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Create an underpainting



Underpaintings are used to assist you in creating your finished painting and are helpful for gaining perspective, placement and measuring in your work. Underpaintings are significant in reducing time for your final piece, especially if you cannot draw very well, or you are producing finished artworks quickly to sell.


Items you will need

Photograph of subject                                  

Table and/or easel 

Plastic Tablecloth

Canvas paper (good quality 300gsm or higher), canvas boards or framed canvas

Paints (artist quality) as they are colorfast and generally have a better consistency (good quality 300gsm or higher)

brushes (quality) assorted sizes and shapes 


Masking tape

Clear picture varnish or similar

Original photo Artistic filter applied to photo

Step 1

Using a computer and graphics program, choose a filter like - 'photocopy' to produce a negative and positive image.

Apply the 'photocopy filter' to your image and print it out. You can print the whole image on one A4 piece of paper or multiple paper, depending on the size of the canvas you are using.

Your image should look, something like this

I printed the image on 2 A4 pieces of paper as my canvas size is 31cm X 41cm. Print the image in one color, so you get a negative and positive image. I used black as it is easy to see through and my painting is basically tones of grey,black and silver.                            

Step 2

Turn your paper over and roughly draw over the black (positive) area with black charcoal, if you cannot see through the paper use a lightbox, if you are lucky enough to have one, or tape the paper to a window and use the sunlight.

Prepare your canvas, by applying a few good coats of paint to seal it, allow to dry before continuing. Turn your paper over again and pressing the image to the canvas (use masking tape) gently trace the outline using any pencil (I used red so I could see where I was going), to transfer the positive outline to your canvas.

Step 3

If the charcoal is too dark, simply use a soft eraser to remove some from the canvas. Paint your positive images using any color/colors relevant to your subject with oil or acrylic paints. This can be time consuming, so take your time, you may not need to paint every single shape, remember anything worth creating shouldn't be rushed.

Step 4

Now paint over the underpainting to finish off your work in any medium and style you want, when dry spray finished painting with a clear picture varnish and frame your work



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