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Submitted on
May 21, 2009
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Traditional Oil Preparation by Cal-Erstein Traditional Oil Preparation by Cal-Erstein
Other tutorials available here: [link]

INFO BELOW will eventually become it's own tutorial.

Cheap oil paint dries slowly. Better oil paint actually dries faster--but the thicker you apply it, the slower it dries. If you want to speed up this process, you can buy Cobalt drier (but only use about 2-3 drops at a time, and don't touch it to yourself. It's poisonous).

When it comes to the actual painting itself:
Option 1: Alla-prima: painted all at one time. Metal paints may react chemically with other paints, so you have to be careful about what you mix. In an ideal circumstance, you wouldn't mix anything. But that requires many MANY different shades of color (one artist had 40 yellows, for instance)... I'm too lazy for that. So I just try and get pigments that can mix without chemically reacting.

Option 2: Grisaille: black/white underpainting. Color glazes are applied on top of the grisaille, each glaze drying completely before applying the new one. (A color glaze is just the oil paint combined with your paint medium).
--Since your color is transparent, you can't make it lighter than it is (unless you buy a lighter color). Putting a grey or black underneath it, however, can make it darker.
--Many thin glazes of color are better than a few thick ones. Light refracts through each layer, making the color more vibrant and alive. If you have thick layers, it just bounces off of the first one and looks rather dull.
--Completely finish glazing each individual color before moving on to another one. Generally start with yellow or red.
--You can apply a color glaze over the entire painting and then rub off the areas you don't want that color in with a cotton rag. It's faster.
--You can get the appearance of one color without actually using it. A grey put next to a red-ish yellow makes the grey look more blue. Likewise, a very thin yellow on grey looks green when next to a yellow-red. Experiment a bit to see what you can get.
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Esmemi-Luniculaire Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2012
wow, that was SO informative. I've done oil for some years now, and there was so much I learned from this tutorial. Thank you very much. I had no idea so many paints were poisonous. I was only aware that the lead white and the cadmium derived colors were poisonous. I knew that zinc and cobalt paint is poisonous, but I thought that was only if you were idiotic enough to ingest it, and that for the most part, a little bit of paint on your hand's skin should be safe.
That part about priming the canvas was very informative. in [link] it appears that Benjamin West hadn't primed his canvas.
Cal-Erstein Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2013   Traditional Artist
I'm glad it was useful to you!

You can still use "poisonous" paints safely as long as you understand the risks associated with the particular pigment and take precautions to avoid them. I believe my teacher often used little bits of cadmium red in his pieces, but wore gloves when doing so and sealed the painting before and after applying it (to make sure the metal didn't interact badly with other pigments). A little bit on your hand probably won't kill you, but if you're using these pigments quite often then it only becomes more and more dangerous to your long-term health. In general: Better safe than sorry!

Since the painting you linked to was made in 1783 it seems likely that it was primed it correctly (likely, though I don't know for certain of course). It's possible that Benjamin West used a different priming agent, or that it discolored slightly in time since the painting was never finished and sealed.
Khyansaria Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2012  Student General Artist
I just learned more from this tutorial than I have in my oil painting class. :)

Not sure whom that speaks well or ill of....
Faraku Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2011
would Pthalo Green be safe? Im guessing not because the blue that had that name isnt. And is French Ultramarine?
Cal-Erstein Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2011   Traditional Artist
Ah. For pigment information, I suggest looking at my tutorial here: [link] That lists a very helpful book that should be accurate, and it also links to an online scale that is mostly accurate-ish.
Faraku Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2011
Thankyou ^^ this is helpful, have a 4 yr old sibling, so best to be aware of these things ^^"
Cal-Erstein Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2011   Traditional Artist
You're welcome!
Momosaur-rex Featured By Owner May 10, 2011
/: Honestly (no mean comment), you are degrading some one else's art form. It's nice to do as old painters but it's great (I find it even better) to find new and different forms as well as keep progressing just as the world that surrounds and affects us artist. Plus I think you should be more informed on how and why materials like (acrylic, student grade, etc) were made. That's just my perspective of this.

(Don't take it to heart, I don't mean to insult or whatever you might feel)
Cal-Erstein Featured By Owner May 15, 2011   Traditional Artist
You have a very valid opinion, but I did try as much as possible not to purposely "degrade" other people's art. I just want artists to know that the art ITSELF can degrade... whether they paint so their art will last thousands or years, or whether they paint so it will last three months is entirely up to them. But it's important to know the differences so you can choose for yourself.

I'm sorry you felt that I was attacking other art forms. The tutorial may partly seem like that because I needed to emphasize the low life-span of certain materials and etc.

Also, I'm only a student on the subject, so I can't really delve into how certain materials are made (although I'm sure that would be nice). This is more of a summary tutorial than a master thesis on the subject. It gives the artist something to think about, and a bit of information on how to get started.
Liach-Elrot Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2009   Interface Designer
humm, how do you make blue out of black yellow red and white ?
For all i know: Magenta, Yellow, Cyan Blue, White and Black are the basic colors ^^"
But overall i think this is a good tutorial XD
Thanks for the help.
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