Oil painting techniques
Updated: Aug 7
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.
This is an Italian term which literally means 'light-dark'. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted. Artists who are famed for the use of chiaroscuro include Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio.
Technique 2 – Scumbling.
Scumbling is the brushing on 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
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”).
Technique 4 – Glazing.
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 is a single color but it may also contain some color.
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.
Impasto refers to an area of thick paint or texture, in a painting.
Technique 7 – Grisaille.
is a painting executed entirely in shades of grey or of another neutral greyish colour. It is particularly used in large decorative schemes in imitation of sculpture.