View Full Version : underpainting

Little Mary
10-17-2012, 04:17 PM
I don't know if this this the right place to ask questions. Can some explain to me what is underpainting for pastels. Is is the lightest color and work towards dark colors? I am lost.

10-17-2012, 06:00 PM
I am sure that there are number of techniques that can be used. I have seen people do underpaintings with Watercolors and with pastels and alcohol and or turpentine. When I tried it, I used pastels and alcohol on Canson Mi-Tientes paper. The alcohol made the underpainting dry very quickly, so there was not much of a pause between underpainting and painting. I was really surprised how the paper reacted to the alcohol. I was concerned that the 98# paper might be damaged to some degree by the liquid, but instead the paper was not damaged at all and the color became more infused with the paper then if it had been applied dry.
With the underpainting, you are basically laying in basic colors for your final painting. It creates a foundation on which to build your finished painting. For me, it is a technique that really works.
Hope this helps!

10-17-2012, 06:37 PM
Here is a link to an older monthly Spotlight activity thread on underpaintings:


And some links to Richard McKinley's blog:




Keep in mind that you do not have to do an underpainting at all. You can just start working with your final shapes and colors.

Hope these help!


10-17-2012, 09:28 PM
For me an underpainting gives me something to respond to. I don't always use them, but I do find them to be useful and a nice change from going in directly with pastels. It gives you an opportunity to lay in some groundwork, to have a map so to speak. You can then "respond" to what is on the paper, and it is especially nice with landscapes, though it is really effective for any subject. There are many different ways to do an underpainting for pastels. You can use watercolor, gouache, alcohol sprayed pastel, or brushed alcohol on pastel, very thinly applied oil paint, just to name a few ideas. It really is all about playing and experimenting. You do need to be careful of the surface you use, making sure to use something that can accept wet media. Many people will do underpaintings using complimentary colors, that is to use colors complimentary to the pastels you intend to use in the finished painting. There are many different approaches, you just need to play a bit and try new things. Don gave you some great resources, sometimes reading up on other artists' techniques is very helpful.

10-18-2012, 05:00 AM
Good tips already. I'll just add that an underpainting can also simply be dry pastel, a block in of the major shapes and values which, as already said, gives you a starting point or "map" for your painting, whatever the subject matter.

10-18-2012, 09:52 AM
I enjoy underpainting using complementary colors. It's fun! For more on this particular angle on underpainting, see Deb Secor's 'CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE UNDERPAINTING IN COMPLEMENTS' (http://landscapesinpastel.blogspot.com/2010/09/chapter-31-underpainting-in-complements.html). Very helpful!