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Lessons in Underpainting

Important Lessons in Underpainting

One of the most important things I’ve learned as I’ve delved further into the realm of acrylic and oil painting is the value of underpainting before even thinking about laying in color.

Underpainting refers to the “painted rough draft,” if you will, of what one intends to paint and allows one the opportunity to address composition details as well as make drawing adjustments.

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This underpainting helped me see that my ellipses needed a bit more work

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Underpaintings also help you to readjust your composition details

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Underpinnings allow me to tweak ellipses very specifically before laying in color

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In summary, underpaintings:

  • aren’t meant to be perfect renderings
  • allow you to work out your ideas on the canvas well before you start thinking about laying in color
  • help you see where your composition needs more attention or refinement

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And when working on your underpainting:

  • keep your brush strokes loose
  • be ready to make adjustments
  • routinely step back away from underpainting to review your placements and proportions with a refreshed eye
  • don’t focus on nitty-gritty details; keep your focus limited to composition and cast shadow placements
  • stay loose and keep your process relatively brief

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So there you have it, a summarized overview of what an underpainting is and how it can be extremely helpful before any color blocking begins.

I hope this helps you understand the importance of underpainting as well as inspires you to not skip this important part of the painting process.

~ Enjoy!

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Mayra Ruiz-McPherson
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