Oil Painting Techniques: From Underpainting to Glazing

Oil painting, with its rich colours and depth, has been a beloved medium in the art world for centuries. From the luminous works of the Old Masters to the expressive creations of modern artists, oil paints offer a versatility and beauty that is hard to match.

Oil paints are essentially pigments suspended in oil, typically linseed oil. They are known for their slow drying time, which allows artists to work on a painting over several sessions, and their ability to blend beautifully, which is ideal for creating gradients and soft edges. You can learn more about the properties of oil paints here.

One of the fundamental techniques in oil painting is underpainting. This involves creating a monochrome version of the painting as a first layer, which serves as a guide for the subsequent layers. Underpainting helps to establish the values (light and dark areas) of the painting and can contribute to the overall tonal harmony of the final piece. For a detailed guide on underpainting, check out this tutorial.

After the underpainting, artists build up layers of paint to create depth and detail. This process, known as ‘overpainting,’ involves applying layers of paint that are more opaque and contain more oil. The ‘fat over lean’ rule is crucial here: each successive layer should contain more oil (be ‘fatter’) than the previous one to prevent the paint from cracking.

Another key technique in oil painting is glazing. This involves applying a thin, transparent layer of oil paint over a dry layer. Glazing can enhance the luminosity of a painting, create a sense of depth, and modify colours without altering the details of the underlayers. For a step-by-step guide on glazing, visit this guide.

In Ireland, oil painting has a rich history and a vibrant present. Many Irish artists have embraced this medium, drawn to its depth and flexibility. Whether you’re an experienced artist looking to refine your techniques or a beginner eager to delve into the world of oil painting, this medium offers a world of possibilities. With its rich colours, depth, and flexibility, oil painting truly has the power to create stunning, vibrant artwork.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article  do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Irish Artmart.

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