8 Oil Painting Techniques for the Inquiring Artist

Have you been wanting to bring something new and edgy into your oil painting?

Have you thought about trying a new technique or approach to applying the paint?

Here are some ideas that are sure to breathe new life into your oil painting technique toolbox.

1. Wet into wet

Wet into wet is the process of adding fresh color into existing, still wet layers. The technique can be used to bring great immediacy and interest to the image.

It also can be used as a technique for blending, and can be accomplished with the color in virtually any state of viscosity, from thick and stiff, to fluid.

2. Glazing

Glazing is accomplished by building up of layers of transparent or semi-transparent colors over dry underlayers.

The effect is one of great depth and spatial atmosphere. It is a lengthy technique, but the effects in oil are unmatched when compared to other media. Stand Oil is perfectly suited for building layers of brilliant, glazed color.

Impasto technique showing layers of thickly applied paint

3. Impasto

Impasto is the technique of applying stiff, thick color, leaving brush and knife marks as a central element in the painting.

Jackson Pollock used this method often. He would squeeze the paint directly from the tube onto his canvas as if he were drawing with a large crayon.

An impasto surface can be dynamic and powerful.

For thick impasto, build the texture in several layers, allowing each to dry before applying the next.

4. S’graffito

S’graffito is the technique of scraping into a wet oil film, usually with the handle end of a brush, or a painting knife. It’s an expressive effect, and is also effective for defining outlines.

5. Scumbling

With a stiff brush, work a thin film of opaque or semi-opaque color loosely over your painting, allowing color from the layer below to show through. The effect is highly atmospheric.

6. Oiling out

Oiling out is the application of oil medium to a painting that has sunk, or lost oil to the layer below.

Linseed or Stand Oil should be sparingly rubbed into any sunken area with a soft cloth. Wipe off any residue, and leave the painting to dry for a day or two. If smaller dull areas remain, repeat the process until the painting has regained an even sheen.

The most common cause for sinking is the use of a ground which is too absorbent, and often occurs if a household primer is used. Sinking can also result if the color has been over-thinned with solvent.

7. Murals

With appropriate preparation, oil colors can be an excellent choice for murals.

Unless the wall is new, the surface should be stripped back to plaster and must not be “friable” (dusty or broken) or damp. If new, the plaster should be sized and then primed with Acrylic Gesso Primer or Oil Painting Primer.

The finished work should be allowed to dry for a suitable period (at least six months for traditional oils, and then protected with a removable picture varnish (if indoors).

8. Monoprinting

Artists’ Oilbar has proven to be particularly popular with
printmakers for monoprinting. Oilbar can be used directly on a glass plate, with or without medium, for direct transfer to the paper.

Let us know in the comments below of any other techniques or applications that you have tried that are not listed here.


About Gary Bolyer Fine Art

I am a New York City-based landscape artist.
This entry was posted in How to Paint in Oils and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 8 Oil Painting Techniques for the Inquiring Artist

  1. I studied painting at an English art school in the 60’s, but was so seduced by photo silkscreen and photo lithography that I eventually became a photographer. The landscapes that I live amongst in France are leading me to think that I should get back to painting:)

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