View Full Version : underpaintings

08-26-2008, 06:34 PM
for all fellow artists, what pastels brand do you use for UNDER PAINTINGS and why?

08-26-2008, 06:50 PM
Some pastellists use their regular pastels and wash them into the painting surface with alcohol.

There are others, including myself, who will do a very loose underpainting in opaque water color.

Washing pastel into the paper seems to use up an awfully lot of pastel. I think the opaque water color is easier and much more economical,

If you're not asking about washing in pastel, but using a hard pastel for a thin under painting; then nupastel will work but too many layers of pastel gets muddy. Those lower layers of pastel have a way of working toward the surface, unless washed in. Of course you can use fixitive between layers.

Anyway I prefer the opaque watercolor.

Kathryn Wilson
08-26-2008, 11:25 PM
I'm with Hal! The less dust I produce the better - I start with a strong watercolor underpainting.

I have seen people demonstrate with the harder pastels and wipe them down with Viva towels and it does work well surprisingly.

08-27-2008, 05:53 AM
Rembrandt pastels. Now and then a watercolour underpainting, with mostly transparent pigments, applied generously, but I do want the white of the paper to help bounce the light.

Donna T
08-27-2008, 08:08 AM
At the moment I'm using NuPastels. I use them on their sides to cover the paper, pressing harder for dark areas, rub them in and move them around with a plastic bag until I get a monochromatic value map, then I do a light spritz with rubbing alcohol to set it.


08-27-2008, 08:56 AM
Kathryn: Those artists wiping down their underpainting with Viva towels must not be working on sanded paper????

Kathryn Wilson
08-27-2008, 09:27 AM
Yes, they are and I've done it just recently - in fact, I did it with my little value painting. (see post #4 in the August Pastel Strokes)

Marc has an Article here on WC that shows his demo with it. Let me see if I can find it.

Here's the link to the Article:


I see that he does do an underpainting with gouche on this demo and then uses the Viva towel after his first block in -

I didn't have any problems with Wallis picking up lint from the towel, but I didn't rub it in either - rather, I used it to take off the extra pastel to leave my biggest blocks of colors.

08-27-2008, 11:20 AM
What a timely thread for me! Thanks for starting it! I havnt done any kind of under-painting as of yet.. but just received some wallis paper.. so, I want to give it a try. I do not have water colors or guoche..but do have some acrylics.. so will try that. I love Hansons demo & his final-, his final=finaal... even his wiped down version is amazing.. lots of great info here.. will be checking in often!!

08-27-2008, 12:23 PM
Make sure you thin down those acrylics to the consistency of a water color wash.

[quote=maw-t]but just received some wallis paper.. so, I want to give it a try. I do not have water colors or guoche..but do have some acrylics..]

08-27-2008, 03:11 PM

If you have problems with lint, you might give those little syrofoam packing peanuts a try. They blend really well, but have a tendency to break up from pressure, but they don't leave lint.

08-27-2008, 06:38 PM
I don't use a specific brand, just whatever color I need...
With that said, I use watercolor alot, but when I use pastel, I do wash with alcohol, and you actualy don't need to use a lot to get coverage. I normaly just apply a very light bit of pastel, but I use intense darks and bright lights! Then starting with the lights, I very sloppily and wetly apply alcohol. This makes a very strong coverage without using a lot of pastel, and no dust:)
Here is one I am working on now. There is really very little pastel used so far.

08-27-2008, 06:58 PM
Tressa, what kind of paper are you using?

Kathryn Wilson
08-27-2008, 07:08 PM
I've been using a watercolor set I bought from Mount Vision last year - really saturated colors that come in a bottle with a tip lid. (not sure he is still selling, but I vouch for them)

Here is an undercolor painting I did for a marsh scene.


08-27-2008, 08:15 PM
Wow, Kat, those are some sweeet looking luscious colors.

Hal, this particular one is black gatorboard with clear gesso applied.

Paula Ford
08-27-2008, 08:29 PM
I've been using a watercolor set I bought from Mount Vision last year - really saturated colors that come in a bottle with a tip lid. (not sure he is still selling, but I vouch for them)

Here is an undercolor painting I did for a marsh scene.


I use them too Kat. They are really saturated and wonderful!!

08-29-2008, 12:31 AM
If you use watercolours, gouache or acrylics in an underpainting, does the end result then become a mixed media piece rather than a pastel painting? Or do you label it a pastel with 'xyz' underpainting?


08-29-2008, 02:57 AM
Here's my two pennies worth. I generally use Rembrandts and blend them into the paper first, then finish off with a mix of AS, W&N and Schminke. :D

At the moment I am concentrating on my water colours so I can improve them enough to also use as underpaintings. :wink2:

I also would like to know what the answer is to the question, if you use another medium as an underpainting what do you refer to it as, is it a Soft Pastel as after all that is essentially what the finished product is or is it a mixed media? :confused:

Take Care and enjoy whatever you do.
Lots of Love Carolynn :) :) :heart: :heart: :heart:

08-29-2008, 07:25 AM
The answer is....it's a pastel painting!:D An underpainting is just that, under....

08-29-2008, 11:10 AM
I agree with Tressa, it's a pastel.

In my case almost none of the underpainting will show through. I don't draw with pencil, I basically do an extemely loose drawing with the water colors. I'm just basically locatiing the different elements of my painting. So much sky, here's the tree line, the barn is over here and its this big, The stream is this wide and runs in this direction, etc. There is no detail at this level, I'm just making sure everything fits and I can easily make changes with the water colors that would be more difficult with pastels.

I do know one pastellist that does an almost finished painting in opaque water color, before applying any pastel. In his case, I'm not sure. He still calls it a pastel.

08-29-2008, 12:24 PM
I have not yet done an underpainting and I do not know why as I do have Wallis waiting! So I better get on it!

I did watch Greg Biolchini do a demo on YouTube, have you seen this one?



08-29-2008, 01:38 PM
Hi Judy:
I haven't watched the Utube demo but I did purchase his tape and tried it on one of mine paintings. It just seemed to eat up so much of my pastels. It seemed to wash away more than it washed in.
That is why I'll stick with the opaque water colors for my under paintings.

08-29-2008, 02:16 PM
Unless I'm mistaken, it seems that most or all of the comments here regarding underpainting are for landscapes. What about other subjects including figure studies, portraits, still life's, and even abstracts? Any comments?

08-29-2008, 03:47 PM
My underpaintings are always very bright in colour, and I block in shadow and light.I don't do abstract, for the other subjects I underpaint portraits, still-lifes, you name it. It is because it provides the 'roadmap' of the painting (or 'skeleton', or light-key, placement, etc), and because I want colour-vibrations, and unification within a mass.

There are many ways to underpaint, this type is just my personal preference.

08-29-2008, 03:49 PM
The benefit of the underpainting should hold for all subjects. You get an initial layer of color down, on which to build, without creating dust and and possibly mud if you overwork an area.

08-29-2008, 09:47 PM
I do mostly figurative work and have never done an underpainting. I do use tinted paper and usually let some of the paper show through. Actually, I never do an underpainting for my landscapes, either. Maybe I should start doing them....


08-29-2008, 10:06 PM
hi Don: If you haven't needed underpainting, why bother. I usually paint on the coarse side of canson paper, or on pumice on canvas. I usually let very little of my paper or canvas show through. The opaque water color covers this coarsness very nicely and I don't have to use quite as much pastel to cover the rough texture.

Maggie P
08-31-2008, 04:09 PM
Like some others here, I underpaint with pastels in bright colors, and wash the result with turpenoid.

I don't restrict myself to harder pastels, but I do apply all of them with a very light touch. Working on white Wallis paper, I skim a layer of color over an area but you can still see the paper through it. When I apply the turp, if it feels like it's getting too thick or pasty, I use the turp and brush to lift off excess pastel. The result is a thin, clear, but vivid wash of color.

I love underpaintings. I do various sorts -- brilliant color, complements, value studies, whatever will make the painting work better. I find if I have a successful underpainting, my chances of a successful finished painting are greatly improved!

08-31-2008, 08:26 PM
LOL I was thinking I was a bit of a dunce here, I havn't really got much experience with pastels and was thinking that I better start doing an underpainting...until I realised that I do *do* a tonal underpainting, by blending in the main tones/shapes, which I learnt from experience wax the only way to get enough pastel onto the paper so that I could achieve the detail I wanted by the end of it:)

I havn't tried watercolours - I only have a student set of Reeves, but I do have oudorless mineral spirits - can that be used on colourfix paper like turpenoid?

I would love to use really bright colours in the underpainting, but the only bright colours I have are Mungyo Gallery (artists quality ones) but they are too soft for my liking. But maybe I could use them as an underpainting and use a liquid to 'set' them?


08-31-2008, 08:35 PM
Michelle, odorless mineral spirits are still hazardous to your heatlh. Why don't you use regular alcohol to fix your underpainting.

your student set of reeves should work just fine. You will cover all of the underpainting or almost all.

Also your Mungyo and alcohol will also work just fine.

09-02-2008, 01:03 AM
OK, I will have to try it:)

Er, next question? What sort of alcohol - I'm guessing vodka or scotch won't do;) Rubbing alcohol? (is that from a pharmacy, I think I might have got alcohol spirits for cleaning my girls ears when they had them pierced).

09-02-2008, 09:49 AM
Vodka will probably work just fine. Scotch might add light brown to your underpainting. But what a waste.

You could probably use ethanol (aka grain alcohol), but that's a controled substance here in the US and again, what a waste.

I've been using Rubbing Alcohol (Isopropanol) from the pharmacy. It's cheap, but toxic so don't drink it and keep it away from the kids. It dries quickly and spreads the pastel dust around nicely so a light coat of pastel will do the trick.


09-02-2008, 10:25 AM
I'm with Luana, I just use plain old rubbing alcohol off the drug store shelf. It's cheap and safe and works just great.

Using scotch would be a sin. :lol: