View Full Version : Viridian underpainting in acrylic

07-06-2001, 09:29 PM
This an attempt at an underpainting in acrylic, using a very poor photo to capture the likeness. I used a mixture of viridian, black and white. I am trying to "create" shadow on the face and am not too sure if it's working.

Would also like some suggestion on what colors - I only want to use three if possible- I should use to finish the skin tones. I will probably complete it in oils.

Any advice appreciated! (Posted this in the critiques forum also but things tend to disappear there after a day or two and what I really need is oil color advice.

Thank you,



07-10-2001, 08:12 PM

I hope you don't mind but I have done a digital demonstration to illustrate what I want to say about the tonal modelling.

I wanted to suggest lightening the face quite a bit because it is a child. Also, taking the cue from the highlights, the direction of the lighting seems to be from top left. So I have strengthened the highlights for planes which the light would be hitting and adjusted the shadows - most noticeably on the right of the nose to give form to it.


Anyway, those are my ideas. It's a lovely image.

07-10-2001, 11:10 PM

Thank you very much for visually showing me what you mean. I appreciate it . You are very right about the values on her face. I have never done an underpainting before and did it this time because I thought she had such a cute expression in this photo.

Now, when I go over it in oil I will mentally adjust the values lighter. Or is it necessary to re-do this underpainting for a good result? I am not familiar at all with the technique as it's the first time I've used it.

The painting has just been sitting there while I try to decide what colors to use for the oils. It's been a long time since I used those too!

Thanks again,


07-10-2001, 11:22 PM
Well really we need our underpainting experts here - Verdaccio and campsart.

But as I understand the technique, you get each stage exactly right. So you need the underpainting correct as you want it. Then, when you glaze colour over the top thinly - to basically tint what you already have.

07-11-2001, 01:23 AM
Hello Nora! Nice work on your underpainting - you did a pretty good job on tonal modelling. I agree with Sandra on punching the values up on the mid and upper ranges a notch or two - bring your lightest values to almost white - remember the direction of your light and model the shapes to make them look round.

I would definately try to get the underpainting just as you want it as it will serve as your guide to the flesh tones that you put over it. You will want to create a range of flesh tones that match (in value) the values that you used in the underpainting. Then it becomes almost like a paint by numbers - lightest undertone = lightest flesh tone, darkest undertone = darkest flesh tone. Also, mix a slightly redder version of each value - work some of the redder tones into the areas of the face that have more blood - the cheeks, nose, lips, and anywhere flesh meets flesh in a crease. Work some gray into the skin tones anywhere the skin is stretched over bone that is close to the surface - mainly the forehead - not a mouse, but a grayer flesh tone.

It will be interesting to see how the flesh works over the bright veridian underpainting. In future, you may want to try a slightly duller green, but this may work just great and you could end up doing veridian forever! :)

Lastly, because the undertones were done in acrylic, be sure to blend plenty in the oil stage - and soften edges. There are no hard edges on a human being and softer edges help create dimension and realism.

Hope that helps! Again, nice start! :)

07-11-2001, 03:26 AM
Hi Nora...

Boy...I can't believe Sandra would refer to me as an expert. I do appreciate such comment but Verdaccio, Raffaele and others are the kowledgeable ones. I've only posted my work in progress. That's the only input I've offered. I'm really intimidated, to tell you the truth, at the thought of trying to give you any advice. I can only give you a few of my thoughts on the matter.

I believe acrylic would be a viable medium for underpainting but, personally, I would avoid it. I started out with acrylic and learned quite a few ways to manipulate it in order to achieve smoother gradations of colour and application. It has it's share of advantages but why make it harder on yourself? I know that I too could smooth the edges and rough spots as I work out the colour application and I could see where there might be some merit to this approach. However, I can't tell you how richly rewarded I felt by being as detailed as necessary in the initial underpainting. Verdaccio was so right in saying that you're 90% finished before applying the colour! I was so thrilled to lay in my first glazed colour and find that in many areas of my composition, I was finished with one single layer. Of course, other areas required layer upon layer to achieve the desired results. The Genesis heat-set paints served me well in this area because I could dry each layer immediately and not have to wait before laying in the next. Personally, I believe an initial oil underpainting would allow you to manipulate your gradations and tonal values much easier...especially if realism is your goal.

I believe you are amply supplied with the skills to manipulate and workout anything you have to for correcting or adjusting as you go but my advice to you is to follow Verdaccio's guidelines and you will be amazed as to the outcome. After he introduced me to these methods in the oil painting forum, I found I couldn't wait to at least try this approach. I sort of flew by the seat of my pants. I must admit...I didn't follow his advice entirely. I was too lazy to lay out the different piles of value scale on my palette. I paid a price for this neglect. I had to struggle a little as I tried to "match" the proper colour to underpainting values. I intend to follow his recommendations more closely as I go along.

I really like your rendition of this child and I think this should make for a very nice compo but I have to agree with Sandra that her corrected version is much more appealing. Although I seem to work back and forth when deciding about whether or not to work light to dark or dark to light I "visualize" or "think final colour" as I build volume or value ranges into the grayish underpainting. I simply see it as creating a drawing with paint. Overall, I see this whole process as hand coloring a black and white photograph. What monochromatic colour one chooses will be left to personal choice and conflict between traditional method and personal experimentation.

Please post your progression...


07-11-2001, 08:02 AM
Thank you David, Michael and Sandra. I have decided to take your advice and redo the underpainting before I take out the oils. Mainly because you make it sound EASIER!

As I am in the learning stages that's what I need.

Thanks for taking the time to help me out- almost feels like an art class here. :) I will post some progress pictures when I get back to it.