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Thread: Under painting

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    South Eastern U. S.

    Under painting

    I have been looking at a lot of portrait tutorials and one thing that they all have in common is under painting.As for me never having formal lesson i did not know about it. I know some what how this would effect the overall painting. How many use it in Art rage when doing a portrait and why?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2011

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Reno, Nevada
    Excellent question, Shellcrackerjr!

    I paint every painting with an underpainting, but that is my preference. Portraits or landscapes. For me, it gives a different dimension to the paintings and seems to help them become more like traditional paintings.

    Sometimes I use complementary colors in the four different sections of a landscape. Except for the sky which I usually use a blue color of some kind.

    My limited experience of painting portraits (3), I have painted the painting twice. The first layer is a complete painting using a Square Canvas 2 brush or variant of that. Really very loosely painted. Then, the next layer I use the oil brush with thinner than usual settings to allow the canvas texture to show up. The first layer does come through and gives the resulting painting depth and variety.

    The best way for you to know what you like is to watch some YT videos on underpaintings. Study what pastel painters do. They love using underpaintings. And, I agree with them all. Karen Margulis has excellent ideas on how to use underpaintings.

    Give some underpaintings a try. You can't break anything! Crank out a few quick paintings (keeping it really lose) to see the concept in action.

    Thanks for the post!
    Robert Hopkins

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Hello Shellcrackerjr

    As HwyStar mentioned, one thing to keep in mind is that for an underpainting to work at all (in the context of providing a effect still visible in the final painting), at least some of the underpainting's color has to arrive at the eye of the viewer.

    In real world painting, this is achieved without too much fuss since strokes of paint unless very think (or build up a lot) will still show some of the underpainting through. Also tiny gaps between strokes or areas of thin paint allow some of the underpainting to show through. In the real world it is quite easy for some of the underpaiting to show through even if the whole canvas has been covered in paint. Just think about painting your walls... you often need 3 coats to ensure proper coverage i.e. to completely block the original paint from showing through.

    With digital painting it is ridiculously easy to lay down a 100% opacity stroke which lets ABSOLUTELY NONE of the underpainting through. In order for ANY of the underpainting to show through (and hence have ANY EFFECT on the viewer at all) there MUST be some pixels in the areas you paint where the opacity of your painting strokes over the underpainting are NOT 100% opacity. This means in ArtRage for example, using a custom brush with "minimum opacity" (under pressure variance) set below 100 (many brushes are set at 0 as a default which is good for use with an underpainting). For the oil brush in ArtRage it means using some thinners, or upping the stiffness so that at least some of the underpainting is showing through (even if only at low percentages), and/or not completely overlapping all of your strokes to completely cover the canvas.

    Painting a digital oil layer in ArtRage with thick oils (no thinners and no stiffness) with no gaps in the strokes will effectively render that layer 100% opaque and the underpaiting 0% visible, making it entirely and absolutely useless and pointless.

    Something to think about when using an underpainting, IF the purpose of the underpainting is to have an effect visible in the final painting.

    Last edited by DarkOwnt; 06-11-2018 at 01:06 PM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    I'm going to back it up a step to where you can look at whether underpainting has a purpose for you. Why would some people use it and others not. Not all people use it for the same reason. But what I see as the value of an underpainting - of the old school kind - is to establish your values, meaning your lights and darks. Those people work out their composition with a full range of darks and lights monochromatically (in grays or sepia etc) to where it pretty well works as a picture. Then they come back over it and more or less remain faithful with the full color palette to the monochromatic version over which they are painting. It's essentially a road map.

    There are others who generally cover a canvas with a general mid tone merely to remove the curse of a white canvas because the relationship of any subsequent colors and values when the canvas is white would change often dramatically as the actual values get painted in. For example when you put a middle gray against a white background it will look darker, and when that same gray is against a black background it will look lighter. So as you fill in your painting the color and value of your painting, it may throw the whole thing off and an underpainting often keeps everything on purpose.

    Many artists do not use an underpainting at all because it takes longer to paint a painting. Some block in with a short cut underpainting that is more general. Some just tint the canvas a tone(s) with colors as a starting point. Some do a rather detailed version of the final. Still with others, because digital painters don't have to worry about painting over old paint, there's a more modern way especially for concept work where it's just part of the thinking process and they chip away on the fly with broad strokes until they see what they want to take to a finish. All depends on the artist, their need to plan or not and their style. The above is not an exhaustive list of how to do it and for what purpose, but those are some ideas.

    It's definitely worth experiencing it to explore what you want to use it for. So have fun. But keep in mind the things that an underpainting serves and look at it like a tool that you do when it's right for you. But at this point, playing with the possibilities in various ways is the only real way for you to see if that tool is for you and in which form it would take.
    Last edited by D Akey; 06-11-2018 at 11:01 AM.
    "Not a bit is wasted and the best is yet to come. . ." -- remembered from a dream

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