View Full Version : underpainting question

04-30-2010, 11:20 AM
Hi everyone,

I spent yesterday doing a landscape from Maggie Price's new book. My second attempt at a landscape. I am also trying different papers from my Dakota sampler. Yesterday I used white Sabretooth. It was fine to work on and I am pretty pleased with how the painting turned out. However, when I photographed it with the thought of putting it up for C&C the little white bits of paper showing through were magnified by the camera. Yuck!!! I've never done an underpainting. I have toned the paper like Deborah Secor does but I did not do that yesterday. Do most of you do the underpainting to avoid this particular problem of those white flecks? I can see where the flecks could be useful, like in sparkling water for instance. I want to do another landscape this weekend but need input on this.

04-30-2010, 12:15 PM
Dena, didja do a pastel underpainting? The trick is to get it to cover the whole paper (brush dry/ rub in with fingers (maybe not on Sabretooth...)/ brush wet with water or alcohol), or learn to live with white specks. The camera makes them more visible, especially when you sharpen the image (using "unsharpen"). It is usually not visible at all, or very little, in real life.


Paula Ford
04-30-2010, 12:29 PM
That is exactly the reason I either tone or do an alcohol wash underpainting. Those little white dots drive me nuts if I don't.

04-30-2010, 01:14 PM
If I'm working on a textured paper, I usually just blend in the color of my initial layer with my fingers to cover the "dots" as best as I can. Sometimes a hint of the paper color (usually not white paper) showing through can actually unite a painting's color scheme, but then the paper is usually a more neutral color, not something intense and noticeable.

Doing a wet underpainting is definitely a good way of covering the paper with that initial layer. Plus that underpainting layer dries without "dust" so your next layers of pastel go on without worrying about blending with, or disrupting, the underpainting colors.


Donna T
04-30-2010, 01:15 PM
That is exactly the reason I either tone or do an alcohol wash underpainting. Those little white dots drive me nuts if I don't.

Same here! I can't work on white paper at all anymore. Not only do the white specks show up when you photograph your work but they interfere with the dark passages. Nothing like trying to make a convincing dark area, deep in a forest or between trees for example, only to have white specks jump out and attract attention. They totally ruin any attempt to get correct values. I would rather add white flecks to get the sparkling water look with a charcoal or pastel pencil. Those areas of light would really be on top of the water anyway not glowing up from underneath. Just my 2 cents.

04-30-2010, 01:21 PM
I brought four tubes of acrylic. Red, Yellow, Blue and a brown. I use a small amount of blue and red with water and it tones nicely. I am doing a rock wall now so I used brown and water. I do this on all my white wallis paper. james

04-30-2010, 01:31 PM
Yippee!!! Great advice from all of you! I'm glad it is not just my inexperience that makes me cringe when I see the white dots. Now that you all know the problem, I may post the painting so you can make suggestions on other aspects than the dots.
Thanks so much to each and everyone of you!

04-30-2010, 05:10 PM
Something else to consider -- IF you are using the on-camera flash, the light will bounce off the white specs and be easily seen. Kinda like red-eye with people. If possible, take the photo outside on a cloudy day (less intense light and more even) or inside with two equal-power lights placed equidistant at 45* to the left and the right of the picture. (It sounds complicated, but this is a case of one hundred words being worth a picture! :p )

And do not forget to have the back of the camera (what used to be called the film plane) parallel with the painting, or else you'll get the "truncated pyramid" effect.


04-30-2010, 06:19 PM
Thanks Rich. I have been shooting inside w/ no flash and parallel with the painting. Glad I'm doing that much right. LOL! From now on I will tone the paper to get rid of those pesky white dots!

Tom Perry
05-01-2010, 03:53 PM
Some more useful advice to go along with Rich's suggestion. If your camera has a zoom, back off from the painting and zoom in. this will prevent the "barreling" of the edges. I find this much easier than using software to do the same thing.