Correct Dull Patches In Oil Paintings

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Isn’t that just the most irritating thing?

You’ve created a perfectly lovely composition, used some great techniques and have assembled a palette of rich and appealing colors.

Standing back to admire your work, you are surprised to see dull, lifeless areas in your wonderful creation.

What’s an artist to do?

Sunken Paint

Dull patches on a painting are known as sunken paint, and this irregularity may present itself for a number of reasons. Sunken paint occurs because of poor quality materials, the amount of thinner used and variations in individual paint characteristics.

Some of these situations you can control, while at other times there is nothing to be done but wait for the dust to settle and see what areas need attention. Never fear, there is a simple method to correct these cosmetic blemishes that will leave your painting’s complexion silky smooth and shiny.

Poor Ground Or Support Material

Many beginners make the mistake of painting directly onto an unsealed surface. Wood, canvas and composite boards are all permeable and absorb anything moist. The support must be primed to prevent oil leeching from the wet paint into the fibers.

Use quality artists’ gesso to prime your support. Industrial or household primers are a false economy. Use the manufacturer’s recommended applications methods. Over-thinned ground or too few coats of gesso will not seal the support properly, and sinking may occur. The time, effort and cost of extra medium to repair the inconsistencies just aren’t worth it.

Improper Ratio Of Paint To Thinner

We all know the phrase fat over lean, and an artist begins a painting with a fair amount of solvent to keep the lower layers of the paint lean. As the artist builds up layers of paint, he uses progressively less solvent and begins to add oil to the paint. This should be done in stages, keeping uniformity as layers are added to the painting. Sometimes an artist will be carried away with glazing and use too much solvent to thin the wash to the appropriate consistency. This will result in the glazed area drying to a chalky, dull color that is not in harmony with the rest of the painting.

Individual Paint Characteristics

Some pigments tend to dry with more gloss than others. Crimsons tend to retain their shine when dry, while some dark shades such as ultramarine and burnt umber have a tendency to dry with less sheen. You can add some medium to the paint to try to maintain the gloss, but in doing so the paint becomes more translucent and has less covering power.

Pigments with these character flaws must be dealt with as the situation arises. Since there is nothing to be done for it beforehand, the savvy artist will contend with the condition as it presents itself.

How To Restore Sunken Paint

Oiling out a painting is a simple process. Make sure the oil used is non-yellowing. The medium you use in the painting process is suitable and adds no additional compounds to your work.

Make sure the paint is touch-dry and will not be disturbed by the manipulation. Apply oil with a lint-free cloth to the area in question and gently rub it into the paint. Wipe away any excess and allow it to dry. If a second application is required, use the same technique to bring the entire painting to a uniform level of gloss.

An oil painting requires up to six months to dry completely before it can be varnished. If you oil out a painting, you start the drying process all over. You must patiently wait another six months before applying varnish.

Varnish Versus Oil In Correcting Dull Patches

Varnishing does not work to correct dull patches of a painting. When you apply varnish to the painting, you make the dull areas glossy. However, the shiny areas become extra-glossy so you still wind up with an uneven sheen.

Varnish should only be applied to seal and protect the finished piece after you have corrected the incongruities. Remember that the painting must be totally dry before applying a finish coat of varnish. Patience is a virtue, particularly for an oil painter.

Oiling out paintings is one of the less-glamorous aspects in the life of an artist, but neglecting this important step leaves you with a painting that looks incomplete and rather amateurish. Spend the time to bring your paintings up to the level of professionalism your brushwork and skill deserves. Your clients and your pocketbook will both thank you.

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