Oil painting techniques

Updated: 5 days ago


Oil painting techniques
Oil painting techniques

Techniques used by the artist

Traditional oil painting techniques often begin with the artist sketching the subject onto the canvas with charcoal or thinned paint. Oil paint is usually mixed with linseed oil, artist-grade mineral spirits, or other solvents to make the paint thinner, faster, or slower drying.


Technique 1 – Chiaroscuro.


Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio, Chiaroscuro
Judith Beheading Holofernes by Caravaggio, Chiaroscuro

This is an Italian term that literally means 'light-dark'. In paintings, the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modeling of the subjects depicted. Artists who are famed for the use of chiaroscuro include Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio.


Technique 2 – Scumbling.

Scumbling oil painting technique
Scumbling oil painting technique

Scumbling is the brushing of an opaque, lighter layer of paint. This technique is used to visually soften or lighten areas. Scumbling, like glazing, must be done over a dry paint layer, and you typically apply the paint unthinned, using a dry-brush technique.


Technique 3 – Alla Prima


Coastal Walk 2013 Kheder, Alla Prima
Coastal Walk 2013 Kheder, Alla Prima

Alla prima, also called “wet-on-wet” and “direct painting,” is a very popular method of painting in which the artist applies paint to the canvas essentially in one sitting (“alla prima” is an Italian phrase that translates to “at once”).

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.

Alla prima oil paintings are usually completed within a single session. This made it popular with the Impressionists, as they were able to more easily capture the fleeting light and color of the environment.

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.

Please find more details about Alla Prima Technique.


Technique 4 – Glazing.

Glazing oil paint
Glazing oil paint

In the simplest terms, glazing consists of applying a transparent layer of paint over another thoroughly dried layer of opaque paint, usually with a wide, soft-bristled brush. The underpainting, as the dried layer below is called, is generally done in a single color but it may also contain some color.

Please find more details about the oil paint glazing technique.


Technique 5 – Underpainting.

In art, an underpainting is an initial layer of paint applied to a ground, which serves as a base for subsequent layers of paint. Underpaintings are often monochromatic and help to define color values for later painting.


Technique 6 – Impasto.

Floral Impasto oil on canvas 2013 by Kheder, Impasto
Floral Impasto oil on canvas 2013 by Kheder, Impasto

Impasto refers to an area of thick paint or texture in a painting.



Technique 7 – Grisaille.

 Charlie Chaplin Portrait by Kheder, 2022 oil on canvas, Grisaille
Charlie Chaplin Portrait by Kheder, 2022 oil on canvas, Grisaille

Grisaille is a painting executed entirely in shades of grey or of another neutral greyish color. It is particularly used in large decorative schemes in imitation of sculpture.




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