Painting In Layers

PaintingOne common technique that has been used in oil painting has been layering. It is a technique that is characterized by building up an artwork by placing repeated layers of oil paint into canvas. It is usually some glazes applied over thin layers of opaque oil paint. Oil paint dries slower and more evenly than tempera, giving the artist sometime to correct or even extend his work.

Layering is still considered as the best approach to oils painting. This method usually takes time and therefore is best suited for smaller works of art. Layering is also a good method to use for photo-realism and works that require a higher than usual degree of detailing and surface finish. Here are steps that are being followed in using the technique of layering in painting.

Step 1: Have an accurate image or sketch made ready.

The first step for the artist is to prepare an accurate drawing of a planned work. In the past, artists used camera obscura to project a certain scene on the canvas. This time, using a photograph would be a more convenient option.

Step 2: Begin with a thin layer.

The artist may try to apply a layer of thin paint similar to one of water color or with few pencil lines. Broad washes of paint thinned with turpentine may also do well.

Step 3: Let the first layer dry.

Step 4: Apply thin body color on the work.

The artists now tries to build the figure or image in layers. A basic rule being followed in the application of oil paints is "fat over lean". This simply means that each layer of paint applied on canvas should be oilier than the one below it. This will allow proper drying.

Step 5: Let the layer of paint dry.

Step 6: Apply the second thin body color by painting over the first layer and just within its contours.

Step 7: Build up the painting layer by layer.

Continue building up layer upon layer of paint on the canvas using different painting techniques to capture the desired image. Building up over the underpainting can be a long process of trial and error. Since oil paints take longer to dry, it is possible for artists to correct or change paint texture or form of the work given a certain point while the paint is still wet. It might also be possible for an artist to remove an entire layer of paint and begin with the next layer anew.

Step 8: Dry the layers thoroughly.

Step 9: Apply thin coats of glazes or work wet into wet if needed.

Step 10: Let dry.

Step 11: Apply a ticker layer of glaze or modify previous glazes if needed.

Step 12: Apply another touch or layer of body color to recapture areas that may have been glazed heavily.

It is a good idea to apply a layer of color alternately to a layer of glaze instead of applying a thicker coat of glaze at the end. Shadow effects can be created with the use of glazes and help harmonize the resulting work of art.

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