View Full Version : Question About Toning Canvas / Imprimatura

06-15-2010, 09:30 PM
What I did on my last painting to tone the canvas, was place a thin wash of Burt Umber over my inked in drawing. Then I let that dry before I painted again.

Now, here's what I'd like to know.

I think some people think that toning the Gesso is better?

I also know that some would say that one should not add any more than 20% thinner/medium to oil paint... so is that why tinting the gesso instead is a preferred method?

One advantage that seemed to come of my laying in a wash over the inked drawing, was that it served to:

a) seal the drawing layer
b) prepped the next stage... so the gesso wasn't as absorbent... because it has the Imprimatura wash to kind of size/prime the surface to help accept oils better on the next stage

Just would like to know the preferred/proper way to do it :) This would be for the Flemish style BTW.

Mark Sheeky
06-16-2010, 05:42 AM
You're reasons are correct and I think it's best to do it the way you've done it. The medium should be very lean (more solvent than oil) and for a wash like this the 20% rule can be ignored, that's really for the painting layers.

I occasionally tint the gesso if speed is important but generally do it the way you say.


06-16-2010, 06:05 AM
While Mark is probably right (it's possible to get your paint underbound in the first layer with a lot of solvent, but many people think this isn't a huge problem and seem to experience no problems), I would like to mention that it is not *absolutely necessary* to thin your paint a great deal for your imprimatura.

(Or even at all, honestly.)

Here is an opaque yellow ochre scraped onto a panel, using straight paint and a palette knife. As I hope you can probably see, it's so thin that it is quite transparent.


Use a trusty old raggedy brush (or one you don't mind getting raggedy) to scrub it in, or lint-free cloths, or a gloved hand, or newsprint...you just need to get it thin some way. :)

(This is usually how I avoid using solvents, as I hate how they feel.)


06-16-2010, 08:18 AM
I do imprimatura every time I do a layered project. I lay it over my inked drawing, the way you did it. I don't use a lot of medium, just enough to have the paint spread smoothly. I use my largest brush to spread it around the canvas, then I take a clean rug and rub it in to achieve nice and smooth and transparent layer. Works very well for me. :)

06-16-2010, 11:55 AM
Thanks everyone. I think I shall continue what I've been doing... and maybe experiment with rubbing it on with a rag as well.