Oil Painting Tips
Oil Painting Tips reviews setting up the palette, mixing colors, avoiding mud, diluting color, testing color mixtures, brush painting techniques, correcting oil paintings and developing good painting habits.
Carol Santora is a highly respected, award-winning animal portrait artist and painter living in Kennebunk, Maine, and specializes in the art and contemporary paintings of horses, cows, dogs, cats, domestic and farm animals, wildlife, bear, moose and the great cats.
Paint Handling Tips:
- Setting up the palette - follow color wheel: cools (G,B,V) & warm (R,O,Y) and white; keep paint from edges; squeeze tubes from bottom and roll up empty portion; squeeze out colors on top edge and L side if R-handed, or R side if L-handed; leave lower edge & middle for mixing.
- Mixing colors - think before mixing, choose color/hue to mix & decide exactly which colors to use, don't poke into several colors on the palette. start with the lighter color, use palette knife to scoop a generous amount and add the other color to it, mix & add from there, keeping mix in one place, don't spread out too far on palette; can mix colors with a brush - scrub colors together in a circular motion; mix colors with knife get brighter, cleaner mixtures.
- Avoiding mud - 2-3 colors & white, 3+ colors = mud; usually use 2 colors. rinse brush in between picking colors, wipe blade with paper towel or paint rag.
- Diluting colors - colors are too thick from tube; in beginning, dilute paint with pure solvent for preliminary drawing and block in; then change to 50/50 medium & paint- preserves creamy consistency; keep cups clean, wipe brush hairs with towel/rag or rinse in solvent & dry with towel
- Test color mixtures/color charts - to reveal how the colors on your palette behave when mixed with one another; be methodical.
1. get 12 sheets of canvas-textured paper and mark each with one color name
2. mix that color with every other color/hue on your palette and paint a patch 1" square; add white and paint another patch next to it, label with initials; vary proportions of colors - mix in equal quantities, then more of one color & less of the other, then more of the other color with less of the first, and remember to paint and label patches. this is the fastest way to learn how to mix colors.
- The pressure of the brush on the canvas influences the application of paint; used lightly or with a heavy touch.
- A highlight is best applied thickly.
- Seldom use color straight from the tube - mix tones and various hues
- Paint smooth things smoothly and rough things roughly.
- More medium = wider brush stroke.
- Be yourself - don't copy painting style of others.
- Dip brush into white first - keep it clean!
- Avoid charcoal or pencil to draw on canvas, tends to dirty the paint
- Use the whole scale of tone values; to darken a color use a brighter version of same color; to darken a shadow, glaze it with a dark, transparent wash
- Use large, dry brush to "dust away" hard edges; start painting soft edges, sharpen edges selectively; apply paint with tip of brush & leave it alone.
- Don't begin a painting with a bright color; work dark to light.
- Use complementary colors side by side
- Try optical color mixing - use dots or lines of the components of a color
- Paint the way the object grows; mass in clusters, don't paint individually (grapes)
- Details do not make a painting; fundamentals should be your goal.
- Step back often; turn canvas upside down; use a mirror; sit or stand.
- Squint, squint, squint!
- Rules can be broken-once you have mastered the skills!
Brush Painting Techniques:
Whether painting with bristle or soft-hair brushes:
- Thin color with lots of solvent & sketch main shapes with a small, round brush.
- Color/block in the biggest, most important shapes with big, flat brushes; thin paint to a milky consistency with a touch of medium and solvent.
- Still work with big, flat brushes, refine & adjust colors & shapes; no details yet.
- Work with medium-sized and small brushes to place final touches and details. Don't overdo it!
- Resist the temptation to use small brushes; the right brush is the one that seems too big for the job!
- Hold brush in middle of the handle, not like a pencil too close to the bristles.
Correcting Oil Paintings:
- Scraping - correct as you work; don't try to cover up wet paint by painting over it, scrape that paint off the area with palette knife (wipe the blade on a rag ) will leave a ghost image which repainting will cover.
- Wiping - dip a clean, lint-free paint rag in solvent and scrub away wet paint after scraping the excess with palette knife; this eliminates the ghost image.
- Repainting - to repaint a dry canvas - gently sand area with steel wool or fine sand paper (takes off some paint & roughens surface a little); moisten surface to be repainted with some medium on a clean, lint-free paint rag; then paint over; ** don't be too careful when repainting, be spontaneous, don't leave sharp edges
Good Painting Habits:
- Cleaning your palette - when finished painting, wipe off central mixing area of wooden/acrylic palette until clean (a muddy film will ruin new paint)
- Saving color:
-Wipe away any mixtures near mounds of colors you are planning to keep
-Always put colors in same place on palette - used up areas should be scraped & wiped for fresh paint for next painting session.
-For disposable palettes - scoop off mounds of paint you wish to keep with your knife and transfer them to a clean sheet; if a skin forms, puncture and remove the skin and work with the fresh color underneath.
-If not painting for a week - cover palette with plastic wrap & place in freezer.
- Care of tube colors - keep tubes clean, wipe necks & caps.
- Caring for your brushes:
-Wipe to remove excess paint on rags, newspaper, etc.
-Rinse in jar of solvent - do not soak.
-Wipe brush with rags, newspaper to soak up solvent
-Use mild soap (shampoo or dawn), put dab in palm of hand, lather brush in palm moving in circle to work lather into bristles.
-Lather & rinse in lukewarm water until suds are snow white, & rinse with clear water; bristles may discolor.
-Press bristles into neat, compact shape while moist.
-Let dry/store in jar bristle-end up.
-Make a brush washer from a jar and small tuna can - with hammer and nail punch holes in tuna can; place with opening down in jar; fill to 2 inches above the can with solvent; run wiped, soiled brush over the top of the tuna can; silt falls to the bottom of the jar leaving solvent clean.
- Care of knives - wipe top, sides, & bottom surfaces of knives, including handles
- Care of fluids - wipe solvent containers same way as paint tubes; let jars of used solvent sit with lids on for a week or so, then gently pour into clean jar for reuse a few times; try to keep medium cups clean, pour out small amounts, don't put back in original containers; cover or discard with used solvents at local dump/recycle areas ** never pour down the drain.**
- Safety precautions:
-Read labels on paints and mediums - some are mildly toxic (cadmium colors)
-Avoid eating or smoking while you paint
-Wash hands thoroughly after painting session; try applying lotion to hands before hand, paints will wash off easier
-Some solvents don't produce deadly fumes, however, should be used in well ventilated room - open a window
-Some solvents are flammable and toxic (gasoline, kerosene) - stick to turpentine and petroleum products made for artist's use.
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