View Full Version : What exactly each item does

02-27-2008, 01:10 PM
Okay so I'm still really new at this and I read and read and read and I still have tons of questions. What exactly do certain things do? ie like gesso or the mineral spirits...do shapers do the same thing tortillions do? I'm so confused and I want to try everything but I'm just not sure what to do or where to start.

Pat Isaac
02-27-2008, 04:37 PM
Kirecer, I moved your thread over here, so people will see it.
Gesso is a ground that you paint on canvas, paper, board to protect the surface and to give a texture to your oil pastel. This is often done on non archival surfaces to preserve the painting. May paper now come with their own textured surface so gesso is not necessary.
Mineral spirits is used to spread the oil pastels usually for an underpainting and to blend the colors.
Shapers and tortillions do basically the same thing, but I find the shapers (firm) much more flexible.
Does this help?


02-27-2008, 05:20 PM
So for the mineral spirits you can use it to actually do a basic allover background before actually starting the piece? Are there any certain ones that are better then others?

Pat Isaac
02-27-2008, 05:40 PM
Actually other media will work for an underpainting. You can use watercolor, acrylic or a thin layer of oil paint. All of these work well for an underpainting for oil pastel.


02-27-2008, 07:38 PM
Let me expand a bit on what Pat said about underpainting:

Mineral spirits is a solvent, like turpentine. The most common method of using mineral spirits for oil pastellists is to create an underpainting. Dictionary.com defines the term "underpainting" in this way:

the first coat of paint, esp. the initial painting on a canvas in which the major areas, tones, colors, and forms are indicated in mass.
[Origin: 1865-70; under- + painting]
Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)

Because some of the papers (bristol vellum or watercolor paper, for instance) used for OP often have a texture and it's sometimes difficult to fill the "holes" in the texture (the small indentations in the surface), OP artists often employ an underpainting. A loose drawing is done with OP on the surface, often to establish the areas, tones, colors, and forms of the final painting, as the above definition mentions. But then, the artist uses a brush to apply mineral spirits. The OP will sort of liquefy and can be manipulated a bit with the brush to achieve a solid color layer upon which subsequent layers are then applied.

Sometimes mineral spirits are used during the course of a painting as well. If you decide to try mineral spirits at some point, make sure the area is well ventilated! But there's no need to use mineral spirits in the beginning.

Probably the best thing for a newbie to do is to jump right in and start painting with the supplies he/she has. As you work along, you'll find there are problems you want to solve (like the little white dots of the paper showing through with certain papers), and then some of this stuff will make more sense. You'll maybe even invent your own "tools" as many of us have done.

One of the really enjoyable things about OP painting is that it seems to invite invention and experimentation. But the really nice thing about OPs is that you don't need anything more than your OPs and a suitable surface to get started and paint something really pleasing. :)

02-27-2008, 08:35 PM
But the really nice thing about OPs is that you don't need anything more than your OPs and a suitable surface to get started and paint something really pleasing. :)

This is a key point, I think. It's better to be drawing/painting frequently and learning as you go. I wasted a lot of time reading about, thinking about, searching for...when I should have been sketching and painting. My daughters called me on it when one observed all I ever did was "get ready to draw".

Pat Isaac
02-27-2008, 09:38 PM
Sorry, I moved the thread again as it is an informational thread and not a posting of artwork thread.
Thanks, Annie for adding the info.


02-27-2008, 10:09 PM
Annie has covered a lot of good points. When I first started painting with OPs, I experimented a lot with using different surfaces and trying out different mediums to see what they would do. But now I usually just use Colourfix paper in a suitable background colour and a colour shaper to blend. Simple but effective. So I agree with Annie and Herb, just take the straight forward approach for now, and if you find you want to experiment more later, go to it. Best to just jump in and have fun. Jane

Pat Isaac
02-28-2008, 07:08 AM
That is the best advice. Just go to it.


02-28-2008, 06:10 PM
I don't know what sources you have read, but if you haven't read this post by Jane (and the other comments in the thread about it), you will find it an excellent introduction to many of the items you mention and very concise explanations of what they do. I recommend it highly if you have not already seen it. It can be found using the following link:


I hope this is helpful.

Good luck and remember there are lots of us out here that also are "newbies" and the only way to get answers is ask questions when you need to know how to do something. You will almost certainly find someone around here with the knowledge and willingness to share it!


02-29-2008, 05:20 PM
Thanks so much for the help! And somehow I have missed that page so thank you so much for posting...now to get to playing more.