The Wet Canvas Art Glossary - all the art terms explained! A - B.

Article No. 123
Created: 08:37 AM 09.17.04
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A - The standard degree of color permanence. Also AA, B, C.


AA – The highest degree of color permanence


A.P. or AP - Artist's Proof or Approved Product when referring to low toxicities in products.


absorbent ground – A coating on a surface which can absorb the liquid in paint. Gesso is a very common absorbent ground.


Abstract Art – Art which is not representational. Form may be exaggerated or simplified to varying degrees.


Abstract Expressionism – A spontaneous, expressive approach to painting where artists applied paint forcefully or unconventionally (e.g. dripping, splashing) to often very large canvases.


accelerator - A substance which speeds up a chemical change, often used to promote drying or curing.


accent or accenting - In drawing, the increase or decrease in the weight or thickness of lines used for outlining or contouring a subject. Not to be confused with shading.


accidental color – In painting, the color resulting from mixing colors on a painting without planning or prior consideration.


acetate - A strong, transparent or semi-transparent sheet of plastic.


acetate color - Opaque, waterproof paint or ink for use on acetate, glass or extremely smooth surfaces.


acetone - A volatile solvent, used to remove or clean paint, inks, resins and glues


achromatic - Color which has no chroma i.e. a Neutral gray, black or white.


acid free – A material with a pH of or close to 7. These materials are usually inert and permanent. See Archival.


acid migration – Acid transferring from one material (usually more acidic) to another material (usually less acidic). This process has major implications in archiving works as it can cause discoloration of paintings and drawings, plus denaturing of supports.


acrylic flow improver - A medium used with acrylic paints that reduces surface tension, designed to improve their flow without altering the strength of its color. Also improves penetration of the paint into absorbent grounds and leveling during drying, lessening brushmarks. See also wetting agent


acrylic ‘gesso’ – A primer made from an acrylic binder, Titanium White pigment and an inert filler such as marble dust to improve absorbency and provide tooth. Not to be confused with real gesso. See also ground and tooth.


acrylic paints – Paint made using various polymer emulsions as a binder. Thinned with water during application it dries by evaporation to form an insoluble plastic film See the Acrylics Forum.


acrylic inks --  Acrylic based, these inks are water-soluble and become water resistant when dry. They are permanent, very lightfast, and can be used on a variety of supports.


Additive color - The effect seen when colored lights are mixed, resulting in brighter colors including white. See primary color.


aerial or atmospheric perspective- Portraying the effects of atmosphere (dust, humidity, pollution etc) in a painting to increase the sense of depth and distance. Often achieved by “bluing” colors, using soft edges, blurring details etc.


aerial view - A bird's-eye view, seeing from a great height. Usually applies to landscapes.

after – Found in an artist’s label or inscription, it means that the work was modeled on or uses many of the aspects of another artists work. The works may be almost identical or may be dissimilar in varying degrees.

afterimage - An image, usually in complementary colors, that persists in the eyes’ nerves after the original image is gone.


airbrush   A type of spray gun about the size of a pen used to precisely apply paints or inks. The air supply is usually canned gas or an air compressor.


alabaster – A translucent, soft stone, usually white or light yellow, used in sculpture.


albumen print – An old photographic paper coated with egg white to increase brightness of whites.


alkyd - A modern oil/resin binder used to make a form of fast-drying oil paints and mediums for use with traditional oils.


alla prima - Italian term for direct painting.


alligatoring - Cracked or heavily textured painting (hence the alligator skin reference).


all-over design - A repeated design over an entire area e.g. wallpaper, tiles.


altered proportion - A technique to change the size relationship of shapes in an artwork.


analogous colors - Any two or more colors adjacent to each other on the color wheel. Can be considered families of colors e.g. the “warm” colors red, orange, yellow, and the “cool” colors green, blue, violet.


angle of incidence – The angle formed when light strikes a surface. The angle is measured between the incident light and an imaginary line perpendicular to the surface.


animation – A technique of film making where drawings or puppets are photographed in sequence to give the illusion of movement.


anime – A style of animation adopted and favored by the Japanese.


anneal – Heating and cooling of metal or glass to toughen it.


antiquing – Causing an object to have an aged appearance. Techniques include surface sanding or rubbing and glazing with darker colors e.g. umbers 


applique - A design where cut out fabric is applied to a larger piece of fabric.


aquarelle - Painting with transparent watercolor or work produced using this method.


aquarelle brush - A style of watercolor brush. When used flat they cover large areas but can also make a fine line when used on edge.


arc – A section or part of the circumference of a circle.


archival  - Refers to the durability and lasting qualities of a pigment, surface or material. Acid–free materials, being largely inert, generally last longer and are considered better archival supports.


art conservation – Preservation and protection of art works from physical deterioration, to keep them as close as possible to their original form.


art restoration - Repairing artworks, returning them to as close to original condition as possible.


artist's bridge - A tool to support the hand and avoid smudging existing work. Often called a mahl or a mahlstick, it helps to keep the hand stable and steady and clear of the surface.


ASTM - the American Society for Testing and Materials; an association of committees that draw up standards for manufacturers. Those for artists' materials, principally lightfastness but also for other characteristics including consistency, are becoming widely accepted internationally.


atelier – A workshop or artist’s studio.






B - On a tube of paint, indicates a color of less than permanent quality.  See also A and AA.


B&W – Black and white


background – The portion of a picture behind the focal point, farthest away from the viewer.


backlight – Light coming from behind a subject.


balance – A design principle.  Objects in a painting can be symmetrically balanced or out of balance.  See the Composition and Design forum.


binary colors – A color made by mixing two of the primary colors.  Examples include green, orange, and purple.


binder -  The adhesive component of paints or pastels that binds the particles of pigment together and to the ground when applied. In watercolors and pastels this is usually gum Arabic, in tempera egg yolk, in oil paint, a drying oil and in acrylics, acrylic polymer emulsion. See also vehicle.


bitmapA type of digital image, typically with a file extension of .BMP, .JPG, or .GIF. To upload an image on WetCanvas, images must be in bitmap format.


bleed – In painting, bleeding is when the medium expands into an unintended area.


blend – Merging color together with a brush, cloth, stump or similar device.  The goal with blending is to smooth the apparent texture and produce smooth transitions from one color to another.


blocking In – Adding initial color in the major shapes of the composition.


bloom -  Usually used to describe a flaw in varnishes where a whitish clouding appears, often due to moisture being trapped beneath the dried varnish.


bodycolor -  Opaque watercolor, essentially similar to gouache.


bright – A type of brush characterized by short, even-length bristles.


brilliance - A characteristic of colour when it is both light in value and high in chroma. See also Value.


bristle – A type of brush made up of stiff hairs.


bristol board – A type of lightly textured drawing paper that is typically stiff and holds up well to multiple erasing.  Includes two types of surfaces – Smooth or Plate finish, which is ideal for pencil and ink, and Vellum or Kid, which is slightly more textured and works well with crayon and charcoal.


brushes – A tool using in painting.  See the Dick Blick website for an excellent overview of brushes types and shapes.


brush cleaners – A cleaning substance made specifically to clean paint residue from artists’ brushes, typically conditioning the bristles in the process.


buckle – Paper will sometimes develop waves and bubbles from an uneven application of liquid, called buckling.


burnish – The act of smoothing a surface with a tool of some sort.




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