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Three Oil Painting Rules

Oil painting is a complex work, built up using different layers of paints. The way of how each of these layers of paint interacts with each other is very important because it will affect the final look and the quality of your artwork. That’s why it is very important to know the rules of how to avoid the cracking or wrinkling of the painting and other defects.

No matter, what painting technique you are using, you should always remember three main oil painting rules: “Fat over Lean”, “Thick over Thin” and “Slow drying over Fast drying”. Now, let me explain in detail what each of them means.

“Fat over Lean”

Each following layer of paint needs to be more flexible than the one, that is underneath. This can be achieved by adding more medium to each new layer, which makes it more flexible than the previous one and prevents the painting from cracking.

So, start painting the first layer of paint, thinned very well with Turpentine or odorless Turpenoid, the following layers of paint should be thinned with more medium, such as oil mediums. Of course, you should remember, that adding oil medium slows down the drying time considerably. But nowadays, brands offer different modern mediums, that are not worse, than traditional mediums, and at the same time, they speed up the drying time and do less harm to your health (Utreecht’s Alkyd Glazing Medium, Walnut Alkyd Oil, Galkyd, Liquin Original, etc.). The only thing, that you should remember, is always to study thoroughly every medium that you purchase and follow the recommendation of applying the medium.


“Thick over Thin”

When you are painting with heavy paints or making a textured painting, you should always apply thick layers of paint over thin layers. Otherwise, your painting will crack. Why does it happen? This is simply because of the thin layers, that dry faster than thick ones. That is why, if you like the impasto technique of painting, for example, with thick bold brush strokes, you should always remember to make thick layers of paint on top of the thin ones.


“Slow drying over Fast drying”

Another very important rule is to use fast-drying colors under slow-drying ones. If you apply a fast-drying layer of color on top of a slow drying layer, then your painting may crack. This is happening because of the slow drying layers, which are still in the process of drying, pulling, and twisting the dried layers above, making them crack.

Always remember this rule in the glazing technique. If you want to read more about glazing, go to my article “Oil Painting in process. Glazing technique”.

If you need my personal advice and lesson, please visit my art classes page and find detailed information about lessons and schedules.

Thank you for reading, I hope this article was helpful.



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