Oil Painting Techniques:


What is Imprimatura?


The imprimatura helps you judge values better, and can also provide a base for optical color mixing effects.

How to do it

Mix black with a little phthalo blue together with liquin or with a mixture of 80% dammar varnish 28% turpentine and very small amount (2%) of linseed oil (to prevent cracking).


The liquin makes the imprimatura dry quickly. Cover the canvas thinly, scrubbing the paint into the surface so that you end up with a transparent layer of a value of around six or seven (on the Munsell scale).


Color of imprimatura -


I use a cool blue gray imprimatura because:


  • it often approximates to a sky color, which is another reason I like to use this imprimatura so I automati- cally have my sky in place when I start.


  • it helps me more easily judge color.


An alternative to a cool imprimatura is to use a warm imprimatura (such as a sienna, an orange, or a pink hue), I use a warm imprimatura on occasions when painting a scene that is has mainly cool colors such as greens or blues.



Note: For more information on the oil and acrylic painting technique of imprimaturas, see the lesson on the Alla Prima process in Workshop D of the Virtual Art Academy® Apprentice Program.

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