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Underpainting for Artists

Updated on June 8, 2012

If you are an artist then you already understand the meaning of underpainting most likely. If you are a beginner or have heard of underpainting then I can help you learn about it today. Underpainting is exactly what is sounds like; the underpainting of the top layers of paint. It is the bottom layer and is the easiest to work with because it allows further development of the painting. Typically only one or two shades are used for the underpainting.

Remember the underpainting is the foundation of the painting. Therefore, you have plently of time for adding color and more detail. During this time, if you have any flaws or imperfections then you can correct them on this lower layer or while applying the upper layers. The purpose of underpainting is to create tone, detail, shade, or add value. Some artist sketch their art first in one color and use that as their underpaint. Many artist that oil paint use turpentine and a pigment mixture for the underpaint.

Underpaintings can be created however you think fit. The point is to at least have an idea of what your painting will look like in the end. There are many different ways to accomplish a great underpainting. Each way you underpaint will create an different look for each painting. Many people believe that underpainting is limited to monochromatic color scheme or achromatic shades. This is untrue.

Don't limit your creativity by a preferred preference of others. However, keep in mind sometimes when others prefer a certain method it may be because it actually works better. As an artist myself, I love to try different styles. I do like to keep in mind that experience and like minded artists may have some really helpful tips. Now, you may ask is underpainting necessary for your painting. It is not necessary for all artist. However, it does create more of an optical effect and depth. Just like anything foundations are usually better to have if not required.

In art history you will find the definition of underpainting a little differently. Let's give you a small history lesson. I will not go into too much detail because I'm not a big history buff myself. First there is verdaccio. Verdaccio is an Itailian name and was first used by Renaissance Artists. A famous artist most people know that used verdaccio was Michelangelo. Verdaccio was greatly used for creating paintings with people to master the color of human flesh tones. The colors where typically a mix of black, white and yellow pigments.

Another type of underpainting is grisaille. Grisaille is french and was known as monochrome shades in paintings. The shades are typically in grey. This type of underpainting was used mostly in sculptures and oil paintings. A famous artist that used grisaille is Giotto.

Well, this is about all I have for you today. Have a great time underpainting. Peace, love, and blessings!


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