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.


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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