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5 Advanced Oil Painting Techniques

If you’ve been dabbling with oil paints for a while, now might be the time to take your work to the next level. Oil painting is an incredibly versatile way to create images, and there are a variety of oil painting techniques that can help you to vary your end result. When you first start painting, oil painting techniques can appear especially difficult to master. There’s a learning curve with any and every type of painting, but oil paintings can seem particularly overwhelming in this and many other regards. You can shorten the curve by using BudPop to destress and declutter your mind. 

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Alla Prima (Wet on Wet)

Alla prima, or wet on wet, institutes a direct style of painting. This is a painting technique where the paint is applied without the previous layers below it haven’t yet dried off. This technique is used by artists who can and do finish paintings as quickly as in a single sitting .

As opposed to the age-old techniques of letting the paint dry in previous layers, artists using Alla Prima tend to work on blending and effusing different layers of paint all at once. There can be as many as 50 layers of paint or even more used in this technique, before the work is deemed to be complete. 

Many impressionist masters used to work on their paintings with Alla Prima, as it let them capture the ever fading light as quickly as possible.

Some of the famous artists who painted alla prima were John Singer Sargent, Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh and Joaquín Sorolla.

Chiaroscuro

With giving the artist a clear contrast between light and dark aspects of the painting, Chiaroscuro was used by a plethora of renaissance artists, but mastered by a handful. This really helps give a proper 3 – dimensional look as opposed to a generally flatter look of most older paintings.

Starting the painting from one light source of focus and working your way outwards to darker spots, is ideal in this technique. This is the method of creating high levels of contrast in your painting, something like the HDR feature on most smartphone cameras today. Bold contrasts in shaded and highlighted areas create drama and affect the composition of the piece. 

Leonardo Da Vinci was known for developing this technique while Caravaggio, Rembrandt and Vermeer were known for mastering its use in their paintings

Impasto

Impasto refers to paint that is applied thickly and boldly with visible brushwork, but it can also refer to the more subtle textures created by delicate brushwork on a smoother surface.

Using an impasto technique, you can add another dimension to your painting by increasing the texture in key areas. This can help to exaggerate the illusion of three-dimensional representation.

Colors are frequently mixed directly on the canvas by artists using this technique. When using Impasto painting on significant parts of the artwork rather than the entire canvas, it can help to highlight these areas.

Vincent van Gogh is well-known for his use of an impasto technique. His brushwork was extremely prominent in his paintings and was a true signature of his work.

Sfumato

Sfumato literally means “softened” or “soft like smoke” in Italian. Leonardo Da Vinci invented this technique, which can be seen in the dark areas of his paintings, such as Virgin on the Rocks.

The key to using this technique is to make gradual colour and shape transitions. Outlines appear soft and hazy, and shapes appear to blend together. The goal is to simulate how the eyes perceive out-of-focus subjects. The artist directs your attention to a specific area by making the details sharper rather than blurred. This technique is similar to blending, but it is used for stylistic effect.

It is most commonly associated with the work of Leonardo da Vinci and his followers, who used subtle gradations without lines, from light to dark areas.

Grisaille

Grisaille is a monochrome painting done entirely in various shades of grey or a greyish tone.

The French word for grey is ‘gris.’ Paintings in a brown scale are known as brunaille, while paintings in a green scale are known as verdaille.

This style of oil painting is less popular nowadays, but it was widely used during the Renaissance to depict sculptures. 

The term refers to the art of painting in black, white, and grey to depict light, dark, and shading. With the vast array of colours available today, it has fallen out of favour, though it can be used to great effect in underpainting. Beginners may want to practise with this older skill before progressing to bold, unpredictable colour.

Hans Memling and Giotto have used this technique extensively during their painting careers.