The Technical Rules of Painting in Oil, Alla Prima

There are two ways of approaching your painting. The first is known as ‘alla prima’ or direct painting, when the canvas is completed in one session. The second technique is slower because each layer must be dry before the next coat is applied. This means a drying time of several days or more. Famous impressionist artist, Claude Monet, was essentially an ‘alla prima’ painter, but if the composition was not satisfactory he would bring the canvas back to the studio and continue working.

Familiarize yourself with the palette by mixing the colors together. Begin by making up as many greens as you can from the two blues and two yellows. Then dull down each mixed green by adding small amounts of the two reds, and watch the results carefully.

There are a number of important factors to observe when using oils, which are outlined below alongside some handy hints.

1. When squeezed from the tube, oil colors are too thick for the first layer of painting (the ‘lay-in’), so it is necessary to this them with turpentine. It is a good idea to buy a double dipper to attach to your palette.

2. The rule of painting in oil is ‘fat over lean’. The first layers of your pictures should be thinned with a little turpentine, this w ill allow the color to dry more quickly.

3. As you build up your layers the paint film can be thicker, and the medium can be added to help manipulate the colors.

4. Thin colors dry quicker that ‘fat’ colors, which contain more oil. It is important that the paint films gradually thicken towards the upper layer.

5. whether you choose the ‘alla prima’ method or wait for each layer to dry, it is important not to cover a tacky surface with new paint – the surface must either be completely fresh or completely dry. Painting over a tacky surface will result in cracking.

What is a double dipper for oil painting accessories?
It is two small containers jointed together, that is able to clip on to the edge of color palette. One is to contain pure turpentine to dilute the first layers whilst the other has an equal quality of linseed oil and turpentine, linseed oil by itself makes the paint too greasy; too much turpentine creates a matt effect.