View Full Version : Working Light to Dark

10-21-2009, 11:22 AM
Hi I wonder if someone can help me
Im about to explore oil painting for the first time, and have bought a few Windsor Newton Artisan Paints to start me off. I want to work by layering up glazes, and working light to dark

But Im a little confused, if I cant use linseed to mix with white and pale tones as it yellows them then I have to use safflower or poppy oil. Now I read that you shouldnt use these oils under linseed as they dry slower so will cause cracking, so whats the way around this.

Also using the whole fat over lean rule. I cant use white to lighten a colour as its opaque and I need to use translucent tones. so that means surely using more oil to pigment to get a lighter tone instead, but again this means that each layer that gets darker will mean using more pigment and less oil, so going against the whole fat over lean.

Why does this not make sense?????

10-21-2009, 12:35 PM
Hmm I think maybe you have misunderstood how glazing works.

starting at the beginning, generally the underpainting would be done in the same way you would do a black & white drawing, ie the white canvas gives you the whites, and the rest would be painted in either raw or burnt umber (umber is the ideal pigment for underpaintings because it is a 'siccative' that is it acts as a catalyst to speed up the drying times) the finished underpainting would be like a 'drawn' painting with all the shades already in place.

For the glazes you would tend to use more medium that pigment with the medium increasing slightly with each layer, for the darker parts you don't add more pigment - you add more layers, as each succesive layer increases the darkness of the paint.

Try experimenting first to see how it works, get some Artisan fast drying medium (which is better than linseed oil for glazes anyway) and paint a circle of one colour using a mix of approx one part paint to say five parts medium, this will create a transparent coloured circle, leave it to dry overnight then paint another smaller circle over the first one using the same colour and a similar mix, the new circle will be darker than the first circle.

If you were to repeat this process over a few days adding a smaller circle inside the previous one each new circle would be darker as the layers build up, this is how you would make the shadows in your painting darker

For the whites use mixing white (zinc white) its a translucent white designed to be mixed with other colours without overpowering them like Titanium white would, though its still got safflower oil so its probably best not to use it in underpaintings.

10-21-2009, 01:59 PM
Ah I see, yes I wasnt thinking of the fact that after adding the initial dark in the under painting I wouldnt need to add more dork shades, just colours.

I was thinking of adding the Zinc White to mix for lighter tones but when I was looking on the Windsor Newton site it said that their Zinc white was also Opaque like the Titanium white. Have you ever used this to know what its like?

Thanks for the tip on the Artisan fast drying medium, I di see this in the shop, but they had seperated in the bottles with the bottom layer appearing solid, so I think they had gone funny and didnt get any. I will have a look alsewhere tomorrow.

For the underpainting I was planning on doing it black, grey and white tones as oposed to brown, just cause classical figure paintings I have seen seem to have been done this way, do you think brown tones would be better then?

10-21-2009, 02:31 PM
That solidified/settled fast drying medium is of the original formula. I brought some and it did just that. I contacted W&N and they sent me a replacement and gave me the explanation I have just quoted. I have not had any problems with the fast drying medium since.


10-21-2009, 03:06 PM
yep like autolisp said the new fast drying medium is a lot better - you did right not buying the stuff on the shelf if it had settled likr that (TBH I'm surprised that there are still shops out there trying to flog this stuff when it has obviously gone off !!)

Zinc white is more semi opaque than opaque, certainly if thinned with medium you will get a sort of foggy translucent finish which darker colours will shine through, which is why its better than titanium white for mixing lighter colours.

most blacks and whites are very slow drying so you would need to wait quite a while before you could overpaint - probably weeks, or you would get cracking in the over glazes!

A lot of the old classical paintings used umbers as the underpainting because the masters knew that this would make for better drying and more stable paintings, it just doesn't seem that way because of the cooler tones used in the glazes

Raw Umber is the nearest to a neutral brown shade so that would be the best colour for underpainting, but burnt umber is also quite useful for underpainting flesh tones too because of its warmer finish.

the image below is an unfinished painting by Leonardo davinci which shows the umber underpainting he used:


Again experimentation is the order of the day, get a small peice of canvas board and try painting simple different coloured shperes with umber underpaintings to get a feel of how the technique works, this will help to save heartache later on when you try work on a full painting. even now if I'm trying out a new brand of paints I paint spheres to get a feel for the paints properties :)

10-21-2009, 04:42 PM
Thanks for your help. I have made a start tonight and Im trying both methids, underpainting with greys for the skin tones and browns for the hair and other bits. Also I have been a bit unconventional and used acrylics to underpaint, again windsor newtons site says you can use them with the artisan range, so I figured this would save on drying time, and eliminate any issue with using safflower mix white oils under linseed mixes.

10-21-2009, 05:53 PM
Yep thats the other way to do it :)

10-21-2009, 07:23 PM
Hi InMinx! I've only have limited experience with glazing but I did have some videos as favorites on YouTube that I found great for glazing. Here's the links:


This one is one painting but has three links as it's in three parts:




11-02-2009, 08:18 PM
I paint from light to dark in oils and use the white of the board as my white i use Liquin as my (water) to make the glaze lighter allow each layer to dry before adding the next .The colors are mainly transpaprent you can use opaque in the first layers is best they will be thin enough useing the Liquin Also my surface i prepare to paint on is very smooth I have just posted in floral and botanical a glowing rose under my name.I would use the glazing medium of whatever brand of pigments you use I put a small amout of medium on the synthetic brush then use a nylon scrubber brush to pull the paint out thinner to get more variation of pigment.