Top 6 Ways to Create Texture in Oil Painting

Have you ever wanted to experiment with texture in oil painting? Creating the right texture in oil painting can be a challenge as there as so many options from which to choose.

Oil color, with its mediums, lends well to glazing techniques with a smooth varnished finish. However, there are a large variety of texture effects that can be attained in oil painting using traditional techniques like impasto, or simply through experimentation. This article will browse through the several popular oil painting effects, and how they can be used in achieving texture.


Prepare yourself with tons of oil color before embarking on an impasto oil painting journey.

Impasto brush marks showing thick application of paint

Impasto is the technique of applying large quantities of paint with a brush or palette knife, usually with a very gestural quality. The effect is a three-dimensional aspect to the surface.

Often, specific mediums created for impasto painting are used to increase the thick texture of the paint while slightly reducing the amount of paint that would otherwise have been applied directly from the tube. Such mediums, like oleopasto, are also helpful in aiding in the drying process as they hold their shape as the paint dries.

Sometimes impasto can be used in traditional painting if done lightly in only certain pinnacle areas, like bright highlights.

Most effective application – Color mixed with oleopasto medium; no drying oils or solvents; palette knife or large brush


The procedure involved in scumbling oil paint is reminiscent of an art project you may have done in elementary school. It involves painting a fairly thick application of color, and then removing the paint with an absorbent textured object like a rag, sponge or dry brush. Using the term a little more loosely, scumbling can also refer to the process in which paint is blurred or blended on the surface with a rag. In scumbling, the more creative the texture used, the more interesting a texture it will create. Experimentation lovers will adore this painting style.

Most effective application – Color straight from the tube; no drying oils or solvents

Ala Prima

Painting ala prima typically refers to the process of painting in one sitting. The application of color is quick, and commonly full of expression. The texture is created in an impromptu way through the manipulation of a thicker layer of paint.

Ala prima technique does not involve layers or glazing. As such, the rule of “flexible over inflexible” or “Fat over Lean” does not necessarily apply. However, dull areas and cracking can still occur, so it is imperative that when painting ala prima that too many solvents or mediums are not used. Instead, paintings in an ala prima style are usually painted with color straight from the tube or with a minimal use of drying oil or solvents.

Most effective application – Color straight from the tube; limited amount of drying oils or solvents


Pulling the paint across the surface in a carefree, unapologetic way is common amongst expressionist painting. The color is dragged with a brush quickly, with the intention of leaving exposed areas of the layer underneath. The effect is one of obvious layering and open-ended brush stroke. Pulling is ideal for expressing movement or gesture.

Most effective application – Color straight from the tube; limited amount of drying oils or solvents


The French Impressionists frequently used dabbing as a technique toward their expression of light and color. Dabbing is just as it sounds, where layers of paint are applied in short dabs or brushstrokes over the entire surface in even or uneven intervals. Similar to pointillism, dabbing allows a unique play of color and texture on the overlapping marks of paint.

Most effective application – Color straight from the tube; limited amount of drying oils or solvents

Other Materials

The possibilities of texture created with oil paint are limitless. Beyond manipulating the paint, however, other materials worked into an oil painting can also bring in an element of texture. Especially organic materials that are compatible with the components of oil color and can be adhered easily to the paint, like feathers, burlap and other textiles, are wonderful texture additives.


Creating texture with oil paints certainly can be fun as well as challenging.

If you have any other ideas about how to create texture in oil painting, I would certainly love to hear about them in the comments below.


About Gary Bolyer Fine Art

I am a New York City-based landscape artist.
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One Response to Top 6 Ways to Create Texture in Oil Painting

  1. Pingback: Gary Bolyer’s Top 7 How-to-Paint Blogs | Gary Bolyer Fine Art

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