a single session."

"Nobody is so skilled that they can predict their strokes' exact outcome."


Alla prima is an Italian phrase that means ‘at first attempt’. It refers to a wet-on-wet approach whereby wet paint is applied to previous layers of still-wet paint, often in a single sitting.


This made Alla Prima popular with the Impressionists, as they were able to more easily capture the fleeting light and color of the environment.


Artists commonly use a layering approach, which involved painting one layer, letting it dry, then painting another layer on top.


As you would expect, this is a very time-consuming approach, especially considering the slow drying time of oil paint. Subject edges in Alla prima oil paintings are soft, blended ones contrasted with those sharply defined.


However, controlling these edges and how the paint mixes require the preparation of colors and decisive handling of the material.


Alla prima direct painting technique is perfect for capturing fleeting moments in a spontaneous, fresh, and immediate style.


When painting Alla prima, there will always be an element of unpredictability, no matter how much control you paint with.


Alla Prima includes mixing colors on the canvas and edges getting lost... Whatever the case, don’t let this unpredictable element discourage you. Instead, embrace it because it is what often results in those pleasant surprises in your painting. Nobody is so skilled that they can predict their strokes' exact outcome.


Techniques Used In Alla Prima Oil Painting


Painting Alla Prima could be challenging, but in most cases, it could be done by two procedures:


The first technique is to apply color tones directly on the canvas, i.e., adjusting the tone on the palette and then adding the paint on the plain canvas.


Alla Prima Painting, mixing colors on canvas, Signs on the way original oil painting on canvas private collection in USA
Alla Prima Painting, mixing colors on canvas, Signs on the way, private collection in the USA

The second technique is trickier, it involves covering the canvas with a layer of paint and then starting to add paints to reach the targeted tones on the canvas, i.e., mixing paints on canvas, Cover the canvas with a relatively thin layer of oil paints.


The Artist adds clove oil to delay the oxidation of Linseed oil and hence the dryness of the paints, turpentine, and Linseed oil. Start adding colors to build the composition.


Do not add white pigments till you complete modeling, then add Highlights and tint(use white pigments), to be able to mix paints on canvas.


Hog bristle brushes is better for Alla Prima Style because it tends to be harder than synthetic soft hair brushes.



Grisaille Oil Painting

"Artists used grisaille as the foundation for layering oil paint colors on top to create their oil paintings."


Grisaille is a painting technique in which an artist uses a monochromatic palette in greys or similar neutral grey colors. grisaille comes from the French word for grey: “gris.”


Grisaille, Oil Painting On Linen Canvas, Portrait Of Charlie Chaplin
Grisaille, Oil Painting On Linen Canvas, Portrait Of Charlie Chaplin

This technique involves several steps. First, a toned canvas sets the stage for your work. That means painting the canvas with a mid-tone neutral so it’s no longer white.


The artist first draws the subject, Then starts adding medium shades of grey to create shadows. You can either layer your lighter areas first or you can block in darker areas--every artist has their own approach.


Regardless of your method, the Grisaille step is about gradually adding more detail and building up to your darkest and lightest tints.


The effect can be quite stunning in and of itself, or you can choose to use your grisaille as an underpainting and then layer colors over it to create your final work.


Grisaille has several benefits. It can be cost-effective--you’re only using shades of one color. It helps with painting over in color; you can use grey tints and shades that can be easily covered up.

An artist also only has to focus on light and shade without thinking about color, making the painting process a bit less complex.




Alla Prima Painting, mixing colors on canvas, The Three Preachers original oil painting on canvas by Kheder, private collection in USA
Alla Prima Painting, mixing colors on canvas, The Three Preachers, by Kheder, private collection in the USA




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2 Comments


very expressive!

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soso ahmed
soso ahmed
Aug 10, 2022

Woooow amazing art!

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