Friday, November 29, 2013

Using Both Oils & Acrylics on Canvas

My Approach to Using Both Oils & Acrylics on Canvas

Decisions, Decisions... Oil or Acrylic?  I say both!
I have always had a strong love for using oil paints, but I admit, it takes patience before putting in another painting session while waiting for a coat to dry.  Oils can also get expensive and I spend more money on paints when painting strictly in oils.  It's usually worth it, but I have found an interest in mixed media over the years, particularly with oils and acrylics.  The cost ends up being a little less (though not much) and the paintings are just as valuable to me.

Do Your research Before Using Both Oils & Acrylics
Let me get one thing straight:  I don't physically mix the two paints together while wet.  I start with a base of dry acrylic on canvas and go from there with my oils.  Keep in mind that the longevity of mixing oils and acrylic has been in debate for many years, so I suggest that you do some research if you are concerned.  I've been using this technique for almost a decade and the quality of my paintings still appear in mint condition.  Personally, I am not concerned if a painting is going to outlive me or generations to come, as long as it got some enjoyment from my viewers and customers.  Needless to say, I'm sure my paintings will still be around, passed down to family and friends.

Using Both Oils & Acrylics in a Nutshell:  Acrylics First, Oils Last.

I don't have to wait around for days for my acrylics to dry as I often do with oils, so it only makes sense for me to begin the base of my paintings with acrylics first.  I usually wait a few hours or less for my acrylics to dry, depending on how thick the paint is applied.  Sometimes, just to be sure, I might leave my painting alone for a day before adding oils to the painting.

In a nutshell, here's what I'm about to explain more thoroughly:  First off, having experience in painting with acrylics and oils separate from each other will make this process a lot easier.  Begin your painting with acrylic paint by applying acrylics just as you would any acrylic painting, using water and acrylic mediums whenever needed.  Allow your acrylic painting to completely dry.  Add oils to give accents, add imagery, or to build up the painting however you'd like.  You can treat the oils as you would with any oil painting, so feel free to use your favorite mediums, mineral spirits, and paint thinners.  Read on for a better explanation and specific tips on creating a painting consisting of both acrylics and oils, step by step.

Step 1: Acrylic Application

Map it Out & Begin Your Painting

Before you begin, you may need to map out the obvious: what you are going to paint, what is the first layer, and how do you want it to build up from there. Once my gessoed surface is prepared (and dried), I typically begin painting my entire canvas with acrylic.  I personally find that acrylic paint works great for backdrops, large surface areas of color, and for layering, while oils will later serve for refining details.  For example, if I want to paint a portrait of a person in front of a pale blue sky, I will  mix a pale blue hue with my acrylics and cover the entire canvas with a backdrop before ever considering adding the person.  You may paint multiple layers to build up your back drop and get as detailed as you wish, keeping in mind how much detail you want your final layers of oils to play a part of.  If this is your first time, I would suggest reading following advice before diving into the acrylics...

Layering & Sketching

Understanding How Oils will Appear on Top of Dry Acrylics

As you are painting with Acrylics, take note that any dark or bold acrylic colors may be seen as transparent through your oils.  Depending on the mood you are trying to create, this can be a great way to show the process by allowing your under-painting to peek through.  I like to add acrylic layers to start building up the subject I want to refine in oils.  One way to do this is to paint the highlights and shadows of your subject in acrylics or begin to block in large areas of solid colors found in your subject (with acrylics).  When it's time to add the oils, you will find that these acrylic under layers will add richness and color that compliment your oils.  If you don't want your acrylic backdrop to be seen through the oils, choose light acrylic colors that will be easy to paint over such as white paints.  Completely paint over the areas of your backdrop that you intend to build up with oils by painting your subject areas with the white paint, or mix up your own neutral acrylic.  If you are not bothered by the fact that your acrylic backdrop will play a roll in how the oils will appear, then just fill the entire canvas with acrylic colors of your choice.  If you just want to go head and paint an entire backdrop scene in acrylic, you can always sketch out additional images with your oils later.  I have included some of my favorite techniques below that I use to sketch on top of my dried acrylic backdrops.

Approaches to Sketching Out Your Image onto Your Finished Acrylic Backdrop:

  1. Sketch with Acrylic Paint:  If you want some of your under-painting to show through the process once the oils are added, you could plan ahead and sketch out your subject with some acrylic paint.  Choose a neutral color if you don't want the sketch to be too obvious, or use a bright and bold color if you really want it to stand out.  Don't forget to let the sketch dry completely before adding oils. The great thing about sketching with acrylic is that once it's time to paint with the oils, you can take a cloth to wipe your oils away if you make a mistake, and your acrylic sketch is still in place for you to give it another go.  Just be mindful that you may nob be able to wipe it completely clean of oils if you have a textured surface.
  2. Sketch with a Sharpie:  Use a neutral colored sharpie such as brown for less obvious marks or yellow if you don't want the marks to be seen at all under the oils.  Use dark, bright and bold sharpies to make a statement.  Go ahead and draw directly on your (dry) acrylic backdrop.  Sharpies usually dry within a few seconds, but you could wait 3 minutes if you want to be safe before diving into the oils. If you need to refine your sketch to sharpen your proportions, take another colored sharpie or bold acrylic paint color and draw over your first sketch to add colorful layers of the process.
  3. Sketch with Colored Pencils:  If you prefer that your sketch is painted over, lightly draw it out with colored pencils.  I would suggest sketching in colors similar to the oil paints that you will be using to paint over the sketch, in case of bleeding of the pencils.  This shouldn't be an issue if you use a good quality colored pencil such as Prisma, and make sure you are not using watercolor pencils. The colored pencils may not take very well to the acrylic if your surface is textured and bumpy.
  4. Sketch with a Lead Pencil:  I typically don't use lead pencils to sketch my image out on top of acrylics, because I don't like the effect it has on oils.  I would suggest testing it out before making the choice of using pencils.  Take into consideration that soft lead pencils could bleed when painted over, and hard ones might be too hard to cover over with oils.  The harder the pencil, the darker, so a medium lead pencil might be your best bet.  You be the judge.  Here is a scale of how pencils are graded when shopping for artist pencils. 

 Hardest  Pencils----------------->                Medium  Pencils----------------> Softest Pencils    
9H   8H   7H   6H   5H   4H   3H   2H   H   F   HB   B   2B   3B   4B   5B   6B   7B   8B   9B

Step 2: Oil Application

Now that you have a better understanding of how the acrylics will respond under oils, go head and start painting.  The best way to do this is to explore on your own.  If it's not turning out the way you want it or the way you saw it in your head, then take it in a different direction and make your painting abstract.  It takes some time to get used to this technique, so just have fun with it.  Below are some tips that you might find helpful.

How to Create Transparency of the Under Painting Using Oils:  If you want the process of your acrylics to shine through, there are some tricks to emphasize this technique.  First off, as I mentioned above, bold and dark acrylic colors will be much more likely to shine through your first layer of oils. Begin painting and filling in the desired areas with oils.  You will find that light oil colors such as yellows and oranges are more naturally translucent than purples and browns.  Create a thin wash with your oils by using a paint thinner or another oil medium if you want the surface to be especially transparent.  Don't be afraid to wipe away your oils and play around with different techniques if you are not satisfied.  Keep in mind that you may not be able to wipe it completely clean, depending on the texture of your acrylics.

How to Build An Opaque Surface of Oils:  First, be sure to read my section above, Understanding How Oils will Appear on Top of Dry Acrylics, as these steps will be helpful before applying your oils.  To cover up areas from your underpainting, you may need to paint the best you can over the areas with your oils, allow this first layer of oils to dry for a couple of days, and add another layer of oils on top of it.  You can also avoid thinning out your paints by avoiding paint thinners.  In addition, dark and rich pigments will be easiest when covering on top of your acrylic painting.

I hope this information helps someone!  Please let me know if you found this helpful as I love hearing from my viewers!

Photos coming soon.

No comments: