There are so many little bits of useful information a painter can add to his bag of tricks.
You’ll never remember them all if you don’t incorporate them into a routine right away, so make a little notebook of tips for future reference.
Many concepts work in all mediums, while others are well suited for both acrylic and oils, and some tips are strictly reserved for the oil painter. You’ll find that not every idea works well for you. Maybe your style doesn’t require it, your skill level hasn’t developed enough or it just seems uncomfortable. Regardless of the reason, use the tips that work for you and set the others aside. Maybe someday they’ll make more sense or work with a new found technique.
Varnishing Your Painting
Varnish is the concluding layer of your Oil Painting. It protects your work from scratches, toxic substances in the atmosphere, extremes in temperature and high humidity. It also evens out the sheen and re-establishes the brilliance of your paint colors.
Once your painting is complete, it needs to dry. This can take weeks and months. If you use a heavy hand and apply very thick paint, this stage can last a very trying period of up to nine months.
Once your painting is dry, clean it gently. Use a clean, lint-free cloth that you have moistened with water to wipe away dust, grease and dirt. Dry with another clean cloth and examine the surface. Remove any small cloth fibers that may have caught in the texture of the painting. Leave the painting for several hours to allow any moisture to evaporate completely. During this time, face the painting against a wall or drape it with a cloth to discourage any new dust from settling.
Each application of varnish should be completed in one session. Stopping midway through the application will cause a line of demarcation when you resume painting. Use a consistent amount of varnish on your brush to keep the layer even. Always apply varnish in a dust-free environment with the artwork lying flat on a table to avoid dripping.
Oil Paint Varnish is available in high-gloss, satin and matte finishes. Use a flat brush to apply the varnish and work from top to bottom. Use straight, parallel strokes, and work from side to side.
After the first coat is dry, rotate the painting 90 degrees and apply a second coat. After the second coat is completed, allow the painting to remain flat until the varnish is in no danger of running. Then, prop it up facing a wall and allow it to dry. The varnish should dry in one or two days, but the humidity can increase the drying time. Touch the edge of the painting to test for dryness.
Acrylics And Oils Do Mix
You certainly can’t mix acrylic and oil paint on your palette, but you can use acrylic paints for the lower layers of your oil painting. This is a good way to jump-start a piece. Since the acrylic paints dry rapidly, this allows you to proceed with the subsequent layers of oil paint without a prolonged delay.
If you’re using acrylics for the beginning stage of an oil painting, don’t make the application too thick or too shiny. Oil paint needs a surface to grip, so a thin coating of acrylic will probably leave enough of the support’s texture for the oil paint to grab. If the acrylic paint is very shiny and smooth, the oil paint has nothing to hold it.
Acrylic paint always remains flexible while the oil paint eventually becomes harder. If this difference in flexibility concerns you, use a rigid support instead of stretched canvas.
Saving Leftover Paint
If you have paint left and expect to use the same color again, you can place the paint in a container and cover it with water. When you’re ready to use it again, pour off the water and transfer the paint back to your palette.
Paint that is left once your project is complete doesn’t need to be thrown away. Scrape off all the leftover paint from your palette and place it in an airtight container with a good lid. This paint will mix up into a brownish neutral that you can use for underpainting and shadowing.
Another way to conserve leftover paint is to use whatever is left on your palette to work on a spare painting you have in progress for that purpose. Small canvases can be gradually painted using leftovers, and you never know when you just might come up with a real winner.
Re-Purposing Your Less-Than-Masterpieces
We all have experienced a faux pas or two. What seemed oh-so right in the beginning just went downhill, and nothing you could do would make it into a decent painting. Don’t toss the canvas out in the trash. That support was far too costly to throw away, so prepare for a second go-round.
If your disaster-painting is fairly smooth, lightly sand the ridges away, and coat the entire panel with white paint or a colored ground. You’re ready to give it a second try.
However, if you’ve painted with quite a bit of texture, you may want to use the support for an impasto painting. Hit the high ridges with sandpaper if they are too pronounced or repetitive, and cover the panel with a coat of white paint. Use this panel for palette knife or impasto painting and you’ll use far less paint for the second attempt.
Regardless of the method applied, allow this re-purposed panel to dry before using it to create your next masterpiece.
Think Small And Think Glazes
If you’re really on a tight budget, use a small support. Not only does the canvas or panel cost less, but you will also use less paint. In addition, while we’re speaking of how much paint you use, don’t do palette knife or impasto paintings. Using the glazing technique requires less of your precious paint, and you can create lovely, layered effects.
Create The Illusion Of Distance In Your Paintings
Two things will help you convey a sense of distance in your work. As objects recede, they become more blurry. Soften the edges as you move back in the scene.
The second tip that helps express distance is to use cooler and less intense colors. Vibrant and warmer colors push the subject forward into the foreground.
A Cure For Oily Paint
If your paint is too oily, squeeze the paint onto newspaper. The paper will absorb the excess oil, and you can then add it to your palette.
Shadows Are Not Black
If you are painting the shadow of an object, don’t dig out the black paint. Black is a lifeless color, and it should be avoided most of the time. Use the complementary color of the item to create your shadow. If the object reflects light, echo that color in the shadow.
Creating Shadows On Whites
White flowers, snow and a white curtain or tablecloth are all examples of objects you may often include in a painting. To give three dimensions to your white objects, you must add shadows. Since the complement of white is black, one might think they should use a tube of black paint. In this case, the black complementary color should not be used. Shadows of white flowers are generally pastel colors. Snow and tablecloth shadows may range from pale pastels to dark violet or deep blue. Burnt Sienna is also often used, as it is a warm, rich neutral.
Fool Your Brain When Inspecting Your Work
We develop pre-conceived notions of what something looks like. You’ve spent hours staring and glaring at your painting. As you work, you should occasionally examine your details and check for errors.
Look at your painting in a mirror. This allows you to see errors or weak points you may miss. You can also turn your painting upside down to see your work from a different viewpoint.
When you set up your palette, always put your paints in the same order. By consistently placing paints in the same location, you aren’t searching all over your palette for the correct color. It’s a small point, but it’s a simple way to make things easy on yourself.
Look At The Big Picture
Work the whole canvas simultaneously in the early stages of your painting. You need to establish your lights, darks and make sure your composition and color choices are correct.
Once you’ve established your scene, it’s okay to focus on a particular area, but don’t get over-involved in any one part. By working over the entire canvas, you’ll avoid the tendency to become over-detailed and you won’t lose the spontaneity that moves your work from hobbyist to artist level.
Multitasking To Maximize Your Painting Sessions
An artist who paints in oils has a lot of down time. Paints can take days and weeks to dry before you can add another layer. To avoid this potential pitfall, have several paintings in progress at any one time. That way, while you’re waiting for one painting to dry, there’s another one ready for a glaze or bit of detail work.
If all your paintings are in the drying stage, do some sketching, rummage around your morgue for inspiration or begin yet another painting. Your muse is a patient soul, but you mustn’t keep her waiting. Grab every moment you can to create, and don’t let a little thing like waiting for paint to dry keep you from your work.
A chapter on oil painting tips and tricks can just go on and on forever. Certain tips are helpful at any stage of your education, while others may be too basic. A few techniques may be more advanced, and they will be of use as you progress in your studies.
The best tip is to paint whenever you can and as much as you are able. You may have talent, but without practice, you’ll be unable to advance as an artist.
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Watercolor Paint Brands
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Watercolor Painting Tips and Tricks
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