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i use underpaint basicly all the time, both for oils especially and digital. the digital process for me is basicly to lay the base colours down and to speed up the painting process. Oils is a similer reason, but mainly for one reason. Oil colours are pretty much translucent, so in order to not for the surface to show and becouse my style asks for a solid looking effect, and with out all the streaky brush marks, then underpainting to me is very important. I've also realised that the colour of underpainting isnt to important to me, though a mid to dark tone is advised. One more reason why i underpaint, i find a pure white surface to distracting, and doesnt give you a realist idea how the painted areas are looking tonally. Be aware though, i am an illustrator, so whatever techniques for underpainting i use are specifically for my illustrations. For someone who wants to create art that they they want to last a 100-200 years time, you may want to consider other techniques, and research on the theories behind underpainting properly.
Thanks for the information. I'm a little late in reading and replying, but this was very insightful!
i'm late to this thread ... but i use under painting quite regularly. mostly i use it in oils but with all my painting it gets some sort of an under painting. without glazing techniques you can still do it with acrylics you just need to mix the paint in a suspended binder that will dry clear to give the same effect of oils. for that i would use the latex semi-gloss base that you can get at your local hardware store. It's the stuff that looks sort of transparent and milky ... but not white, as this is what they use to mix vibrant colors such as primary colors without looking muddy (and also why you need to apply 2-3 coats to get no color bleed through) this will also thin your paints so water isn't needed or at the least only be needed in small quantities. It dries clear and you can work in an oil style without having to apply whole coats of glaze, and it will make your heavily opaque to have a translucence to it as well as able to sustain other materials in it for use in a tranperent medium. (on more than a few occasions i've put pure 200+ mesh graphite into my blacks so it gets a shimmer on the iris's of the eye or in night skys)
Also alot of artists i see use under painting barely define the form and use a blocking method only. Ik was pretty similar with the rope, as he didn't define complete value only the rough hues of them. since more than half your under painting will be covered up and the rest improved upon, use the under painting as more of a composition tool and less of a value tool and in the end the values will be there.
If you look at one colour, say a red square for a long time. Then close your eyes.
Now on the inside of your eyelids appears a green square.
Your brain can use the complimentary colour as a natural shadow colour to compensate - it's deconstructing the colour you are seeing as it knows it is not green, but its complimentary red.
It is a very natural thing, colours all have opposites - that colour wheel is not just a useful tool in Painter. It is somewhat scientific.
Now in real life with its infinite detail shadow colours can vary like crazy. The key is to simplify, now with under painting you can key in all your values, then use a complimentary colour for all your details and lit areas.
Great thread, thanks to Ilaekae and Jason Manley. Just wanted to link to a tut I found when my teacher was explaining to me the use of burnt umber in an underpainting. I wasn't quite understanding what he was talking about, so I googled a bit and found these tuts that I find just fantastic:
Favorite is green apple.
Also...Ilkaekae's demo isn't showing up for me...argh.
This has been a learning month for me.
The complimentary under painting idea never occurred to me, it’s setting some gears in motion. I remember that old painting I did while I was still in high school and didn't know about any color theory. The shadows didn't work until I just followed a strange instinct and mixed a gob of purple into my shadow color. I can see how this could lead to better design.
I always wondered why these brown or burnt sienna, drawings look so damn good.. After knowing about hot and cold for so long it, just never occurred to me that albeit that these are monochrome pieces, they are warm and it creates a nice effect on it's own that grayscale did not. But it's not exactly monochrome anymore since on a grayscale picture bright reflections or highlights, the white just seems to be part of the monochrome range. On a warm scale whites kind of looks separated so I guess it also helps in a preliminary stage to separate shadow, midtone and highlight more clearly. I suppose the same could account for using some greys in a brown/yellow drawing. So you are actually working with one temerature, tone and temperatureless whites and maybe some blacks.
Thinking about starting with warm, cold, tone and neutral aspects just never occured to me. Thanx.
So you can start your whole work from suggestion, from the vague to becoming more stated in all these areas.
Last edited by George Abraham; June 17th, 2009 at 03:31 AM.
Scetchbook: View the exhibitionist's stuff.
Underpaintings! wow, what a great thread.
My use is simply to capture the half tones, half shadows, shadows, and establish a very detailed rendering of the subject in a grey tone. In the next color layers, I don't have to concentrate so much on modeling as this has been performed for me in the dead layer. I don't use 100's of glazes, just a few in the shadow and darker areas of the painting. The well lit area's I use an opaque paint of the color needed. Again, some of the dead layer showing through where needed.
Doe's the girl drive on whell's?
coz that's maniacally depressed... aren't most of them un satisfied ov semethin?..
great art work!
**Only A child Doesn't give up!!***
***And there's nowhere to surrender***
Thank you for all this great info, it has been so helpful to me. I found this site because of this thread, and i wanna thank you all for that cause this is such a great site, and also because this thread has been so helpful to me. I recently tried to do an underpainting, and technically failed at it even thought the painting came out great. I misunderstood the need for glazing, so i really put alot of work into something that was lost in the end. but now thanks to this thread i feel like i have a much better understanding of the process and more importantly the purpose of an underpainting.
Now that i understand the process, i had a few questions that are more personal opinions than technical. How detailed do people ussually go in there underpaintings. I understand that a full rendering can be helpful, but at what point is it just wasting time. Right now i have a portrait thats about 3/4 rendered and was wondering if i should just jump into glazing when it drys as it stands, or is it really practical to fully render the subject. (note: i am working from a photo reference on this one because that the assingment, but id also like to know for when i do live painting). Id also like to know if people use the complimentary pigment as the dark tone and then lighten to render the values or if they use it as the mid range value. Any thoughts on this are greatly appreciated. Thanks so much for all the great advice
as many have stated the reasons for underpainting being succesful is often the translucency/transparency of oil paint. many have talked about its 'practical' application and the uses of glazing and scumbling but few have addressed the actual science behind its success. this is inherent in its translucency: or the ability for light to pass through something. the science behind what we see is that light reflects back to us off an object allowing us to see it three dimensionally. please keep in mind that most classical and renaissance underpainting is successful because of this. that is to say that light travels past the closest layer of paint and through the glazed areas toward the backing then back through and past those layers to let us see. this allows for optical mixing of colors that stack upon themselves as opposed to say a striped surface which mixes optically due to side by side proximity. therefore the effect of glazing is something to study in person and is hard to accurately portray via the interwebs or photography which through flattening destroy this effect. if you really want to understand glazing and its effects go to a museum and look at a very old oil painting. ie. davinci's 'madonna on the rocks' at the national museum in london, or the mona lisa. this is where you can actually see and begin to understand the interaction between light and pigment. light has corroded and destroyed some pigment to the point of being able to see the underpainting or grisaille. this is a direct result of the glazing process. as the transparency of the glazes pigment fades like a cars paint left in the sun of the tropics for a few years. more impasto paint will not have faded so much. a great place to see the fading of paint is in the royal naval academy in greenwich where many of the thinly painted figures show multiple hands. underpainting becomes extremely successful as in the quotes about titian's process when not only glazed over but used with impasto paint which is much less transparent. this affect is much like our ocular process where light actually rests on a surface and has a body of its own. the illusory nature of painting is strengthened by these tools of transparent glazes or shadows resting in space and impasto and scumbled paints resting on top of a surface. the use of impasto paint next to glazing then truly mimics the way we see and understand light/space/dimension.
im at work atm but i will come back and reread/tweak my response to this thread.
I just posted this in answer to a question about painting with soft pastel. As it touches on underpainting in this medium I thought I'd add it here.
This is a portrait of me done by my teacher Professor Lockard as a class demo. This is just with the three primaries and it is a value study, nothing about local color. Thus all that yellow in my beard is not to suggest "blonde", but the grey of age(sigh).
Note that the value range is narrow and pigment is lightly applied. This is a finished underpainting ready for the finishing colors which will extend the value range to the lightest lights and the darkest darks and address local color issues like skin tone
"Three's so little room for error."--Elwell
I have a friend who does her digital paintings in grey tones then puts transparent layers of color over that. I hadn't thought of doing that myself. I'm more of a traditional artist anyway. I'm still figuring out digital. But I really like the effect. I think it gives more depth to it to do that.
That's essentially how Alex Ross does his traditional watercolor comic art work.
"Three's so little room for error."--Elwell
I often get stuck in the stage of underpainting - just leaving it there. Love the way colors work then. About color contrast:
I found that
- yellow ochre underpainting makes great sunny skies (paint over opaque/semi-opaque with blue (mixed with white)
- night skies look great on first yellow ochre then burnt umber - paint over with indigo (no white)
-purplish underpainting (caput mortuum) makes green look fresh and intriguing
- green earth underpainting - GREAT for creating lively skintones.
-burnt siena makes this extremely friendly warm underpainting (sort of a skintone) , anything seems to look good on it.
The effect is best when the underpainting shines through just a little bit - 5 or 10 %.
Perfection is murder
Found this thread via a google search for underpainting; what a total bunch of info, mazin!
I'm not a concept artist, just a painter, but was never trained in any way (even though I did an illustration degree, they kinda skipped all of the important stuff and left us to our own devices before basically say 'no, that won't do', or 'well done, that's better'.)
Anyway, glad to be here and now for my question: I paint in acrylic, am having trouble with my paintings having any sort of life when they are finished. I've been experimenting with grey and also complimentary underpaintings, glazing over the top, but the colours are looking dull. Is it imperative that I add some sort of medium to my paint other than water- will it make a massive difference, or should I just continue to experiment until I crack it?
Or should I take the plunge and use oil? (please say no, I cannot imagine the drying time, the cleaning process, the fumes, and not least of all the seemingly endless opportunities to mess with the paint while it is still drying!)
Any response from an acrylic aficionado will be much appreciated.
The old masters did not use Grisaille.If Tintoretto or El Greco at times used a white under painting for some areas some of the time there is an element of Grisaille about them but Poussin,Rembrandt and Titian just plain did not use Grisaille.Think of Grisaille as a technique to train with if you are studying the old masters.If you use it as your main technique through out life that is your choise but you are in no way aspiring to the old masters.You may however be painting very excellent paintings so more power to your elbow if it works for you,you've just got nothing to do with Rembrandt or Titian thats all.
How do you know that they did not use one in one or another variation?
Give some hard evidence please.
Even if your skills would keep pace with your claims, delivering some evidence is a matter of course.
I suppose the best book on Rembrandt is Ernst Van De Wetering :The Painter at Work which gives a serious but understandable analysis of his technique this explains that the artist blocked in a loose/rough intention of his composition. (which was actually not monochrome to be tinted with colour like grisaille)This would be given multiple layers in varying textures from glazes to impasto etc in a way that is not suited to painting over a grisaille.Often(though not allways)a central aspect of Rembrandts ability to render flesh was "The Turgid Medium effect" which obviously is inconsistent with Grisaille.So generally speaking if like Titian you are using multiple layers its not overly effective as a strategy to start with a monochrome under painting especially if your working at a time of limited access to many pigments and have to create a broader range of colours not only by mixing on the pallete/pots but by glazing one colour over another for optical mixing.But I suppose the most obvious reason Titian or Rembrandt did not work this way is because the whole point or their style was one of improvisation of composition and/or pose, as they painted they revised in order to remain spontaneous.
By the way Im on your side,as my post above points out Grisaille is good not bad -but let me prove my opinion on this,there was a guy went to my collage a couple or years after me who has done good stuff with this technique -Google him "Paul Reid" scottish painter-I hope Ive not sounded "Up my own arse" as we say around Glasgow but we will have to agree to disagree on the matter of the old masters using grisaille in the way it is understood today.
I always use burnt umber for underpainting, even in digital medium. Having worked in traditional oils for a number of years, can't imagine starting the illustration any other way. Here are some of my underpaintings with a few words about the process.
My software of choice, in this case, was ArtRage but the technique could be applied to any other painting software.
Hope someone will find it helpful.